The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, Australia, by Libby-Jane Charleston, May 5, 2014
Crime week â€” The Black Knight: Katherine Knight stabbed her husband, skinned him and then tried to feed him to his children
Convicted murderer Katherine Knight with her partner John Price. She is the first Australian woman jailed for life without parole.
Knight was convicted of the brutal murder of her partner, John Charles Thomas Price, known to his friends as Pricey, in October 2001. She is currently serving her time at Silverwater Womenâ€™s Correctional Centre.
This is an exclusive chapter from Libby-Jane Charlestonâ€™s book Fatal Females titled The Black Knight.
Read how Pricey was stabbed at least 37 times and how Knight skinned him and hung the skin from a meat hook off a door in the lounge room. She decapitated him and cooked parts of his body, serving up the meat with baked potato and other vegies and gravy at the dinner table for Priceâ€™s children.
"I'm going to kill Pricey and I'm going to get away with it. I'll get away with it because I'll make out that I'm mad" - Katherine Knight
Katherine Knight should be a household name in Australia. Surely sheâ€™s earned the right after being labelled the real-world female version of Hannibal Lecter. Not only did the abattoir worker and mother of four kill her lover in a stabbing frenzy, skinning him and then cooking his remains in a vegetable stew, she even set the dinner table and left vindictive handwritten notes for his children beside their placemats. Worse still, she hung his skin from a hook in the living room. Isnâ€™t that enough to achieve infamy?
But she is not a household name. In fact, many Australians have never heard of her. Thatâ€™s because most of the journalists assigned to covering the gruesome case came to the conclusion that Knightâ€™s crime was so shocking, nobody could stomach the gory details. It became the story the newspapers couldnâ€™t publish, and the broadcast media kept it off air.
â€˜We had to make a decision whether the story was palatable for people to read with their breakfast in the morning. A decision was made this couldnâ€™t be reported. It was too horrific,â€™ said Peter Lalor, journalist with The Australian.
A well-known Australian news anchor, when asked recently if sheâ€™d heard of Katherine Knight, replied, â€˜No.
Who is she? Should I know her?â€™
Abattoir worker Katherine Knight was charged with March 1, 2000, murder of John Price in Aberdeen, NSW, Australia
Video footage of the crime scene is locked away for good. So horrific are the contents, itâ€™s believed anybody who viewed the tapes would be forever damaged. In fact, the police officers who had the great misfortune of being first at the scene have complained, years later, of still being affected by the horrors they saw; one officer endured years of therapy to try to wipe the vision from his head.
Another, Detective Sergeant Bob Wells, who was called to the crime scene on 1 March 2000 said, â€˜Itâ€™s an image that Iâ€™m still trying to come to grips with today.â€™
Youâ€™d expect Katherine Knight to look like Satanâ€™s sister.
Nobody would have been surprised if she had horns growing out of her head. But the devil comes in many guises, and Knight looked incredibly ordinary.
Appearances aside, Katherine Knight lived a life on the edge. She came from a wild family, had a wicked temper, clocked up three fathers to her four children and had a history of four rocky, often violent relationships. The violence, usually connected to her macabre fascination with knives, was at times so unbearable that her male partners would kick her out.
But many times, she found her way back into their lives. Perhaps it had something to do with her ability to know what her partners liked. She tolerated their drinking, always had a meal on the table and knew about the little things that could keep them happy. But all too soon, each of her partners discovered Knightâ€™s little secret â€” a psychological illness known as borderline personality disorder. Her illness manifested itself in tremendous mood swings. In a second, sufferers of borderline personality disorder can turn from lovers to fighters. They feel slighted when thereâ€™s no slight, and theyâ€™re prone to being highly suspicious that their partner is cheating on them.
Her latest and final lover, John Price, was an expert at weathering the â€˜Katherine Stormâ€™ because he knew that the loving Katherine would soon return. He didnâ€™t suspect that one day the storm would destroy him.
Knightâ€™s first husband, David Kellet, claims his motherin- law warned him that Knight had the potential to murder. Said Kellet: Her mother said to me, soon after we got married, â€˜You want to watch this one. If you do the wrong thing by her she will kill you.â€™ I thought it was just one of those things mothers say and it didnâ€™t dawn on me she would kill anybody.
Kellet and Price actually caught up in late 1999 to discuss Knightâ€™s erratic, violent behaviour. Price said he wanted to get out of the relationship but he was scared.
â€˜He was so scared he was almost shaking. He was really scared,â€™ said Kellet. Little did either man know that Knight was on the verge of committing one of Australiaâ€™s most shocking crimes.
Taking a look at her early life, there are a few indications Knight could possibly commit murder. Over the years, the woman known as "The Black Knight" displayed certain warning signs.
Born in October 1955 in the New South Wales country town of Aberdeen, Knight was one of eight children. The small town, which today is home to only 2000 people, mostly revolved around the local tannery and abattoir, where Knight would later hone her admirable cutting
and slicing skills. Knight and her twin sister, Joy, had a reputation in high school for being rough as guts and were feared by teachers and schoolkids alike. The twins apparently fought like cats and dogs in the playground â€” usually against each other â€” but if anybody looked sideways at one of the girls, her twin would jump to her defence and fight the good fight. But, that reputation aside, most locals remember Knight as a pleasant girl who was nice and friendly when she was in a good mood. People in her circle of family and friends also knew to keep away from Knight when she was in a dark mood.
Murder victim John Price whose severely mutilated body was found in his Aberdeen home
The Knight children, six boys and two girls, were brought up in a home marked by domestic violence.
Knightâ€™s mother, Barbara, had the four eldest boys with her first husband, Jack Roughan, a pig farmer. But when Barbara had had enough of Jackâ€™s drinking and gambling problems, she left him for Ken Knight, an abattoir worker, and had four more children.
Barbara suffered violent abuse in her second marriage. She endured black eye after black eye until the kids no longer noticed or bothered to ask questions. Children who
become accustomed to seeing their mother badly beaten are known to eventually become desensitised to such violence; it just becomes part and parcel of family life.
Barbara would occasionally make light of her injuries by explaining to whoever inquired about her freshly battered face that her husband would â€˜knock [her] out for sexâ€™.
The violence was not only between the parents.
According to Knight, she was regularly sexually abused by her brothers, while her parents took turns in beating the kids with anything from an electrical cord to a dog lead.
There was even a wooden plank that was left hanging above the kitchen door as a reminder that the â€˜big gunsâ€™ were within easy adult reach.
Knight was not a good student and left school when she was only sixteen. Considered to be almost illiterate, she aspired only to join other family members at the local abattoir, the Aberdeen Meat Works. She began working at the abattoir in 1974, aged eighteen. An abattoir is a pretty revolting environment, but Knight was said to have enjoyed her role and, according to work colleagues, she took her job very seriously. Co-workers claimed Knight would wander over to the front of the production line and watch the pigs have their throats slit. They assumed she was watching and learning, but some commented that it was bizarre how much time the young woman spent watching the animals die.
"According to Knight, she was regularly sexually abused by her brothers, while her parents took turns in beating the kids with anything from an electrical cord to a dog lead"
Most abattoir workers are compassionate and make sure an animalâ€™s death is quick. But there are a rare few who delight in just slitting an artery and let the animal slowly bleed to death. Apparently young Katherine was one of that breed. Away from the abattoir, Knight was a skilled hunter, with many praising her efforts at shooting and skinning rabbits. Her home was filled with little keepsakes of her kills: horns, skins, bones and skulls. Even as an adult, sheâ€™d display her collection around the house, including the bedroom â€” where she also kept her precious knives.
There were four major relationships in Knightâ€™s life, and thereâ€™s no denying all her men must have loved her in the early years. Itâ€™s been said she was a terrific lover, full of enthusiasm as well as being open to experimentation.
Her cooking skills were average, as were her housekeeping abilities. But it was a combination of her possessiveness, her suspicious nature and the bursts of violence that frightened her men off and all, apart from one, successfully escaped with their lives.
Knight married David Kellet in 1974, giving birth to two daughters, Melissa in 1976 and Natasha in 1980.
When the marriage broke up, Knight began a new love affair with Dave Saunders, with whom she had another daughter, Barbara, in 1988. Her next partner was John Chillingworth, who she stayed with from 1990 to 1993.
Their son, Eric, was born in 1991. Her final relationship was with John Price, known as Pricey.
David Kellet was Knightâ€™s first true love and, for many years, Kellet claimed she was the perfect woman. â€˜She was the most wonderful wife you could wish for. Perfect mother, perfect housewife,â€™ said Kellet. But her borderline personality disorder was always a breath away. â€˜Sometimes sheâ€™d just snap like a biscuit.â€™
One night, Kelletâ€™s life almost ended because of a darts competition at the local pub. One of the elements of Knightâ€™s personality disorder was a feeling of abandonment.
If somebody had said heâ€™d be home by 10pm and at 10.15pm he was still not home, she would be in a rage.
By 10.30 it would be a murderous one. Kellet recalled, â€˜She phoned at ten and said, â€œThe pubâ€™s closed, come on homeâ€ and I said, â€œThe dart competition isnâ€™t finished, Iâ€™ll be home when Iâ€™m ready.â€â€™ To Knight, it was the ultimate insult. It felt like a total rejection, and the only way for her to make herself feel better was to exact revenge. So when Kellet came home she was waiting for him at the front door. As Kellet opened the door, Knight hit him in the back of the head with an iron. He woke up two days later in hospital. Recalled Kellet, who chose not to involve the police: When I came home [from hospital], sheâ€™d hung her tools above the bed. The knives were hanging on a special hook. Her knives were her most treasured items.
She was obsessed with knives. They were her life.
Knightâ€™s fascination with knives is known as â€˜picarismâ€™ â€” a clinical term for someone who is aroused by the notion of cutting, slicing or stabbing skin. A person with picarism fantasies about using a knife to pierce skin. Her obsession with knives was dangerous when combined with her violent moods. One morning Kellet woke up to see Knight sitting astride his chest with a knife in her hand, grazing his throat.
She laughed and told him how easy it would be to kill him.
Still, Kellet denied any violence towards Knight. â€˜I never raised a finger against her, not even in self defence. I would just walk away.â€™
He said that on their wedding night she grabbed his throat and choked him because of what she perceived to be a lacklustre sexual performance.
Still, there must have been enough love in the relationship for Kellet to stay put. In 1976 they had their first baby, Melissa, who as a newborn came close to losing her life after she was left on the railway tracks. People assumed Knight had left her there. Luckily, a local man found the baby just minutes before a train was due to arrive. Yet, strangely, nobody reported Knight to police.
An undated photograph of abattoir worker Katherine Knight
Around this time, Kellet fled for his life and Knight, struggling as a single mother, was spotted going crazy with an axe, swinging it at anybody that came near her. Some people assumed she was beside herself with grief for the husband who had abandoned her; others labelled her â€˜the town psychoâ€™. Sheâ€™d also been seen smashing baby Melissaâ€™s pram into fences and poles on the street. Then Knightâ€™s psychotic behaviour reached fever pitch â€” she held a family at knifepoint in a local service station, smashing windows, holding a little boy hostage in front of his terrified family.
Itâ€™s believed she targeted the service station for the simple fact that the owner had fixed her estranged husbandâ€™s car â€” the very car heâ€™d used to flee the family.
The police managed to calm the situation and sent Knight to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital, where she was assessed. She told a tale of woe â€” that she had been physically abused by her husband. Yet according to Kellet, he was the victim of violence, as evidenced by his numerous hospital visits, including one for a cracked skull.
Later, at her murder trial, Knight would be described as â€˜dangerously unpredictableâ€™. It was a phrase familiar to Kellet, as heâ€™d used those very words to describe her over the years.
Kellet eventually returned to the marital home and a second baby, Natasha, was born in 1980. But the marriage never recovered and eventually Kellet, after surviving ten years of violence and threats from Knight, left for good.
Knight didnâ€™t take long to find herself a new lover.
Dave Saunders became the father of Knightâ€™s next child, a daughter named Barbara. According to friends, Saunders was a gentle, polite man who loved dogs. He was not prone to violence, but soon found himself subjected to horrific bouts of rage involving scissors, irons and saucepans being wielded by his psychotic lover.
The worst thing Knight did to Saunders was to slit the throat of his eight-week-old puppy. Saunders later told a packed courtroom that Knight had defended her â€˜rightâ€™ to kill his dog by telling friends that she did it to repay him for punching her in the stomach when she was pregnant â€” an incident he denied. Instead, he claimed sheâ€™d killed his dog because she was having one of her violent outbursts and she wanted to do something horrific to upset him.
Saundersâ€™s friends were so used to listening to tales of his partnerâ€™s violence that they jokingly took bets on when the next attack would take place. It wasnâ€™t unusual for Saunders to turn up to work with cuts and bruises to his face. Knight had even broken a couple of his ribs and inflicted such deep cuts to his wrist he needed stitches.
"This short-lived relationship - which saw the birth of her son, Eric - was, characteristically, marred by violence. It seems the final straw for Chillingworth was when she smashed his false teeth to bits."
Before the relationship ended, Knight vandalised Saundersâ€™s car and took an overdose of sleeping pills in a half-hearted attempt to end her life. She was soon staring at the walls of the psychiatric ward once again. Saunders, like Kellet before him, fled for his life.
Knight also showed violent behaviour towards her daughter Melissa. One night, the adult Melissa was drinking with a friend at the Aberdeen pub when her mother grabbed her by the hair and repeatedly hit her head on the table â€” much to the horror of others at the bar. When Melissa collapsed on the floor, Knight dragged her by her hair and took her to the car park, where she smashed her daughterâ€™s head into the side of her car before throwing her onto the passenger seat. Amazingly, the locals in the bar were too frightened to come to Melissaâ€™s aid. These days Melissa, who is a big supporter of her mother, denies that this happened. But police and witness reports suggest otherwise.
Locals also tell the story about the time Knight attacked her elderly mother, Barbara, after she attempted to strangle Knightâ€™s then husband, Kellet, through the open car window. Apparently Kellet had said something untoward about the family that Barbara found offensive.
Knight, who had been watching from the house, ran outside, grabbed her mother and punched her in the head, leaving her unconscious. The shocking family fisticuffs were witnessed by Kelletâ€™s horrified mother, who no doubt implored her son to get himself away from the family while he was still in one piece.
Before too long, Knight found herself in bed with a new lover, John Chillingworth. The coupleâ€™s romance began in a local pub, and Knight fell pregnant within weeks of their meeting. This short-lived relationship â€” which saw the birth of her son, Eric â€” was, characteristically, marred by violence. It seems the final straw for Chillingworth was when she smashed his false teeth to bits. Like the two men before him, Chillingworth would come to count his lucky stars he was able to escape with his life.
Some time after this ill-fated relationship hit the skids, Knight met John Price â€” or Pricey. Pricey was an average Aussie man who worked hard, loved his beer and was a loving father to his children from a previous marriage. But on 1 March 2001, he was murdered, skinned and served up for dinner.
As a local, Pricey would have heard the stories about Knight: her violence, the suicide attempts, her stints in psychiatric hospitals and her fondness for knives. Pricey was said to have been a kind, loving man. He was the father of three beloved children he shared with his ex-wife, Colleen, with whom heâ€™d had an amicable separation.
At the time he began dating Knight, his eldest child was an adult and his two youngest children were teenagers.
Knight was in her late thirties and living with her two youngest children, Barbara and Eric. Price was living in the marital home, which his ex-wife had said he should keep.
Knight hated that Priceyâ€™s home was still filled with many of his ex-wifeâ€™s belongings; to her, it felt like it was still Colleenâ€™s house. But it suited the couple to live separately, even though Knight spent several nights a week at Priceyâ€™s home, only returning to her own house so she could get the kids ready for school.
The couple was said to have had heated arguments about Priceyâ€™s reluctance to officially divorce Colleen and marry Knight. He was not interested in getting married again. There were bouts of violence between the two.
One point of contention was that Pricey had put his house in the names of his children. Knight felt that, in the event of a breakup, she was entitled to a share of his house, seeing as they were pretty much living as de facto partners.
Pricey refused, so Knight wanted revenge. She filmed the contents of his garden shed, including a first-aid kit belonging to the mine he worked at, which heâ€™d allegedly stolen. She took the video to Priceâ€™s boss, who fired him from his $100 000 a year mining job.
Pricey was so disgusted that he booted Knight out of his house, telling her she could never come back. But just six months later, when sheâ€™d switched on her sweet and loving side again, he invited her to move back. It would prove to be the biggest mistake of his life.
Shortly before his death, there were signs that trouble was brewing. Price told friends that he feared for his life.
Police were called during one violent argument that saw apprehended violence orders (AVOs) prepared â€” the AVO against Price was enacted but, ironically, the AVO against Knight was not.
Knight was feeling extremely upset about Priceyâ€™s seeming lack of commitment to her, and his devotion to his children and ex-wife. The main argument was over Priceâ€™s house. Talking in front of Priceâ€™s friend Trevor, Knight once said, â€˜Youâ€™ll never get me out of this house. Iâ€™ll do you in first.â€™ Knightâ€™s brother Kenneth told police that, five months before the murder, Knight said, â€˜Iâ€™m going to kill Pricey and Iâ€™m going to get away with it. Iâ€™ll get away with it because Iâ€™ll make out that Iâ€™m mad.â€™ After an altercation with Knight, in which he fled for his life, Price told his neighbour, â€˜Sheâ€™s gone for the butcherâ€™s knife so I got out of there.â€™
"You'll never get me out of this house. I'll do you in first"- Katherine Knight
The day before Priceâ€™s murder on 29 February, Knightâ€™s behaviour was very unusual. First, she dropped in to her sisterâ€™s house to get a video camera that she had left several months earlier. Then she went to her daughter Natashaâ€™s house and, bizarrely, recorded a video of herself playing with Natashaâ€™s baby. In the video footage Knight looks at the camera and says, â€˜I love all my children. I hope I see you all again.â€™ Was this a sign that she was going to kill Price soon and her life would not be the same?
Also out of character, Knight decided to take her daughter Natasha out to the local Chinese restaurant for dinner, telling her, â€˜I want it to be special.â€™ After dinner, she asked Natasha if she could leave her two youngest children with her for the night, even though they had no clean clothes and were without their school uniforms and other things that theyâ€™d need the following day.
Of course, this was because Knight needed to be alone that night to carry out the frenzied killing. Natasha said in a statement to police that she sensed her mother was unstable and told her, â€˜I hope you are not going to kill Pricey and yourself.â€™ Knight said goodnight to her daughter and drove to Priceâ€™s house, where he was already in bed waiting for her. She knew Priceâ€™s children were with their mother and that the couple would be home alone.
When Knight arrived at Priceâ€™s house, she climbed into bed and they had sex. Some time later, she grabbed a large boning knife and began stabbing Price ferociously in the chest. Evidence shows the struggle would have lasted for several minutes as he got out of bed, bleeding profusely, to make a desperate dash to escape, while Knight followed, stabbing him repeatedly in the back. Price made it to the front door and opened it â€” evidence showed bloodstains on the door handle â€” and, judging by the blood on the front doorstep, he managed to get outside. But then, according to blood evidence, he was dragged back, Knight still stabbing at his body in a frenzy, until he collapsed in a pool of blood.
His autopsy revealed heâ€™d been stabbed in the front and back of his body thirty-seven times, with many wounds to vital organs: the stomach, both lungs, the aorta, the liver, the left kidney, the descending colon and the pancreas. Price was dead, blood pouring from his body and splattering across the room and the walls. The living room must have resembled the abattoir Knight was so fond of.
Experts agree all it takes to kill somebody is one well placed stab. To stab a person thirty-seven times indicates incredible rage and anger. Most of the stabs would have occurred post-mortem, which indicates a stabbing frenzy Knight could not stop.
At Knightâ€™s trial, the judge Justice Barry Oâ€™Keefe stated: The last minutes of [John Priceâ€™s] life must have been a time of abject terror for him as they were a time of utter enjoyment for [Katherine Knight] â€¦ she has not expressed any contrition or remorse and if released she poses a serious threat to the security of society.
The wounds resulted in the loss of a great deal of blood, found splattered and smeared throughout the house and in a pool that measured 1 metre by 2 metres in the hallway of Priceâ€™s home. By the time police arrived the next morning, the blood was not fully congealed and had dried only at the edges.
After she killed her lover, itâ€™s believed Knight showered and then got Priceâ€™s ATM card from his jeans pocket. In a move that would ultimately seal her fate (by proving she was in control of her actions) she did something calculated and greedy â€” she drove to the nearest ATM to withdraw $1,000 from Priceâ€™s account. It was an hour round trip to the Muswellbrook ATM. What would have been racing through her mind during those sixty minutes? Would she have been planning the next instalment of her night of terror? It goes without saying that the next evil trick up Knightâ€™s sleeve made the first part of the evening look almost tame.
When she returned to Aberdeen, she parked her car in her driveway and then walked the short distance to the Price family home.
She decided to have some fun with her loverâ€™s body. She went back to the life sheâ€™d loved: cutting up carcasses.
Knight methodically skinned Priceâ€™s corpse, taking off the entire skin, including his face, ears, scalp and neck, like a ghoulish suit. Sheâ€™d done this job hundreds of times with animals, so she knew what she was doing. Itâ€™s quite a skill to know where to make the incision and how to pull back the skin without tearing it apart.
Using a variety of her precious knives, she even left a small square of skin on the body that featured the scar from where sheâ€™d stabbed him previously. (So expert was the skinning that, after the post-mortem examination, the mortician was able to resew the skin onto Priceâ€™s body.) The macabre suit of skin was then hung up on a hook in the entrance of the house, where it remained until it was removed by the horrified police officers. Upon seeing it, the men were puzzled at first.
What was that thing hanging from a hook? But on closer inspection, they recognised facial features, hair, arms and legs.
Once sheâ€™d removed the skin, Knight continued to degrade the body by chopping off Priceâ€™s head and cooking it in a large pot on the stove with some vegetables, like a sickening stew. Parts of his buttocks were also sliced off and baked in the oven, together with a selection of peeled vegetables. The gruesome steaks were then arranged on plates with the vegetables and left as meals for his children.
Another piece of his buttock was thrown into the backyard, perhaps for the dogs.
Bizarrely, this stomach-churning cook-up was all happening in the early morning, way before dinner time, and Knight was getting so well prepared she even made some gravy to serve with the meal, in addition to writing vindictive handwritten notes to Priceâ€™s children.
The notes were arranged on the dinner table, waiting for them. In court, the judge suppressed the details of the notes, but evidence shows that, in addition to the notes, Knight had scrawled Priceâ€™s childrenâ€™s names on kitchen paper and tucked the paper under the plates as place cards.
In a final act of debasement to Priceâ€™s body, Knight arranged what was left of his corpse in an armchair, with his legs crossed and his arms holding an empty drink bottle.
Knight then swallowed an assortment of prescription drugs in a half-hearted attempt to overdose and took herself to the bedroom, where she fell into a deep sleep.
When Pricey didnâ€™t turn up to work on the morning of 1 March 2000, alarm bells rang. He was not the kind of person who would not show up without letting his manager know. His boss tried to call him but there was no answer. Neighbours noticed his car was in the driveway and his workboots were at the front door. When one of his neighbours came to check on him, he saw blood on the door handle. Thatâ€™s when the police were called. It was 8am when they arrived â€” and nothing could have prepared the officers for the carnage inside.
There was blood from one end of the house to the other. In the kitchen, the police found a pot still warm on the stove and two meals waiting on the table. It didnâ€™t take the officers long to realise the meal had been made from Knightâ€™s former partner. They soon found Knight, sound asleep in the bedroom.
John Priceâ€™s brutal murder had brutal shades of the fictional character Hannibal Lecter (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins) in the movie Silence of the Lambs.
Despite the elaborate preparation of the meal and the desecration of the corpse, Knight, under intense questioning, claimed she had no recollection of what had happened that night. In her record of interview taken on 4 March, Knight claimed she had no recollection of the events surrounding Priceâ€™s death.
Q:Kathy, Iâ€™m investigating the death of John Price, known as Pricey to a lot of people in Aberdeen, on or about Wednesday, the first of March. I have reason to believe that you may be the person responsible. Is there anything you can tell me about the matter?
A:I donâ€™t know anything.
Q:Can you recall the last thing that you remember?
A:The last thing I remember was going out for tea with me daughter and the kids, coming home.
Q:Do you recall going to Priceyâ€™s at all?
A:I really donâ€™t know nothing.
Q:Can you just take me to the last thing you actually recall which is the Tuesday, twenty-ninth of February?
A:The last time I recall was, I donâ€™t know about your dates, but I went inside and watched a bit of TV.
Q:Right, was Pricey there?
Q:Do you, can you tell me where he was?
Q:And do you remember nothing after that?
At first, she claimed that all she remembered was having sex with Price and then falling asleep. She blamed amnesia.
But nobody believed her story, especially when records showed sheâ€™d been at the Muswellbrook ATM at 2am, withdrawing money in the time between stabbing Price and skinning him. Eventually she pleaded guilty to murder, thankfully sparing Priceâ€™s distraught family and friends from having to sit through weeks of horrendous evidence.
"The last minutes of [John Price's] life must have been a time of abject terror for him as they were a time of utter enjoyment for [Katherine Knight] ... she has not expressed any contrition or remorse and if released she poses a serious threat to the security of society." - The Judge
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Robert Delaforce compiled a report detailing Knightâ€™s family history of violence and sexual abuse, as well as her reputation for violent rages and her love of killing animals and keeping their body parts for display in her home. In court, when Dr Delaforce was asked if Knight would have enjoyed the night she killed Price, he pointed to the fact that she had done more than was required to kill: Imagine the time, the skill, the purpose, the intent, the motivation behind cutting the head off with surgical precision of considerable degree, skinning the body. Why would anybody do that? That is not about killing, that has got to be about something else.
The court was subjected to incredibly ghastly details about Knightâ€™s ability to skin and dismember Priceâ€™s body. There was much discussion about decapitation, with forensic pathologist Dr Tim Lyons explaining that there were no marks on the bones and Knightâ€™s knife had had to cut through muscles, tendons, ligaments and neurovascular bundles. Not only did the knife have to have been sharp, but the hand had to have been skilled. On the subject of skinning, Lyons told the court: Knowing how long it takes to carry out certain dissection techniques which I do, I mean, I can say to you I think it would not have taken just a few minutes, but is something that could probably have been completed within thirty minutes to an hour, but beyond that I would not like to say.
During her court appearances, Knight remained impassive. Journalists claim she looked almost demure. There was only one occasion when she lost her cool and acted like the psychopath many accused her of being.
When the court heard evidence from police officers whoâ€™d witnessed the horrific crime scene, Knight began rocking back and forth, clicking her teeth loudly, kicking the partition and screaming, â€˜No, no no!â€™ She was taken away and given a cup of tea (with plenty of sugar) before being removed to the prison, where she was given a sedative.
The next morning, Delaforce took to the stand again, where he was asked whether Knight would have taken pleasure from dismembering Priceâ€™s corpse: It is probable that she thought about doing things like that for a long time, perhaps many years. Remember, up until the mid-eighties she worked at the abattoirs, and if you of course introduce the idea of dealing with animal parts â€¦ she told me how she enjoyed getting out the blood from the bone marrow, cleaning that out; she enjoyed slicing, she enjoyed that work. Not many people do, or would, but she enjoyed it.
When he was asked about the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, Delaforce made it clear he did not believe her disorder had anything to do with the murder.
â€˜What she did on the night was part of her personality, her nature, herself, but it is not a feature of borderline personality disorder. It is not even slightly connected,â€™ he said.
This is an extract from Fatal Females by Libby-Jane Charleston, RRP $24.95 published by Hardie Grant Books, available in stores nationally
Katherine Knight became the first Australian woman to be jailed for life without the possibility of parole. Justice Oâ€™Keefe told the court: The circumstances of and surrounding the killing of Mr Price can be seen to be horrendous. Indeed they go far beyond the experience of any of the professional people, including psychiatrists, that were involved in the case. A number of police officers who were highly experienced in examining crime scenes found the need to take stress leave because of the situation with which they were confronted when examining the crime scene at Mr Priceâ€™s house. The circumstances mark the killing and its accompanying incidents as being the most gruesome kind, the murder as being in the most serious category of that crime.
The judge said he was satisfied that Knight planned the murder, but also enjoyed the horrific acts that followed in its wake as part of a ritual of death and defilement.
Knightâ€™s lawyers lodged an appeal against her sentence in 2006, but this was turned down. Priceâ€™s brother Bob, who had attended all the difficult court sessions and had had to listen to dreadful details about the end of his brotherâ€™s life, committed suicide shortly after Knightâ€™s sentencing. Priceâ€™s children continue to suffer terribly in the aftermath of their fatherâ€™s death.
Psychiatrists maintain that Knight was acting out a violent fantasy sheâ€™d been nurturing for a long time.
Some people believe she ate part of Price and found what she did so abhorrent that she chose to block it out of her mind. But psychiatrists do not buy her story that she had amnesia. In fact, some experts do not believe Knight ever intended to dine on her former lover â€” but that she prepared the horrific meal as a way to â€˜proveâ€™ her insanity.
While it was concluded that Knightâ€™s borderline personality disorder was involved in her decision to kill, psychiatrists gave evidence suggesting it did not explain the full circumstances of the killing, which included factors that had nothing to do with her disorder. In other words, she was not insane.
Knight will spend the rest of her days at the Silverwater Womenâ€™s Correctional Centre, where she works as a cleaner, far away from her beloved knives. Some years ago she was making signed sculptures of claw-like hands, but she was ordered to stop that particular creative pursuit and concentrate on sewing classes instead.