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Coroner to open Fraser inquest

Leonard Fraser.
Leonard Fraser.

A CORONER will next week open an inquest into the death of Leonard Fraser, three-and-a-half years after he died in the secure unit of a Brisbane hospital.

Fraser, known as the Rockhampton Rapist and the region’s most notorious murderer, had suffered a heart attack a week earlier and died on New Year’s Day 2007.

On June 16 in Brisbane, Coroner Michael Barnes will preside at a death in custody pre-inquest conference.

The inquest will seek to establish the circumstances of Fraser’s death, what caused it and whether he was afforded adequate and appropriate medical treatment in the period leading up to his heart attack.

Former Rockhampton CIB chief Geoff Barton, who was in charge of the investigation into Fraser’s appalling crimes, said yesterday the inquest was routine, but he was surprised it had taken so long.

“If it was in a secure unit, it is automatically classified as a death in custody.

“There would have been a full investigation, either by the police or the CMC.”

He said while it was unfortunate that the inquest would raise once again the horror of his crimes, he hoped the families of those who suffered at Fraser’s hands would have found their peace.

“I don’t think anyone would mourn Fraser. I believe he was pure evil and guilty of more murders than those he was convicted of.”

Fraser was serving four indefinite life sentences after killing three Rockhampton women and a nine-year-old schoolgirl in the city between December, 1998, and April, 1999.

The victims were Sylvia Benedetti, 19, Beverley Leggo, 36, Julie Turner, 39, and Keyra Steinhardt, who was abducted and sexually assaulted as she walked home from school.

Fraser killed them all with extreme violence and his crimes remain the most chilling in Central Queensland criminal history.

He was jailed in 2003 and was in a cell at the Wolston Correctional Centre when he was taken ill.

The 55-year-old was admitted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane on Boxing Day 2006.

The life and crimes of Leonard John Fraser

Born June 27, 1951, in Ingham, North Queensland.

1957 – moved to Sydney with his parents.

1960s – left school after reaching NSW equivalent of second year of high school.

1966 – aged 15, sentenced to 12 months in the Gosford Boys Home for stealing. 

Drifted between labouring jobs around Sydney until 1970 when he became unemployed.

1968 – convicted of his first assault charge, of a railway officer at Penrith, NSW, released on probation.

1969 – stealing a car, unlicensed driving.

1970 – fined for offensive behaviour, street fighting and unlicensed driving.

February 1971 – fined for unlicensed driving and stealing a car.

November 1971 – released on two years’ probation from Brisbane District Court after he was convicted of larceny, having brought stolen goods to Queensland.

December 1971 – sentenced to two weeks in Townsville jail for stealing.

February 1, 1972 – convicted of stealing a car in Townsville.

October 17, 1972 – rapes a female French tourist at Sydney Botanic Gardens.

November 1972 – convicted of living off the earnings of prostitution in Townsville.

December 1972 – sentenced to five years’ jail for robbery.

June 19, 1974 – paroled; within nine days he raped one woman and attempted to rape two others in Sydney. Confesses to the 1972 rape.

December 1974 – sentenced to 21 years’ jail for two rapes and two further attempted rapes, assault and stealing.

1981 – paroled after seven years and arrives in Queensland. Settles in Mackay where he works as a railway worker for more than two years.

1982 – convicted in Mackay Supreme Court of aggravated assault on a female, jailed for two months.

1985 – sentenced to 12 years’ jail for rape.

January 1997 – released from Rockhampton jail; moves in with a Yeppoon woman who had been writing to him while he was in jail. Their relationship ends after Fraser allegedly raped the woman, who was terminally ill, in a Brisbane hospital chapel.

End of 1997 – Fraser moves back into Rockhampton community.

November 12, 1998 – moves into Baker Street flat with de facto.

April 22, 1999 – Fraser abducts and murders nine-year-old schoolgirl Keyra Steinhardt.

September 7, 2000 – found guilty of the murder. In Brisbane Supreme Court the Crown applies for an indefinite sentence.

March 17, 2003 – goes to trial charged with the murders of Rockhampton women Natasha Ryan, Julie Turner, Beverley Leggo and Sylvia Benedetti.

April 9, 2003 – Natasha Ryan sensationally emerges from hiding during the trial.

May 9, 2003 – found guilty of the murders of Sylvia Benedetti, 19, Beverley Leggo, 36, and Julie Turner, 39.

January 1, 2007 – suffers a heart attack and dies.

Source: Compiled from The Morning Bulletin, AAP and The Courier-Mail archives/reports.



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