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What We Can Tell You About The Claremont Serial Killings Before The Trial

On Monday, November 25 the murder trial of Bradley Robert Edwards begins, as does the possibility of closure for the families of the three women he is accused of killing in the Perth suburb of Claremont in the mid-1990s.

For more than two decades, their names have been etched into the minds of many Australians, especially young women who feared walking the streets at night knowing a killer was yet to be caught.

The stories of the murders of Sarah Spiers, Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon, who disappeared from the affluent suburb on separate occasions, all after nights out with friends, served as a chilling reminder that sometimes the streets are not as safe as they seem.

The victims of the Claremont murders (L-R) Jane Rimmer, 23, Ciara Glennon, 27, and Sarah Spiers, 18. Image: AAP

For 20 years, there was deafening silence as an investigation -- one of Australia's longest-running and most expensive -- turned cold.

Then, on December 22, 2016, there was a breakthrough -- Edwards was charged with murdering Rimmer and Glennon. Two months later he was also charged with the murder of Spiers.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to all three murders. However, he has admitted to attacks on two other women, including the abduction and rape of a teenager who was also on her way home from a night out in Claremont in 1995.

Natalie Forrest

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It’s the murder trial many West Australians feared would never happen.

Almost three years after charges were laid over the three murders, Edwards will face trial from Monday, it is expected to last six months.

Before the trial begins, here's what we can tell you about the case that has gripped the nation.

The Victims

Sarah Spiers was 18 when she vanished while celebrating Australia Day on January 26, 1996.

Spiers and her friends ended up at the Club Bayview in Claremont. About 2am the next morning she had called for a taxi from a phone booth on the corner of Stirling Rd and Stirling Highway.

It only took several minutes for the taxi to arrive, but Spiers was nowhere to be seen.

Her body has never been found.

Sarah Spiers, 18, vanished after celebrating Australia Day in Claremont in 1996. Image: AAP

Jane Rimmer vanished from the same area in the early hours of June 9, 1996.

The 23-year-old childcare worker had also been out with friends and ended up leaving them at a taxi rank outside the Continental Hotel in Claremont.

Police later released CCTV which shows an unidentified man approaching Rimmer outside the venue before the pair disappear.

Her body was found in bushland in Wellard, south of Perth in August 1996.

Jane Rimmer, 23, also vanished after a night out in Claremont. Image: AAP

Then, the following year, another woman disappeared from Claremont.

Ciara Glennon, 27, was last seen after a visit to the Continental Hotel on March 15, 1997.

The promising lawyer had returned home to Perth from an overseas trip to attend her sister's wedding.

The night she went missing, Glennon had left the venue just after midnight and was spotted at an intersection between Stirling Highway and Stirling St before she vanished.

Her family contacted police after she missed a hair appointment and her sister's hens party.

Glennon's body was found in bushland at Eglinton, in Perth's north, the following month.

Ciara Glennon's body was found in Perth bushland in April 1997. Image: AAP

Glennon's murder, which came as police were trying to deliver answers to the families of Spiers and Rimmer, forced WA's then-Crime Commander Bob Ibbotson to declare what the public had feared:

We certainly have fears that there is a serial killer at loose in Perth.

A Marriage Ends

Meanwhile, Edwards was working as a technician for Telstra and having problems at home. His first marriage is breaking down.

WA prosecutors have alleged the timeline of the above murders correlate with Edwards' marriage troubles.

The accused married his first wife in November 1991, but their relationship became strained when she had an affair with another man in 1994.

In 1995, the couple grew distant and by January 1996 Edwards' wife left him to be with another man.

On Australia Day, 1996, it's alleged his wife rejected a request to watch the fireworks together.

A photograph of Bradley Robert Edwards taken in 2016. Image: AAP

Hours later Spiers vanished.

In June 1996, Edwards’ learnt his wife was having a baby with the other man.

On June 9 Rimmer vanished.

In March 1997, the home he had shared with his wife was sold.

On March 15 Glennon disappeared.

Two weeks later, on April 1, 1997, it's alleged Edwards met his second wife.

On April 3 Glennon's body is found.

The Investigation

An investigation dubbed 'Macro Task Force' is set up in June 1996, following the disappearances of Spiers and Rimmer.

It would go on to become WA's longest-running and most expensive investigation, and one that faced considerable scrutiny and several reviews.

During the investigation, which involved hundreds of officers, more than 500 people who were in Claremont on the night of the vanishings were interviewed.

Edwards was not one of them.

Celebrities such as Australian singer Kate Ceberano were used in a high-profile advertising campaign appealing for information, but still nothing.

The city's young women were urged not to venture out alone at night.

The Taxi Probe 

Taxi drivers quickly became a key target of the investigation, given the similar circumstances between each case.

Background checks were taken of all Perth's taxi drivers, with some voluntarily submitting saliva swabs and fingerprints.

One taxi driver, Steven Ross, was considered an early person of interest. Ross was never arrested and has always maintained his innocence.

Ross had told officers he had been driving taxis on each night that the women disappeared. He also believed he had driven Spiers the night before she vanished.

According to reports, Ross lived in a granny flat at the back of a house owned by his friend Peter Weygers, then the mayor of Claremont, who was also a person of interest. He too has never been arrested, nor had charges laid against him.

In 2015 Weygers demanded an apology from WA police and $10 million in compensation, claiming his reputation had been smeared by the investigation.

Police also looked at Lance Williams, a public servant who lived with his elderly parents in the town of Cottesloe, next to Claremont.

Police began watching Williams towards the end of 1997 when it emerged he tended to drive around the Claremont area at night.

One night, he offered a lift to an undercover policewoman.

Police arrested Williams in February 1998 but released him due to lack of evidence.

Williams died of cancer in 2018, aged 61, and the former WA police commissioner conceded his family deserved an apology.

A Breakthrough

Days before Christmas 2016, police announced a breakthrough.

WA detectives confirmed they had arrested a 48-year-old man from the suburb of Kewdale in connection to the Claremont serial killings.

Police raided a home in the Perth suburb of Kewdale. Image: Getty

Hours later it was revealed Edwards had been charged over the murders of Glennon and Rimmer.

He was also charged over sex attacks on two other women, including the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl on her way home from a night out in Claremont in 1995.

It's alleged she was bound, gagged and driven to nearby Karrakatta cemetery where she was raped.

It's also alleged Edwards attacked an 18-year-old woman in her home in the Perth suburb of Huntingdale in 1988.

In February 2018, Edwards was also charged with Spiers' murder.

A Confession

Edwards maintains his innocence over the three Claremont killings of Spiers, Rimmer and Glennon.

However, in a stunning development, last month during a pre-trial hearing he confessed to two of the attacks he is accused of.

Edwards has pleaded guilty to five of eight charges.

A court sketch of Bradley Robert Edwards ahead of his lengthy trial. Image: AAP

The Trial Of The Century

Edwards has remained in custody since he last faced court.

A court sketch of Supreme Court of WA Justice Stephen Hall, who will oversee the trial. Image: AAP

His trial has been delayed multiple times due to the volume of evidence and Edwards' admissions of guilt to some of the charges. It is slated to start on Monday, November 25.

Justice Stephen Hall is the man who will decide Edwards' fate.

The prosecution alleges Edwards had a long obsession with women's undergarments, which escalated to sexual assault and abduction, then murders -- which occurred during allegedly tumultuous times in his first marriage.

Edwards maintains he is not the Claremont serial killer.

With AAP. 

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au