‘Pure evil’ killer who mutilated victims kept being freed to murder again

Over 30 years depraved Peter Dupas stalked a city's streets, carrying out horrific rapes and at least three murders.

But in the grisly history of crime, one thing stands out in the case of the Australian serial killer. It is the fact he was caught, then freed, to terrorise and kill women time and time again.

Dupas had a normal upbringing in the suburbs of Melbourne and even did well at school.

But aged 15 he went to his next door neighbour's house, and politely asked to borrow a knife. He then inexplicably stabbed her in the face and neck with it.

He told police he did not know why, and was sentenced to 18 months probation and sent to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation. Two weeks later they let him go home.

His strange urges soon took hold again. He broke into a hospital mortuary and mutilated the bodies of two elderly women.

Then his evil desires turned towards the living.

In 1974 he broke into a woman's home and tied her up and raped her. When she fought against him he threatened to stab her baby.

A police officer who was interviewed after the trial said: "To me the guy is just pure evil. He is a very dangerous young person who will continue to offend where females are concerned and will possibly cause the death of one of his victims if he is not straightened out."

Sadly, the officer's warning was to come true.

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Dupas was sentenced to nine years but released after five in 1979.

His freedom brought tragedy. Just two months after his release, in the space of 10 days he molested four women and was sentenced to another five years in jail.

He next tasted freedom in February 1985, with predictable results.

Just a month later he raped a 21-year-old woman at knifepoint on a beach.

He later told police: "I'm sorry for what happened. Everyone was telling me I'm OK now. I only wanted to live a normal life."

This time he got 12 years, and was released after seven in 1992.

What happened next was almost predictable. Wearing a hood and armed with a knife, insulation tape and handcuffs, he attacked a woman at a park but was chased off by her friends. He got three years.

Freed yet again, this time he began to kill.

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Nicole Patterson, 28, was a psychotherapist working from home. Her diary said she had an appointment with "Malcolm."

Malcolm was actually Dupas who stabbed her 27 times. She was raped and had her breasts cut off.

When police later searched Dupas's home they found blood-stained clothing, tape similar to that located at the crime scene, a ski mask, newspaper clippings detailing the murder, and an advert for her psychotherapy services.

Finally, he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of release.

Police then used a DNA sample from Dupas to check old cases.

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His DNA turned up on clothing found at the murder of sex worker Margaret Josephine Maher, 40, who had also been killed in 1997. Dunas had hit her with a cinder block, stabbed her and cut off her left breast and stuffed it into her mouth.

Attention soon turned to the murder of Mersina Halvagis, 25, the same year.

She had been laying flowers on her grandmother's grave when she was stabbed 87 times and her body dumped in an empty grave.

Witnesses came forward to say they had seen Dupas in the cemetery just before the murder and he had tried to alter his appearance after it. Her wounds were also similar to those of his other victims. He was found guilty of her murder too.

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Police suspect he carried out three other killings.

Helen McMahon, 47, was sunbathing topless on a beach when she was slain. Renita Brunton was stabbed 106 times in her kitchen. Kathleen Downes, 95, was stabbed to death in a nursing home.

In each case Dupas had links to the area and their injuries were similar to Dupas's MO.

He was actually charged with Mrs Downes' murder after telling another inmate he did it because she reminded him of his mother.

However, the trial collapsed after a witness became too ill to take part.

Perhaps the biggest question should be left to the judge in one of his cases, who said: "At a fundamental level, as human beings, you present for us the awful, threatening and unanswerable question: How did you come to be as you are?"

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