The Birnies and the Grim Moorhouse Murders

After an afternoon of beer with friends, Kate decides to go home alone to clear her head. During the trip, a cute couple stops the car and offers her a ride. The 17-year-old agrees to see a woman in the car. This calms her down. Minutes later, the ride ends at the strangers’ house and with Kate locked and handcuffed in a completely sealed room.

Trapped and unable to call for help, the teenager asks as a knife is held to her neck: “Are you going to rape me or kill me?” “If you’re good, we’ll just rape you,” the man replies. From there, David and Catherine Birney, the Birneys, began a ritual of harassment. This was his fifth victim. The marriage had four deaths in its wake in a 27-day massacre. The events were called the Moorhouse Murders.

childhood love

David John Burney was born on February 16, 1951 in Wattle Grove, a semi-rural suburb east of Perth (Australia), in a dysfunctional family: his mother was an alcoholic and a prostitute, his father suffered from a disability and, in the absence of After looked after by his parents, David developed an exhibitionist personality (he undressed in front of the neighbours), cruel to animals, mainly the horses at the track where he worked as a child, and showing signs of sexual paraphilia when he attempted to rape a woman who entered her house with a sock on her head.

When David was twelve, the family moved to Lathlane, another suburb of Perth, where he met his neighbor Catherine Harrison: a girl his own age, born on May 23, motherless since the age of two and partly a victim of her father’s sexual abuse. who lived with maternal uncles after her grandparents rescued her from her father.

David Burney, the Moorhouse Killer

Youtube

The teenagers fell in love, had their first sexual relationship and started committing crimes as a couple. Over the following years, albeit intermittently, David and Catherine committed dozens of thefts, burglaries and assaults. In fact, the boy already has several criminal records for crimes of this type before meeting his beloved. However, David’s placement in a foster home caused the couple to drift apart until they turned eighteen and met again.


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During this time, David became addicted to pornography, fetishism and sex, in addition to continuing to steal. Catherine’s presence prompts him to plan another robbery, but they are both arrested and taken to prison. He served his sentence, and she, pregnant by another man, was released six months later and without her child. The state took custody of the baby.

Catherine Burney with two of her children

Catherine Burney with two of her children

Youtube

On the advice of a police officer, Catherine decided to put land between them, she married Donald McLauchlan in 1972 and they had seven children, but the youngest died in a hit and run. For his part, David rebuilt his life after he was released from prison and married Carrie. From this brief relationship was born his daughter Tanya, who remembers her father as a “very loving” person and who never knew the “psychopath he was”.

David Burney and his daughter Tanya

David Burney and his daughter Tanya

File, Archive

A decade later, David and Catherine meet again and decide to leave their families to start a new adventure together. Although they never married, she changed her surname to Birney by public deed and they moved to 3 Moorhouse Street in Villaji, a working-class suburb of Perth that would later become the House of Horrors.

The house in Moorhouse where Bernie killed four women

The house in Moorhouse where Bernie killed four women

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Without any school qualifications, David started work in a junkyard as a car parts salesman and Catherine as a housewife. The couple was well received by the neighborhood, who were considered quiet and reserved. There was no foreshadowing that beneath this apparent normalcy lay some true psychopaths.

Before the massacre they carried out over 27 days in 1986, David expressed to his partner the need to put his sexual fantasies into practice: kidnapping and tying up women to rape and kill. Catherine, far from refusing, decided to take an active part in the kidnappings, becoming an accomplice and author of every crime.

the slaughter begins

In the first place, the murderers used his hut as a place to carry out the attacks. For this purpose, they adapted one of the rooms for this purpose by sealing the doors and windows, removing the latches for opening and placing ropes and handcuffs to bind the victims. They then drove around in his car looking for vulnerable women. After Catherine convinced them to get into the vehicle, the pair began their particular eerie ritual.

David Burney killed four women with the help of his girlfriend Catherine

David Burney killed four women with the help of his girlfriend Catherine

Youtube

While David beat and tortured the girls, as well as using them as sex slaves, Catherine took notes or recorded and photographed the abuse. Hours later, they would drive to inhospitable places like Glen Eagle State Forest, where the girls would be strangled or stabbed to death and the bodies dumped in shallow graves. But before they ended their lives, the killers forced the young women to write to their relatives so that they would not be searched for.

The four victims of David and Catherine Burney at the Moorhouse home

The four victims of David and Catherine Burney at the Moorhouse home

Youtube

From October 6 to November 4, 1986, the Birnies killed four women: Mary Neilson, 22; Suzanne Candy, 15; Noeline Patterson, 31; and Dennis Brown, 21. The fifth victim is 17-year-old Kate Moir, who was abducted on November 9 at around 10.30pm as she walked home after spending the afternoon drinking beer with friends.


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Over the next twenty-four hours, Kate was drugged and shackled for David’s sexual use and pleasure, had to write a goodbye letter to her parents, and was forced to dance to Dire Straits songs. “I had a 200 percent chance of dying and a 5 percent chance of escaping,” he said in a 2017 interview.

Kate Moir, sole survivor of Moorhouse House

Kate Moir, sole survivor of Moorhouse House

File, Archive

The next morning, it was Monday, David had to go to work, so he left Catherine and Kate alone in the house. It was a ray of hope for the teenager: there was still a chance to escape and survive this horror.

To do this, he came up with an escape plan, given that the woman had removed her chains: she took a piece of lipstick and a piece of paper and wrote down her name and phone number, then hid them in the corner as a test, and when she saw opportunity, broke the bedroom window and jumped out.

Portraits of David and Catherine Burney

Portraits of David and Catherine Burney

lvd

The minor ran to look for help until she found a house with residents: “If a woman comes and says that I quarreled with her and that I am her daughter, do not believe her. I was raped.” They then took her to the police station, and Kate told her story, as well as physically describing her captors. Minutes later, several agents went to the house to arrest the couple, but no one was there. It was several hours before they were find and interrogate.

The bodies

Both Katherine and David testified that Kate voluntarily came to the house and agreed to have consensual sex with him. However, the police didn’t believe a word of it, especially after discovering that four women had gone missing in recent weeks.

“It’s getting dark, why don’t you show me where the bodies are so we can dig them up?” one of David’s detectives said after several hours of questioning. “Okay,” he replied, “there are four.” Thus the murderers indicated the place where the graves and corpses were. It took several days and even excavators to dig up the remains, whose bones were in one case found only a few meters from the house.

Police search one of the graves where the Birneys buried their victims

Police search one of the graves where the Birneys buried their victims

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In February 1987, the Birnies were brought to justice, charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of kidnapping, and one count of rape, and sentenced to four consecutive life sentences. During the sentencing, Judge Alkin Wallace commented: “Each of these horrific crimes was brutally and ruthlessly premeditated, planned and carried out in a relatively short period of time. [Él] I should never get out of jail.”

Although they were tried on these facts, investigators always believed that there were three other victims who simply disappeared: Cheryl Renwick, Barbara Westnern and Lisa Marie Mott. Although they never found any evidence to incriminate them.

David Burney leaving court with cuts on his face in 1987

David Burney leaving court with cuts on his face in 1987

AAP

Over the next two decades, the couple exchanged nearly 2,600 letters, until Catherine finally stopped communicating with her friend and regretted the facts: it was the only way to qualify for parole. Given the woman’s silence, David fell into a depression which, added to his violent temper and prescribed medication, plunged him into deep isolation until he committed suicide.

On October 7, 2005, officers found his body hanging from a bed sheet. He was 54 years old. No one searched for his body and he was buried in an unmarked grave.

Catherine Burney in police custody

Catherine Burney in police custody

Getty

As for Catherine, Bandyup Prison rejected her parole application and since then the decision of the correctional institutions has always been the same. Not for an answer. Those who kept a close eye on the woman believed that “she’s an actress” and that she and David made a dangerous tandem: “The most evil people I’ve ever met,” said police officer Paul Ferguson.


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Even David, one of Catherine’s children, whom she abandoned to follow in her lover’s footsteps, wants nothing to do with her. In fact, when asked what he would say to his mother if he was about to die, he replies, “Hurry up and die. Quick”.

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