On Thursday, it will be 25 years since the infamous Hoddle Street massacre in Melbourne. Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence’s series of prison interviews with the infamous mass murderer, Julian Knight, are chilling accounts of evil.
THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT that on Thursday, gutless murderer Julian Knight will get out the pornographic material that has reportedly been returned to him in his cell in Barwon Prison and mentally masturbate over that bloody night of infamy in 1987, when his dysfunctional manhood achieved erection only by fixing it to the barrel of a gun. Several guns. Such was his need for the Viagra of violence.
The gormless punk responsible for what is rightly called the Hoddle St Massacre was due for parole consideration next year.
It is no small judicial mercy for victims, survivors, family members, friends, ambo drivers, paramedics, helpers, residents, shopkeepers, police, medical and hospital staff, road sweepers, tow truckers, onlookers, forensic staff, the Crown and journalists, among others, that the Parole Board decided Knight would not be released.
There was an almost collective audible, but nervous, sigh of relief around the State at the Board’s decision.
Whilst the question of Knight’s oft debated prospect of rehabilitation and an apparent lack of remorse has been instrumental in the decision to keep him incarcerated, it is as much for his own personal safety, as well as ours. And as galling as it might be, that is how it should be.
Several people among the many whose lives have been irreparably damaged by Knight, have made it clear to me that should he ever be released, they would consider it an honour to “take him out” without fear of the personal consequences.
“I couldn’t care less if I spend the rest of my life in prison for killing him. It would be a small price to pay for all the lives he took and all the suffering he caused us all. And tell you what; I reckon I’d get an endless stream of visitors who would all feel the same way I do,” said someone still close to one of the dead in his heart and in his nightmares.
The hurt, even after the quarter century since the murders, is still raw and palpable. Knight’s seemingly constant Court appearances throughout, keeps reopening the wounds.
Age journalist Aja Styles wrote last month:
The policeman responsible for locking up mass murderer Julian Knight has applauded a Parole Board decision that will keep the man behind the infamous Hoddle Street massacre behind bars…
She wrote that Knight
…was due to be considered for parole on 8 May next year, but the board moved swiftly to extinguish those hopes after a meeting last Friday ruled unanimously that he should not be released, the Herald Sun has reported.
Knight, who is being held at Port Phillip Prison, is a notorious troublemaker in jail. In 2004, he was declared a vexatious litigant by the Supreme Court.
In an interview with Radio 3AW quoted by Styles, the officer who arrested Knight, Sgt John Delahunty voiced what many of us fear:
He said he had “no doubt” that Knight would do the same again if he was ever released.
“Knowing what I do know about him, he has such a grudge against society and he’s so selfish in his own thoughts you can’t safely predict that he wouldn’t go out and cause some other harm later on,” he said.
“I think people deserve justice. He needs to stay in jail for the rest of his life and I think the parole board has done the right thing on this occasion.
…Sergeant Delahunty said it was important that future generations not forget the scar that the massacre left on the Melbourne landscape.
He is right.
Out of deference to the victims and survivors, friends and families and all of us who make up this scar that still suppurates in our shared memory and history, Independent Australia today publishes the first part of an article that originally appeared in the Good Weekend, based on a series of interviews I did with Julian Knight.
The article has been referred to in a number of journals and academic articles and several books.
I have chosen, in this instance, to remove the names of Knight’s brother and sister from the original text.
I have also elected not to use any photos of Knight.
There have been enough body shrouds drenched in blood because of Knight, and enough pillows drenched in tears.
I do not wish to be responsible for his prison sheets to be stained with the seed of his self-gratification.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES ON THE VIAGRA OF VIOLENCE (Part 1)
It is St Valentine’s Day. The massacre is still not over though we have long buried our dead.
Julian Knight, the Grim Reaper of Hoddle St sits opposite me.
In the stark fibro visitor’s shed at Pentridge Prison’s Maximum Security H Division, we take tea in polystyrene cups. Knight clings to the rim of the laminex table like a piece of discarded offal on a plate now bereft of the feast.
He has supped well on the flesh of others. Even now, their carcasses hang neatly hooked and numbered in the well-ordered abattoir of his psyche.
The ‘Use by’ dates on the corpses read: August 9, 1987. On that morning, seven innocents arose from their beds with the mark of death on their foreheads.
By mid-evening, six were dead, including a young mother nursing her baby. The seventh was to die 11 days later. Nineteen others were wounded and a bleeding city was left chanting a mantra of mourning and disbelief.
It was Knight’s adoptive mother’s birthday. Clutching a metal bouquet that included a semi-automatic rifle, a pump action shotgun, an M14 and a gutful of hate, Knight took his private wars to a public place and opened fire on the world and its civilians. The party was over.
But, in a more insidious sense, for the urban Rambo of Ramsden St, the real celebration was about to begin. He had extinguished the candles on the cakes of strangers. His trigger finger had beckoned him from obscurity. Man, he’s a fuckin’ living headline. He’s somebody now. Everbody’s dancing for him; for his blood, for his neck, for his exclusive story, for his views on law and order and gun control, for the social implications of his acts of carnage, for his repentance. Even for his forgiveness, that our society could spawn such an exterminator.
He’s loving it. Every bloody coagulated moment. He’s as cosy as a kid sitting in a bath of his own warm pee.
Clifton Hill became the killing field for this failed soldier, forced to endure a bolt-action retreat from Duntroon Royal Military College.
Looking at him now, there is little evidence of the instinctive militarist he professes to be.
He is still a boy, with a shy manhood that may never manifest on his face — except for a scrawny moustache that hovers like a child’s soft toothbrush, above the corrugated vermilion of a gormless mouth.
He still harvests acne crops. A mole on the side of his face has been removed since his incarceration. Do not suppose that a killer has not his vanities. He used to nick the mole while shaving. It used to bleed like buggery and hurt like hell.
Tell me about it Julian. The bleeding and the hurting.
He maintains the demeanour of an unarmed punk. Weak chin. Big hands. Dangling like weights on the ends of simian limbs. Against the curved vertebrae that is his backbone, nestles a concave chest lazing on its bony hammock.
His is a manipulative intelligence.
He is weaning greedily on the milks of notoriety and media attention. A heady mixture for a calculating predator who, now relieved of his lethal weaponry, has embarked on a well-drafted battle plan to establish himself as an analytical, dispassionate investigator of his own misdeeds.
His seemingly academic interest in his own state of mind and the state of the victims’ bodies is more than obsessive.
Julian Knight is starring in his own movie.
He is handling the media with the same dexterity he handled the M14 on Bloody Sunday.
I have watched him during the months. From time to time, I visited him in Pentridge — gathering research for a documentary, monitoring his mood changes, his thoughts, his relationship with the public, and the sometimes indecent courting procedure that took place between Knight and the media.
As well, I monitored my own reactions to dialogue with the murderer.
As I watched him, so he watched me. What I write now is sourced in the marginalia of those meetings and I write not in the lexicon of explanation, but as one whose pen is motivated by the emotion at the time and the record of interview.
For hours I have listened to his rapid-fire delivery. His sense of self far eclipses his physical presence. It encircles him like the cloud of a Medium’s ectoplasm. He speaks neither in voices nor in tongues but in dialects of apparent logic and rationale.
These dialects leave him when he talks of the business of killing. In their stead, he blisters with a fervour that is orgasmic in its enthusiasm and single-minded intensity. Therein lies a glimpse of that godless August night and his orgy of death-making.
All the while he talks, his mouth provides a favoured holster for the cigarette he habitually fingers and uses as a pointing stick.
His hands, clumsy as a sawn-off shotgun, are shaking beyond his control, belying the steady marksman we know him to be. He denies he’s on the hard stuff — prescribed or otherwise. He is lying.
On this day, in another part of the fibro shed, a female visitor sits side-straddle in the lap of another prisoner. In a frenzied and heated embrace, their tongues snake into one another’s mouths, exchanging kisses and, most likely, drugs.
They make muted noises of intimacy. Husky whisperings. Giggles and gurgles. Her provocative dress, like her make-up, is designed more for an evening of frenetic disco, rather than an afternoon at L’Hotel Penal. She is here to distract as well as seduce.
I notice that one of her high-heeled slingbacks is half-off the foot that teases her captive suitor’s leg. Aroused, and with his own part to play, his hands slide around her buttocks, igniting the static electricity coursing between her cheap nylon party dress and her panty-hose.
Knight casts a cursory glance. The prison guards affect diffidence. Later, she and I will both be escorted back up to the prison gates and the reception area.
She is streetwise, cheery and well versed in prison life and its vernacular.
It is a long walk from the main bluestone torso of Pentridge to the fibro shed, over an unfinished and sometimes muddy track.
Regular visitors learn that stiletto heels are liable to impale the earth. She is a regular visitor.
A muse with a ruse. As she totters and trips on the stones, her mask of jocularity dislodges, revealing the desperation underneath that disfigures so many of the visitors to H Division.
On another day in a city courtroom I will catch a glimpse, not of the same mask, but of a similar disfigurement on the face of another woman — Julian Knight’s mother, Pamela.
Not long after we first meet, Knight assures me he is much sought after by the media. He wants to know about payment. Where my article will be placed. What sort of angle I’d go for. How much did I know about THE night. How much did I REALLY know about the night. Have I seen the pictures. ALL the pictures. You know THOSE pictures. Pictures of the victims. Did I have any pictures. Did I have any newspaper clippings. Could he see those pictures. Could I send them to him. Could I please send him the clippings. Everything I’ve got. The reason being he says, is that he wants to make sure I don’t get anything wrong. Some wrong things about him have been written.
The media are fuckin’ incompetent. Some of that stuff they put down is shit, Tess. Why do you all write shit. You’re like the police. Fuckwits.
What sort of documentary did I want to make. Would it be dramatised. Would it have news footage from the night. Would I be speaking to the victims’ families. See, you don’t understand Tess, how could you. You’re say, what — a middle class journalist. What do you know about the Army. You journalists are mostly all middle-class. You come from comfortable to well-off socio-economic groups, what would you know about this sort of thing. What do you know about combat. What do you know about guns. Do you mind if I smoke, he asks. By the way, don’t call me killer … I haven’t pleaded yet.
Another thing is — you’re a woman. No offence. Just that I think a man would be more understanding of what happened. Are you familiar with my sort of phenomena. You see, I’m not just a straight out killer. Have you read about Son of Sam, have you read about the McDonald’s massacre. I’d like you to read up on them before you get back to me, so you have more of an understanding, so we can more thoroughly discuss this type of killing process.
Uhm, you might think I was an ordinary killer, but you would be wrong. I’ll explain it all to you next time. I’m not like these guys (he tilts his head towards the other prisoners and their visitors).
No way. Don’t even put them in the same class. These guys are low life. Know what I mean. Habitual criminals. Soon as they’re out they’ll be back in again. They can’t help themselves. I’ll tell you a joke, something that will make you laugh.
One day I was waiting to make a phone call and one of the Russell Street bombers was on the phone talking to his mother. Well, Tess, he was gabbling on an’ I was getting impatient. She was asking him how he was and all that and I heard him say he was fine and okay and everything and then he goes, guess what Mum, I’m in here with the guy that done the Hoddle St massacre. Well, you don’t reckon that the shit hit the fan. She did her block. She was screaming out to him to go and speak to the Governor, so he could get moved to another part of the prison away from me. She was worried about his safety. What a joke. She was telling him, I want you to get away from that murderer, heaven knows what he might do to you. The joke is Tess, I’m nothing like those guys. Nothing. They’ve got nothing to be afraid of, not from me. They’re the criminals not me.
I’m the one whose life is in danger in here. I’ll tell you something. I don’t know how long I’ll survive in here because the truth is most of these guys are professional killers and I’m not.
The truth is, that in here…in here, I’m the dolphin among the sharks.
The quote is part of the rhetoric he uses to romanticize his persona in the eyes of onlookers. It has much to do with how he wishes himself documented by the press, the judiciary, criminologists and scholars of the mind.
Not once, in all the hours spent together, did he ever express interest in anything that did not directly concern him. He has busied himself during these past sixteen months preparing extensive and pragmatic portfolios concerning the legal and other aspects of his case.
Further, he has prepared maps and all manner of illustrations. Many of these folders he has despatched to various editors and media chiefs. Apart from the occasional spelling error, he remains erudite and lucid on paper. His copy is neat and would put the offerings of some professional journalists to shame. All the pages I have seen so far are originals, typed on a manual typewriter.
He obviously spends hours on his correspondence.
Occasionally, he has drawn cartoons for popular and in-house publications. When letters are published, his credibility as an authoritative spokesman on law and order and the human condition is affirmed.
During the understandably emotive public debate about guns before the last Victoria State election in October, Knight wrote to the major newspapers offering his expert opinion.
Some newspapers published his letters and their content was widely debated.
So too, was the issue of publishing Knight’s letters in the first place. Both legally, morally, and in deference to the families of victims, was it fair?
As he points out, he has rights, and, he asserts, some constructive advice for society. From the telescopic sights of he who pulled the trigger.
Now, about payment for the interview. You know Tess, that new bloke on Sixty Minutes wants to interview me. About a piece he’s doing on Australian prisons. And the ABC wants to talk to me, their social history department’s been onto me. I don’t know who I’m gonna do it with. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be paid for the interview. How would I go about that. You know, obviously I can’t get paid, the Tax Department would be right onto me. But couldn’t the money be channelled through my family? I told Knight there was no way I’d be paying a killer a cent. Moreover, what had happened to his philanthropic ideology that led him to believe he had some contribution to make to public debate on the seemingly increasing level of violence in the community.
That stuff’s fair enough, he says. but you guys are gonna make money out of me. Why shouldn’t I get my share. You say you won’t pay me because you don’t believe a mass murderer should make money out of his crimes. Fair enough. But you’ll get paid, won’t you. You’ll get paid and paid well for the documentary. You’ll get paid if you do an interview. You don’t mind making money out of a mass murderer, do you. Fair enough. I agree. It stinks. But if anyone is going to make any money, I want a share in it.
I warned Knight to beware of journalists promising financial inducement and that any such transaction would relegate him to the realms of entertainer – a puppet – who was expected to perform to deliver the goods per value of the dollars paid.
It would place great strain on his earnestness to present himself as a candidate for rehabilitation, especially if his tongue were loosened by the rattle of small change. But the thrill of public exposure is too intoxicating for Knight. And, in this instance, those who offer such incentive are just as guilty as he who accepts it.
He wants to write a book. Would I be interested in doing a book. What sort of royalties would he get. How come it would be so little an amount, if it was his book, about him. Hey, no-one can just go ahead and do a documentary or a film about me, can they. You’re kidding, Tess — how can they do that when I’m still alive… but they couldn’t put words in my mouth, could they. They wouldn’t know what I was thinking. They wouldn’t know what was in my head. They wouldn’t know what made me react. They just can’t make up the conversation. Can they.
How far can I go in my book. For example, there’s this girl that I used to go with. My old girlfriend. She’s married now. Can I put in all the stuff about her and me and everything, before she got married, like. Would I have to change her name. Could I keep their names, or would I have to change them.
On another day, he talks of a girl he’s been trying to contact since he was in prison. An old girlfriend. I am unclear whether it’s the same girl.
She won’t have anything to do with me. I wrote to her, but she won’t write back. I asked her to visit me in prison. The bloody fuckin’ bitch. It really shits me off.
Why do people do that. I mean, what can I do to her in here. What is she scared of. People don’t have any reason to be scared of me. What am I going to do, just sit in here for about 20 years, and then what — what sort of life will I have. How will I go, moving back into society.
Where could I hide. Even if I changed my name, there is always somebody who finds out about you. Always. Who’s going to marry me and settle down and have kids. Would you. Could you marry somebody like me. Would you. It would be very difficult, wouldn’t it, for anyone to take me on.
Then you have to decide if you’ll have children. How do you tell children that your father is a mass murderer. Tell me that, Tess. So what is everyone afraid of. Well, you didn’t answer me, could you marry someone like me.
END PART ONE
In tomorrow’s Part Two of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES ON THE VIAGRA OF VIOLENCE, we continue Lawrence’s interview with the Hoddle St murderer, Julian Knight.
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