Police search a pond for clues after the body of Kathryn Grosvenor was found in Lake Burley Griffin. Picture: John Feder
Police search a pond for clues after the body of Kathryn Grosvenor was found in Lake Burley Griffin. Picture: John Feder

Sensational details emerge in lady in the lake murder

In a city of political scandals and landmark legal decisions, the still waters of Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, hold a dark secret.

Kathryn Grosvenor’s body was found in Lake Burley Griffin six days after she disappeared. Picture: Supplied
Kathryn Grosvenor’s body was found in Lake Burley Griffin six days after she disappeared. Picture: Supplied

Seventeen years ago, childcare worker Kathryn Grosvenor left her home in Nicholls to buy cigarettes.

Six days later on March 9, 2002, her body was found floating naked in the reeds near Yarralumla.

The 23-year-old, affectionately known as Kat, had been stabbed more than 60 times and weighed down with a concrete bollard - a murder so savage it still shakes the people of Canberra.

In 2004, an inquest was held into her death. Police named ten "persons of interest" and said they were not completely satisfied with the innocence of three people: a couple of Kat's friends Malcolm Kearsley and Kristen Gale and her cousin, Joshua Smith.

All three denied any involvement, and coroner Beth Campbell returned an open finding, ruling Kat had been killed by person or persons unknown.

Now, records of police interviews prepared for the coroner and seen by True Crime Australia reveal sensational details of the case and raise hopes that fresh publicity could help solve the ongoing murder mystery.

 

Parents Glenn and Kerrie Grosvenor want to know the truth about what happened to their daughter.
Parents Glenn and Kerrie Grosvenor want to know the truth about what happened to their daughter.

 

Kat's parents Kerrie and Glenn Grosvenor hope someone will come forward with the missing piece to the puzzle.

"We're still pretty much exactly where we left off," said Mr Grosvenor, 67.

"When it first happened there was a lot of contact and officers … so we were given a bit of assurance that we would be kept well and truly up to date, but it got to a point where they explained they just can't keep going. They weren't getting anywhere."

A 2012 ACT Police press release about a number of unsolved cases generated a "trickle" of information but no breakthrough leads.

Asked what their instincts told them had happened, the Grosvenors' pain and torment was clear.

"We just don't know," said Mrs Grosvenor, 66.

"We just don't bloody know and that's frustrating," added Mr Grosvenor.

"You have your little gut feelings and that, but I've been having them ever since the day it happened and it will be different each time. You wake up at night, even still, and you think a different thing. You might have a down time or something will be brought up when you're having a conversation with someone else, and you think of different scenarios, and it's very, very frustrating. It's that stuff that gets you."

 

Kathryn Grosvenor had left home and was flourishing in her dream job in the months before tragedy struck. Picture: Supplied
Kathryn Grosvenor had left home and was flourishing in her dream job in the months before tragedy struck. Picture: Supplied

A NEW START

KATHRYN "KAT" GROSVENOR had only been living in Canberra for nine months before she died.

In June 2001, she landed her dream job at the Belconnen Occasional Childcare Centre. It was her first proper position in childcare and meant a move away from her family home in Albury, NSW.

Her aunt and uncle, Glenda and Robert Beresford, and cousin Joshua Smith already lived in Nicholls and welcomed Kat into their home while she found her feet.

She had grown up with the family and often played with Joshua, the pair just a year apart in age.

Kat flourished in the role and quickly established herself as a well-liked part of the team. "We knew from the interview that she was certainly someone to hold on to," recalled her former supervisor.

"She was a very gentle soul, that's what I remember about Kat … she was little mother Earth and that's why we certainly wanted her around (the kids) because they'd cluster all around her. She'd be dressing up with them, she would be laughing, she would just bring joy into the room and they would just feed off that."

Other than her unique ability with children, the first thing people remember about Kat is her gregarious fashion sense.

She loved quirky, offbeat pieces. On the day she went missing she was wearing two particularly distinctive items - a plastic 'frog-green' coloured backpack and a pair of chunky, marbled rubber electric blue boots. The items have never been found.

According to police statements tendered at the 2004 inquest, prior to her death Kat had forged a close friendship with her colleague Kristen Gale and Kristen's partner, Malcolm Kearsley.

The police files, compiled from interviews of workers at the preschool and close associates of Kat, Kristen and Malcolm, described the trio as regularly socialising together at the local sports club.

The court heard Mr Kearsley had told friends he was no longer satisfied in his relationship with Ms Gale, with whom he shared a young child. Two associates also gave evidence via written police statements that they believed he held a secret torch for Kat.

During the inquest, police presented the statement of Kim Turner, a colleague from Kat's preschool, who recounted a conversation she had with Mr Kearsley. She said Mr Kearsley had told her he would like to leave Ms Gale to move in with her and Kat.

Police focused heavily on the couple during their investigation, theorising that one possibility might be that Kat's death was the result of a love triangle gone wrong.

At the time Mr Kearsley and Ms Gale fiercely protested their innocence.

It's a stance Ms Gale has maintained almost two decades later.

'I STILL HAVE NIGHTMARES'

Kristen Gale in Canberra earlier this year.
Kristen Gale in Canberra earlier this year.

 

When True Crime Australia contacted Ms Gale recently, she was highly emotional and reluctant to speak about the matter.

"I don't want to re-live any of this s---. I don't want you calling me. I don't want anything to do with this," she said.

"I have been in counselling for so long. I can't shut it off, I just can't deal with it. She was a very close friend and I didn't know her for very long, we worked together, and what happened to her has really traumatised me, like the whole thing.

"I would never do that to anybody."

When asked if she had any idea what might have happened, Ms Gale was adamant: "I have no idea. I have no - I don't want to be rehashing stuff that happened 17 years ago.

"It's taken me so long to try and put it in the past and I still have nightmares and I can't move on from it.

"It's never going to go away until they can find whoever did it, it's never going to go away."

Mr Kearsley declined True Crime Australia's attempts to speak with him.

 

Kathryn Grosvenor had spoken on the phone to her mum the night she disappeared and made plans for her dad’s birthday. Picture: Supplied
Kathryn Grosvenor had spoken on the phone to her mum the night she disappeared and made plans for her dad’s birthday. Picture: Supplied

TRAGEDY UNFOLDS

IT was a mobile phone ringing in the early hours of Tuesday morning that first told Robert and Glenda Beresford something was very wrong.

On March 5, 2002, a bleary-eyed Mrs Beresford stumbled through the dark house, following the sound to Kat's room and flung open the door.

There was Kat's mobile phone, flashing in the dimly lit room … but no Kat.

Glenda answered the call. She later told the inquest she heard a group of young guys laughing and joking about on the other end. She dismissed it as a prank call to a random number and hung up.

But where was Kat?

It was unheard of for her to be out in the early hours of Tuesday morning. It was even more peculiar for her to go anywhere without her mobile phone.

By daybreak, the Beresfords raised the alarm.

The family's worst suspicions were confirmed when Kat's boss Gail Richards phoned to report Kat had failed to show up for work both Monday and Tuesday.

The Grosvenors immediately began driving from their home in Albury, NSW, to the capital.

They knew Kat wouldn't have just taken off of her own accord, not without letting someone know.

"That just wasn't Kat. She just loved what she was doing and set herself all these goals, and it just wasn't her not to turn up. It was a very long trip to Canberra," said Mr Grosvenor.

During the 2004 inquest, the court heard that on the Sunday Kat disappeared the young woman had spent the day at home.

According to police interviews tendered to the coroner, her cousin Joshua Smith had also spent the day at home playing video games. Around 6.30pm he made fajitas, which Kat helped herself to.

That was the last time he saw Kat, he told police.

The court heard Mr Smith was living with a severe mental illness at the time of Kat's disappearance and suffered from paranoia and violent episodes.

There was one incident in which he had threatened Kat with a knife, the inquest heard.

Mr Smith declined to be interviewed by True Crime Australia, but his extended family fiercely supported his innocence.

"Just knowing Josh, I felt he wasn't capable," said Mrs Grosvenor.

"That's not to say that any of the people that he knows wouldn't be capable, but as far as Joshua being involved, I said right from the start that it's not possible, and, I mean, that's my feelings on it because we've known Joshua all his life."

Kerrie Grosvenor will always remember the last telephone conversation she had with her daughter. It was 7.30pm on the Sunday Kat disappeared.

The women discussed their plans for Kat's father's 50th birthday and Kat seemed excited about making a trip home later that week.

There was "nothing out of the ordinary" about the conversation, Mrs Grosvenor recalled.

Sometime after the phone call, it's believed Kat left the house to make the 10-minute walk to the George Harcourt Inn to buy cigarettes.

 

Kathryn Grosvenor's body was found floating naked in the reeds near Yarralumla in Lake Burley Griffin in 2002. Picture: Kym Smith
Kathryn Grosvenor's body was found floating naked in the reeds near Yarralumla in Lake Burley Griffin in 2002. Picture: Kym Smith

 

 

Night had fallen but the streets were well-lit and the suburban neighbourhood was populated with family homes. Crime in the area was virtually unheard of.

It's presumed Kat made it to the inn; a worker at the George Harcourt would later tell police he saw a woman matching her description. He said she was alone and didn't seem in a hurry or flustered.

What happened then is a mystery. The next piece of the puzzle was found six days later.

Local diplomat Douglas Wright was enjoying his Saturday morning canoe on Lake Burley Griffin when he spotted something curious in the water.

Now 89, he recalled the "pleasant, sunny morning" and how his canoe felt less stable than he would have liked, causing him to make a "cautious" paddle around the shoreline from Yarralumla towards Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.

"At one point I looked across towards the high bank and reeds and saw something unusual that was floating on the surface of the lake. It looked like a large bird but not quite, so I turned my kayak and paddled closer to make out what was there. The closer I got, the more I recognised that it was someone's body floating there, and closer still, that it was that of a young woman."

 

Kathryn Grosvenor at work at the childcare centre. Picture: Supplied
Kathryn Grosvenor at work at the childcare centre. Picture: Supplied

DID KAT KNOW HER KILLER?

KAT Grosvenor was an unlikely victim.

She didn't mix with criminals or engage in risky behaviour.

She was well-liked. She wasn't promiscuous. She hadn't recently split from a vengeful ex-boyfriend.

She didn't have known enemies.

Yet the nature of the injuries inflicted on her were vicious. This didn't seem like just any murder, whoever did this wanted to inflict maximum damage.

The post mortem results presented at inquest revealed she was stabbed at least 60 times, across the breast, shoulders and neck.

There were no defence wounds to her arms or legs but bruising on her left arm suggested she had been restrained prior to death. A concrete bollard was attached to her neck, before her naked body was disposed of in the lake.

During the inquest, expert analysis was heard from forensic pathologist Dr Alan Cala and former detective and behavioural analyst Steve Longford. Both agreed the circumstances of the attack strongly suggested the murder was sexually motivated.

"The fact that the body has no clothes on to start with is a pretty strong indicator of that," Mr Longford told True Crime Australia.

"I mean, there's no real other reason to take off someone's clothes. If it's a robbery, why would you undress them? If it's because you hate them, why undress them? If it's accidental why undress them?"

Perhaps what makes the murder all the more chilling is that in Mr Longford's expert opinion, Kat knew her attacker. Or, if the offender was a stranger, "the victim believed she was in no initial danger from a stranger".

So, what kind of person should police be looking for?

"The offender will have poor relationships, a rich fantasy life, not necessarily obvious to those around them, a distorted view of the world with a feeling of being unjustly treated," Mr Longford's report stated.

"The offender will be egocentric and subject to outbursts when things do not go their way.

"The offender will make friends with relative ease, but is manipulative."

 

Police search a pond in the Gunghalin area for clues after Kathryn Grosvenor’s body was found. Picture: John Feder
Police search a pond in the Gunghalin area for clues after Kathryn Grosvenor’s body was found. Picture: John Feder

 

WHO SAID WHAT

NINE days before childcare worker Kathryn "Kat" Grosvenor was brutally murdered, her friends Kristen Gale and Malcolm Kearsley threw her a 23rd birthday party.

Kat had become fast friends with the couple since Kat and Ms Gale began working at the same childcare centre.

The trio would spend their Friday nights drinking and singing karaoke at the local sports club. In documents tendered at inquest, Ms Gale described herself as Kat's "best friend", while Mr Kearsley was noted as taking a particular shine to Kat.

But when Kat's body was found, police began to focus their attention on the couple.

According to police documents tendered at inquest, on the morning Kat was noticed missing Ms Gale and Mr Kearsley had arranged to give her a lift to work.

The court heard that on the morning of Monday, 4 March, 2002, Ms Gale and Mr Kearsley arrived at Kat's home in Nicholls, with fellow colleague Kim Turner also in the car.

Ms Gale knocked on the front door but when she was unable to raise Kat, she assumed her friend must have made other arrangements and the car continued without her.

Yet in documents tendered at inquest, fellow childcare worker Brianna Rees recalled Ms Gale making a chilling comment when Kat never showed at work.

"If she's gone … something's happened, it's all my fault," it's alleged Ms Gale told Ms Rees.

According to the documents, when Ms Rees sought clarification, Ms Gale said she should have knocked longer on Kat's front door.

During the inquest, police put forward the evidence of Kim Turner who told them that "on the day Kat was recovered from the lake, Ms Gale questioned who would get Kat's job". Kat was senior to Ms Gale in the childcare hierarchy and the comment seemed astoundingly insensitive.

The court also heard Ms Gale became obsessed with discussing intimate details of the murder, which caused her to come under the suspicion of her colleagues.

 

Detective Senior Constable Nigel Ryan talks with The George Hardcourt Hotel owner Billay Cantello in Gunghalin in 2002. Picture: John Feder
Detective Senior Constable Nigel Ryan talks with The George Hardcourt Hotel owner Billay Cantello in Gunghalin in 2002. Picture: John Feder

 

Police told the coroner that on March 26, 2002, childcare worker Catherine Hope said Ms Gale appeared to have intimate knowledge of "the circumstances surrounding Kat's injuries and the circumstances in which Kat's body was disposed of" including that "Kat's body had been thrown into the water with the neck tied down".

The court also heard Ms Gale had been pressuring one parent, who worked for the AFP and whose child attended the centre, for information about the investigation.

Police statements tendered at inquest suggested a twisted love triangle may have caused tensions between Ms Gale, Mr Kearsley and their new friend Kat.

The court heard the evidence of childcare worker Kim Turner. Ms Turner told police about a conversation she had with Mr Kearsley prior to Kat's murder.

"He said he no longer loved his partner Kristen Gale and that he wished he had met Kat and her (Ms Turner) a couple of years ago. Malcolm Kearsley asked her (Ms Turner) if she or Kat would like to move into a premises with him," her police file reads.

Police also tendered a statement from a man, who has asked not to be named, who worked as a karaoke DJ at the Raiders Club.

"(The DJ) recalls Malcolm telling him that Kat had been stabbed twenty to thirty times in the back with a short bladed knife, like a penknife," states the summary of his interview.

"Malcolm told him that Kat did not die from those wounds, but drowned when she was put in the water.

"Malcolm said during this conversation that Kat was alive when she was put in the water."

The alleged conversation took place on Friday, 8 March, 2002.

Kat's body was only discovered on the 9th.

When True Crime Australia contacted Mr Kearsley's best friend at the time, Brad, the man said his mate was besotted with Kat and spoke fondly of her often when the men were alone.

He remembered how devastated Mr Kearsley was when Kat's body was found.

"You know, I can remember the look on his face. I'll never forget the look on his face," Brad told True Crime Australia.

"Look, whether Malcolm was in fantasy land or otherwise, he really liked Kat."

Both Ms Gale and Mr Kearsley strongly denied any involvement in Kat's death, and coroner Beth Campbell returned an open finding, ruling Kat had been killed by person or persons unknown.

 

A tribute to Kathryn Grosvenor penned by her childcare colleagues.
A tribute to Kathryn Grosvenor penned by her childcare colleagues.

'A BAD TIME'

ALMOST two decades after Kat Grosvenor's body was found the sense of fear instilled by her murder can still be felt.

"The murderers are still out there, aren't they?" said the local karaoke DJ when asked whether he still thought about the crime.

The DJ barely knew Kat but like anyone within Kat's orbit, he was heavily questioned by police, and agreed to submit a DNA sample.

Others, such as the women who worked with Kat at the Belconnen Occasional Childcare Centre, still mourn the loss of their friend. For years after her death, they would meet on the anniversary to host a dinner in Kat's honour.

"It happened to somebody that we knew and cared about and we didn't see an ending … there's still this whole cloud because you know, there was no, nobody was ever caught … so you're always left wondering," said one.

For the families of those investigated as suspects, the trauma runs particularly deep.

"That was a bad time," Mr Kearsley's mother told True Crime Australia from her front doorstep.

"It wasn't pleasant at the time. And the police, how they treated me … I didn't know the girl," she said, before refusing further questions.

Mrs Kearsley, like many others who were unwittingly caught up in the murder investigation, felt the deflected heat of the police scrutiny on her son.

One of the most sensational moments during the inquest was the evidence that Mr Kearsley knew where Kat's body had been disposed of, prior to its discovery, according to a conversation he had with Brad.

Yet when True Crime Australia interviewed Brad recently he said he couldn't be sure of the timing of his conversation with Mr Kearsley. His wife had just had a baby and sleep deprivation meant he was unsure of the date.

"This was a sticking point at the time because I hadn't slept in weeks and weeks and weeks and we couldn't 100 per cent without doubt confirm whether it was Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday. No matter how hard I tried, we just couldn't join the dots together."

Brad's 2002 police statement also records that he told police Mr Kearsley and Ms Gale seemed to have bonded after the murder.

"Malcolm and Kristen have been inseparable since the discovery of Kat's body. They are like they were when they first met, however, they still fight and are not having sex," he said in his interview, tendered at inquest.

He also noted an unusual incident in June, 2002, when he was asked to house-sit for the couple. When they returned, Gale accused him of searching through the house, the court heard.

"Kristen's accusation was aggressive and out of the ordinary. Malcolm and Kristen have been acting strange since the murder of Kat Grosvenor," Brad is alleged to have told police.

Now, seventeen years later, he doesn't recall the incident.

"From the bottom of my heart (I) really don't believe that Malcolm or Kristen had anything to do (with) it," he said.

 

Glenn and Kerrie and Grosvenor want anyone with information on their daughter’s murder to come forward.
Glenn and Kerrie and Grosvenor want anyone with information on their daughter’s murder to come forward.

BIKIE THEORY

IN FEBRUARY, Kat Grosvenor's loved ones celebrated what would have been her 40th birthday.

For her family, it was a heartbreaking reminder of how long has passed since they saw their "Kat", and of the endless frustration they have felt while her murder has remained unsolved.

Without a conviction, suspicion and unease still hangs heavy among Canberra locals.

Ms Gale left Belconnen Occasional Childcare Centre shortly after the murder; rumours and speculation among staff made her continued employment there feel impossible. Although she still lives in the area, none of the staff interviewed for this story said they've seen or spoken to her since.

Kat's cousin Joshua Smith, who was also named as a suspect, declined to be interviewed by True Crime Australia but according to Facebook posts, he appears to still be haunted by the mystery of his cousin's death. The coroner made no findings against him, and his family resolutely support his innocence.

Other theories of what happened to Kat have included speculation about bikies.

 

Gail Richards who managed the Belconnen Occasional Childcare Centre where Kathryn Grosvenor worked.
Gail Richards who managed the Belconnen Occasional Childcare Centre where Kathryn Grosvenor worked.

 

"There was talk of a bikie, not a bikie gang but a group of bikies that had come through that night," recalled Gail Richards, Kat's boss at the preschool.

However, the thesis has been fiercely rebuffed by former detective and behavioural analyst, Steve Longford.

"My initial problem with that would be procurement of the victim," said Longford.

"How did they get her? I mean her victimology is pretty clean. She's not promiscuous, she's not likely to jump on the back of a motorbike with a bunch of bikies. So my first concern with that theory is if they're passing through town unless they've got a vehicle it's pretty hard to get hold of her. Secondly, even if they do they're going to take a pretty big risk cruising in and abducting someone. They've then got to have somewhere for all this to occur. And why.

"Why? What is their motive, why (would) they do it if there is no evidence of sexual behaviour? I can't really see any upside to that theory other than people's misconception about bikies, I guess."

In 2011, there appeared to be a break in the case when a pair of blue boots, almost identical to the ones Kat was last seen wearing, turned up at a St Vincent de Paul store in Wagga Wagga.

However, when police analysed the boots, they determined they were not Kat's.

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The last public appeal for information from ACT policing came in 2012, when a witness came forward claiming to have seen two men about to load a block of concrete into the rear of a black ute. The witness believed it could have been a Ford or a Holden.

A second red sedan with faded paintwork was parked on the median strip at the time.

The first man was described as caucasian in appearance and aged in his mid-twenties to mid-thirties. He was about 180cm (5'11) tall, had a medium to large athletic build, suntanned skin and brown short messy hair. He was wearing knee-length dark beige shorts and a light-coloured short-sleeved shirt.

The second man was also described as caucasian, around 173cm (5'8") tall with a slim build. He had dark wavy hair and was described as having a scruffy appearance. He was wearing dark 'stubbie' shorts and a light-coloured short-sleeved T-shirt with no collar.

Kat's parents, Kerrie and Glenn Grosvenor, remain hopeful someone may come forward to police with the information they need to finally close their daughter's case. A $500,000 reward for information leading to a conviction is currently on offer.

"Somebody else knows something and they're not coming forward," said Mrs Grosvenor.

"We just need you need to know," Mr Grosvenor added.

"We just need to know how, (and) why, why it happened."

Police are urging anyone with any information, no matter how small, to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Information can be provided anonymously.



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