A.K.A.: “The Speargun Killer” – “The Mornington Monster”
Characteristics: Parricide – Dismemberment
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: March 23/27, 2004
Date of arrest: June 22, 2004
Date of birth: February 28, 1967
Victims profile: His pregnant wife, Anna Kemp Sharpe, 41, and their daughter Gracie, 20 months old
Method of murder: Spear gun
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 33 years on August 5, 2005
WHAT do you say about John Myles Sharpe?
How do you reconcile the actions of a man who coldly and heinously speargunned his pregnant wife twice as she slept … and then four days later, killed his toddler daughter using the same speargun?
You can’t. And while the manipulative Sharpe serves out his 33-year sentence in protective isolation, he remains a figure of scorn and derision.
In early August 2005, Sharpe, 38, was sentenced to a minimum 33 years for the two chilling murders.
During the Supreme Court sentencing he sobbed uncontrollably, rocking back and forth.
But his outpouring of emotion was generally viewed as being more in self-pity than an expression of remorse for his victims.
Sharpe had planned his actions for some time, despite claims he’d been overtaken by madness.
After murdering his family in late March, 2004 Sharpe began his public ruse. Tearfully, he told of how Anna, his wife had left him and taken 19-month-old Gracie Louise.
His made emotion-charged pleas for them to come home, and to fill the empty void in his life created by their absence.
Using his unsuspecting parents as a backdrop, Sharpe also said he had nothing to do with their disappearances.
Little did the world know that two months earlier – on March 23 – he had taken a speargun from his garage, knelt next to Anna as she slept in the marital bed and fired a spear into her head, and then repeated it.
“Anna was asleep in bed and I used – used the spear and fired it – fired it into Anna’s head on two occasions,” he told police.
His simple explanation was that he’d been overcome by a sort of madness.
Sharpe said he left his dead wife in the bed, and then buried her in the backyard the next day.
She was five months’ pregnant.
Sharpe continued to care for little Gracie, but the child was clearly on borrowed time as her father mentally debated with himself if he should kill her.
Four days later, while Gracie lay in her cot he fired the speargun into her head. The shot did not kill her, and he recalled his wounded daughter looking at him in shock.
So he quickly gathered the two spears he’d used to kill Anna, and ended Gracie’s life.
He then dismembered her body, put the remains in garbage bags and took them to a landfill site on the Mornington Peninsula.
Later, Sharpe exhumed his wife’s body, dismembered it with a chainsaw, and returned to the same tip with the body parts.
The $99 electric chainsaw had been bought from a Bunnings Warehouse and the receipt would be a key piece of evidence.
Sharpe also kept up the pretence of wife still being alive by using her credit cards to purchase items, such as flowers.
He had also concocted various stories and accounts to cover his tracks. These handwritten notes or prompts were found dumped in bins outside a Mornington shopping centre.
While the evidence continued to mount against Sharpe, he maintained his innocence right through the investigation.
But on June 22, homicide detectives moved on Sharpe, convinced they had enough to prosecute him.
They charged him with two murders, even though the bodies had yet to be found.
After being arrested and taken to St Kilda Rd police complex, Sharpe eventually broke down and sobbed while he confessed his guilt.
Based on his admission, police then went to the Mornington tip where they recovered his family’s remains.
Sentencing Sharpe, Justice Bernard Bongiorno told him: “No doubt in the coming years the gravity of your actions will weigh more heavily on you.
“You may reach a state of genuine remorse: it is to be hoped that you do.
“A positive finding that you have done so yet, however, cannot be made.”
John Myles Sharpe is not due for release until 2038.
John Myles Sharpe (b. February 28, 1967), is an Australian currently serving life imprisonment for the murders of his wife and only child. The nature and events of the crime were in the words of the sentencing judge “too awful to contemplate“.
Sharpe met his wife, Anna Kemp, when they worked together at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Anna was four years his senior. They married in October 1994 and lived together in various locations around the Melbourne suburb of Mornington. Their daughter Gracie Louise Sharp was born August, 2002.
In 2003 Sharpe purchased a spear gun from a local dealer, plus a second spear. He had not previously been interested in spear fishing, and was known to have test fired the gun in his backyard only once.
On March 21, 2004, Sharpe and his family attended a birthday function for a nephew. Family members reported no arguments of any kind on this day.
Murder of Anna Sharpe
On March 23, 2004, Sharpe and his wife argued before retiring to bed about 10pm. He later left the bed and proceeded to his backyard garage to retrieve the spear gun. Returning to the bedroom, Sharpe fired the spear into his wife’s head at point blank range. Noticing his wife was still breathing, Sharpe fired a second spear into her head, killing her. He then covered the body in towels and went downstairs to sleep on a sofa. Next day, Sharpe attempted to remove the spears from his wife’s head but failed, removing only the shafts. He then buried his wife in a shallow grave in their backyard.
Murder of Gracie Sharpe
On March 27, 2004 Sharpe put Gracie to bed in her cot and then drank several glasses of whisky. He retrieved the spear gun from the garage, loaded it with a newly acquired spear which he fired at her head, penetrating her skull. With his child screaming loudly after suffering horrendous injury, Sharpe retrieved the two spear shafts which he had earlier removed from his wife’s head and returned to Gracie’s bedroom. He fired both into Gracie’s head, but realising she was still alive, he withdrew one spear from his child’s head and fired again, killing her.
Disposal of evidence
On March 29, 2004, Sharpe purchased a roll of duct tape, two tarpaulins and a chainsaw from a local Bunnings Warehouse store. The following day he exhumed the body of his wife and cut it into three pieces. He wrapped the remains in a tarpaulin and disposed of them in a nearby waste disposal site.
On March 29, 2004, Sharpe sent a forged e-mail to Anna’s family in New Zealand to create the impression Anna was alive and well. Rather than comfort the family, his e-mail raised further concerns, and Anna’s mother reported her disappearance to police in Dunedin.
Sharpe later told police that Anna had moved to nearby Chelsea with their daughter, and denied any knowledge or involvement in her disappearance. He also arranged for flowers in the name of his wife to be delivered to his mother-in-law on her birthday.
During May 2004, Sharpe gave several media interviews, and appeared on national television speaking of his wife and child’s disappearance. Sharpe said he had spoken to his wife a week earlier and he appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
On June 22, 2004 police arrested Sharpe. During his first interview he continued to deny any knowledge of their whereabouts, but in a subsequent interview admitted to both murders. Police undertook a massive search of the Mornington landfill site over three weeks, and both bodies were found.
On August 5, 2005 the Supreme Court of Victoria sentenced Sharpe to life imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 33 years, for the murders.
The Sharpe family murders was a March 2004 Australian double murder, in which John Sharpe killed his pregnant wife, Anna, and his nineteen-month old daughter Gracie, in the Melbourne suburb of Mornington. For his part in the crime, he became generally known as the ‘Speargun killer’ or the ‘Mornington Monster’.
Sharpe repeatedly fired a spear gun into the heads of his victims, and would later exhume the body of his wife, dismember her, then disposed of her body in a landfill. Claiming his innocence, he would later appear on national television in emotional interviews seeking information on his family’s whereabouts.
Sharpe eventually confessed to the murders and was sentenced in 2005 to life imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 33 years. He will be eligible for parole in 2037.
John Myles Sharpe was born 28 February 1967 in Mornington and grew up in that area. Sharpe met his New Zealand born wife, Anna Kemp, when they worked together at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. They married in October 1994 – Anna was four years his senior. They then lived together in various locations around the Mornington Peninsula area south of Melbourne.
Their daughter, Gracie Louise Sharpe was born in August 2002. She was born with a condition called hip dysplacia – a congenital abnormality in her hips which required orthopaedic treatment by a corrective harness for the first three months of her life. She cried often and had difficulty sleeping, a situation which appeared to place some strain on the marriage. Even after the harness was no longer required, Gracie still had difficulties in feeding and sleeping for which Anna sought professional assistance.
In 2003 Sharpe purchased a high powered spear gun, along with a second spear, from a sports shop known as Sport Phillip Marine in Mornington. He had not previously shown an interest in spear fishing, but was known to have test fired the gun, in order to become familiar with its operation, in the backyard of their then Spinnaker Rise, Mornington home. Soon after, in September 2003, the Sharpes purchased the house at 116 Prince Street, Mornington.
In about November of that year, when Gracie was about 15 months old, Anna became pregnant again. Sharpe later told police investigators that this pregnancy came as a surprise to him. Sharpe apparently decided that he did not want another child – in his mind, one was enough of a burden – and he began to resent Anna and the unborn child.
On 21 March 2004, Sharpe and his family attended a birthday function for a nephew. Family members reported no tension or arguments of any kind on this day. On 23 March however, Sharpe and his wife argued before retiring to bed about 10pm. He later left the bed and retrieved the spear gun from the backyard garage. Returning to the bedroom, Sharpe fired the spear from a distance of a few centimetres into his pregnant wife’s left temple. Noticing his wife was still breathing, Sharpe fired a second spear into her head, killing her. He then covered the body in towels and went downstairs to sleep on a foldout sofa bed.
The next day, Sharpe attempted to remove the spears from his wife’s head but failed, removing only the shafts by unscrewing them from the heads. That same day Sharpe also took Gracie to and collected her from her childcare centre. He also lied to a TV serviceman who came to the house to prevent him finding his wife’s body which, at that stage, was still in the bedroom. He later buried his wife in a shallow grave in their backyard.
At some time between his wife’s death and the time he killed his daughter, Sharpe again went to Sport Phillip Marine (accompanied by his daughter) where he purchased another spear for the spear gun.
On 27 March 2004 Sharpe put his daughter Gracie to bed in her cot and then drank several glasses of whiskey and Coke in order to “to numb his senses”. He retrieved the spear gun from the garage, loaded it with a newly acquired spear and fired at her head, penetrating her skull. With his child alive and screaming loudly, Sharpe retrieved the two spear shafts which he had earlier removed from his wife’s head and returned to the bedroom. He fired both into Gracie’s head, but realising she was still alive, he withdrew one spear from his child’s head and fired again, finally killing her.
He returned to Gracie’s bedroom the next morning and pulled the spears from her head whilst holding a towel in front of his face, as he could not bear to look upon her. He wrapped her body in garbage bags and a tarpaulin and bound her with black duct tape. He then disposed of her body at the Mornington refuse transfer station, discarding at the same time the spear gun, the spears and some of her clothes and toys.
Aftermath and deception
On 29 March 2004, Sharpe visited a local Bunnings Warehouse hardware store in Frankston where he purchased a roll of duct tape, two tarpaulins and an electric chainsaw. The following day he exhumed the body of his wife and cut it into three pieces. He then wrapped the remains in a tarpaulin and disposed of them, along with the chainsaw, in waste collection bins at the Mornington Transfer Station.
On the same day he sent a forged e-mail to Anna’s family in New Zealand to create the impression Anna was alive and well. Rather than comfort the family, his e-mail raised further concerns, and Anna’s mother reported her disappearance to police in Dunedin New Zealand. Sharpe later told police that Anna had moved to nearby Melbourne suburb of Chelsea with their daughter, and denied any knowledge or involvement in her disappearance. He also arranged for flowers in the name of his wife to be delivered to his mother-in-law on her birthday.
During May 2004, Sharpe gave several media interviews, and appeared on national television speaking of his wife and child’s disappearance. In part of his appeal he said: “Anna, our marriage may be over but I still love you and you are the mother of our beautiful daughter Gracie, whom we both adore more than anyone else”. Sharpe then said he had spoken to his wife a week earlier and he asked for anyone with information to come forward. He however also maintained that she had run off with another man.
Arrest and conviction
On 20 May 2004, New Zealand police requested Victoria Police to conduct enquiries into the apparent disappearance of Anna Kemp and her daughter, Gracie. The same day police from Mornington attended the Sharpe home and spoke with him. On 10 June, he was again interviewed by police at Mornington but he maintained the story that Anna had left voluntarily on 23 March.
On 22 June 2004 police arrested Sharpe. During his first interview, this time at the Homicide Squad at St Kilda Road, he continued to deny any knowledge of their whereabouts, but in a subsequent interview, after speaking to his family, he admitted to both murders. He told police he killed his wife because she was “controlling and moody” and their marriage was unhappy. He told police “I was thinking of taking care or Gracie by myself and just amongst all this madness … that’s when I lost the plot”.
According to family members Sharpe may have also killed his wife because she discovered him abusing their daughter Gracie, some of his relatives believe. The claim comes as family letters reveal Sharpe had a history of abusing children.
Police undertook a massive search lasting three weeks of the Mornington landfill site, finally locating both bodies. Sharpe appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria where he was arraigned and pleaded guilty to the murders of Anna and Grace Sharpe. On 5 August 2005 the Court sentenced Sharpe to life imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 33 years. Sharpe resides in protective custody while imprisoned due to threats on his life from fellow prisoners.
The Sharpe “disappearance”, appeals, confession, search, body recovery, and trial were all major news items in the Australian print and television media of the time. The murder also received general media attention in New Zealand, as well as by the New Zealand Police Force.
Sharpe’s murder spree was the focus of the 2005 Crime Investigation Australia Season 1 episode “The Mornington Monster”, in which the crime and Sharpes actions were reenacted.
The murders also appear in the 2005 book “12 True Crime Stories that Shocked Australia” by Paul Anderson, which “deconstructs twelve of Australia’s most intriguing and hideous crime cases”. Sharpe’s police confession is also highlighted in the 2008 book “Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis” 3rd ed. by Brent E. Turvey.
In August 2009, the case was again reviewed on the 60 Minutes programme “Unmasking the Truth” about human lie detectors who can unmask killers “tearfully pleading for help in finding a missing loved one. And all the time, they know their husband, wife, even their own child, is already dead.”
Speargun killer jailed for life
August 5, 2005
A Melbourne man who used a speargun to murder his pregnant wife and 20-month-old daughter has been jailed for life.
John Myles Sharpe, 38, breathing heavily, bowed his head and wiped his eyes as Victorian Supreme Court judge Bernard Bongiorno handed down two life terms with a non-parole period of 33 years.
The former bank worker turned conveyancer appeared unsteady on his feet throughout the judge’s sentencing remarks.
Sharpe pleaded guilty in February this year to the murders of Anna Kemp 41, and 20-month-old Gracie Sharpe at their home in Mornington on March 23 last year.
He killed Ms Kemp with two speargun shots to the head as she slept.
Four days later he murdered his daughter with four speargun shots.
Justice Bongiorno said Sharpe’s killing of his wife was “singular in its barbarity”.
Sharpe had murdered his daughter “simply so that your first crime would not be discovered”, the judge said.
The court was told Sharpe dismembered his wife’s body with a chainsaw and placed the remains and his daughter’s body in waste collection bins at the Morning Transfer Station.
Sharpe pretended his wife had left him for another man and taken their daughter, and appeared on television expressing his concern.
Justice Bongiorno, who imposed two life sentences, said Sharpe had been fully aware of what he was doing.
His crimes were “egregiously wicked”, he said.
He said Sharpe had told police he had been brooding about his unhappy marriage.
The judge said psychiatrist Dr Lester Walton had described Sharpe as “socially inept, dependent, passive and a retiring individual who was unable or reluctant to confront problems”.
Sharpe believed the only way of solving his marriage difficulties was to kill his wife.
Anna Kemp’s mother broke down as she watched the sentencing with other family members via a video link from the southern New Zealand city of Dunedin.
Sharpe’s elderly parents today described his crimes as “horrific”.
Valerie Sharpe read from a prepared statement outside the court as husband Myles placed an arm around her.
She cried as they walked from the court.
“John’s crimes were horrific, and he will serve the sentence given,” Mrs Sharpe said.
“He has given himself a life sentence for what he has done, and he will live with this for the rest of his life.”
Mrs Sharpe also described the months following the double murder as a very stressful and traumatic time for both families.
One of Mr Sharpe’s nieces, naming herself only as Amanda, issued a statement today saying it was on behalf of “non-supportive family members of John Sharpe”.
“(We) would like to say that John’s crimes have stolen three beautiful and precious lives,” Amanda said.
“We also send our heartfelt condolences to Anna’s family in New Zealand, whose pain and suffering is tremendous.”
Amanda also thanked police in Victoria and New Zealand for pursuing the case.
Victoria Police homicide squad detective inspector Steve Francis said today it had been a “long and sometimes physically and emotionally difficult investigation”.
Mother’s remains uncovered
By Jamie Berry, Andrea Petrie – TheAge.com.au
July 7, 2004
Human remains believed to be those of Anna Marie Kemp, the pregnant Melbourne mother at the centre of a double murder investigation, have been found at a Mornington rubbish tip.
A police team scouring massive mounds of garbage at the Rockleigh Stone tip made the discovery about two metres below the surface at 11.30am yesterday.
The find came three months after the disappearance of Ms Kemp, 41, and her 20-month-old daughter, Gracie Louise Sharpe. A search for the remains of the child is expected to resume today.
Police in white jumpsuits and face masks were seen gathered around what appeared to be a blue zipped body bag at the tip in Balnarring Road yesterday afternoon.
Homicide squad detectives believe the bodies Ms Kemp and her daughter were wrapped in blue tarpaulins and taken to a rubbish transfer station on the Mornington Peninsula before they were dumped at the tip.
Police confirmed last night that “items of interest” found at the tip were human remains, but declined to say if they were those of Ms Kemp or her daughter.
A police statement said further testing was required to identify the remains.
However, The Age believes the remains were those of Ms Kemp.
The discovery came after a week-long search of the rubbish tip.
Ms Kemp’s husband and Gracie’s father, John Myles Sharpe, has been charged with their murders.
An out-of-sessions court hearing last month was told that Sharpe, of Prince Street, Mornington, had made “full and frank admissions” to the murders after earlier stating in public that he did not kill the pair.
Detective Inspector Steven Francis of the homicide squad said Ms Kemp’s relatives in New Zealand had been notified after the discovery of an “item of interest” at the tip.
A police chaplain, Reverend Jim Pilmer, visited the scene and Inspector Francis said a forensic pathologist also gone to the tip to analyse the findings.
Police began searching through massive mounds of rubbish at the tip, also known as Devilbend Landfill, at Tuerong, 60 kilometres south of Melbourne, on Tuesday of last week.
With the aid of heavy machinery, officers used shovels, rakes and other tools to sift through a narrowed-down area of 2500 square metres.
While bad weather forced the search to be called off several times, police said they remained confident they would find the pair’s remains.
“It’s been quite a difficult search in these conditions. They are most unpleasant,” Inspector Francis said. “The search will continue here at the landfill until investigators are satisfied that there’s no further benefit to the investigation.”
The police officers are also searching for other evidence that may be linked to their murder, including a speargun and a chainsaw.
Ms Kemp was five months pregnant when she was reported missing in March.
Police believe Ms Kemp was murdered on March 23 and Gracie was killed four days later at their Prince Street home.
John Woodhouse, the New Zealand policeman who helped uncover the murder, said last night he felt incredibly sad for Ms Kemp’s family, with whom he had become close.
Though he had not been officially told of the find, Constable Woodhouse said he hoped it was Ms Kemp for the sake of her family.
R v Sharpe  VSC 276 (5 August 2005)
In the Supreme Court of Victoria
At Melbourne Criminal Division
THE QUEEN v JOHN MYLES SHARPE
1 John Myles Sharpe, you have pleaded guilty to two counts of murder. It is now the duty of this Court to sentence you according to law.
2 The purpose of these sentencing remarks is essentially twofold. Their first purpose is so that you will fully understand the reasons for the sentence the Court is about to impose upon you. Their second purpose is so that the community which you have grievously injured and in whose name you will be imprisoned may be informed of the full extent of your offending and of the details of the sentence imposed upon you according to the law of this State. As your plea of guilty has obviated the necessity for a trial, it is important that the details of these crimes be placed on the public record even though, as your counsel has properly conceded, they are perhaps, for many, too awful to contemplate.
3 You were born on 28 February 1967 in Mornington and grew up in that area. When you were 27, you met Anna Marie Kemp, a New Zealander, who was then aged about 31. You both worked at the Commonwealth Bank. You married Anna Kemp in October 1994 and between then and the time of the dreadful events which have brought you before this Court you lived with her at various addresses in the Mornington Peninsula area.
4 In August 2002 a baby girl, Gracie Louise Sharpe, was born. Unfortunately, shortly after her birth, she was found to be suffering from a congenital abnormality in her hips which required orthopaedic treatment by way of a corrective harness for the first three months of her life. Although it was expected that she would experience no long term problems associated with her abnormality, she was, in her first few months at least, somewhat unsettled. She cried often and had difficulty sleeping, which situation appeared to place some strain on your relationship with your wife. Even after Gracie’s orthopaedic harness was no longer required she still had difficulties in feeding and sleeping for which Anna sought professional assistance. In November 2002, she attended Hillview Maternity Unit of Peninsula Health complaining of being unable to cope and of feeling anxious. Subsequently she had three in-patient admissions for respite with Gracie to try to establish regular sleeping and eating patterns and to allay her own anxiety.
5 In September 2003, you and Anna purchased a house at 116 Prince Street, Mornington, and in about November of that year, she became pregnant again. You later told police investigators that this pregnancy came as a surprise to you.
6 Some time before you moved to Prince Street with Anna and Gracie you purchased a high powered spear gun from a sports shop known as Sport Phillip Marine in Mornington. Although the actual date of this purchase is unknown, it is clear that it was in your possession prior to 6 February 2004, that is to say some 61/2 weeks before it was used to murder your wife and daughter. Although the spear gun was usually sold with one spear, you bought a second spear at the same time as you purchased the gun. You paid cash for this transaction, leaving no trace of its having occurred.
7 After you bought the spear gun, you kept it at your then home at Spinnaker Rise, Mornington, where, on at least one occasion, you test fired it in the backyard in order to become familiar with its operation. You had never been interested in spear fishing and had no apparent use for this powerful weapon. You later told investigators that you were having thoughts of killing your wife at the time you purchased it, and that that was why you had done so. Shortly after purchasing the spear gun you moved to your new home in Prince Street.
8 On the evening of 19 March 2004, a female friend of your wife stayed the night in your new home. She noticed nothing untoward in your relationship with your wife and subsequently described her as having appeared happy.
9 On Sunday, 21 March 2004, you, Anna and Gracie went on the Mornington to Moorooduc steam train with other members of your family for a picnic to celebrate a nephew’s birthday. Again, nothing untoward in your behaviour or that of your wife was noticed by any of the many people present.
10 On Monday, 22 March 2004, Anna took Gracie to her childcare centre in Mornington and returned for her at noon. On the same morning she telephoned her mother in New Zealand. Anna gave no indication at the childcare centre nor to her mother that anything was wrong. Again, during the same afternoon, she arranged to meet a friend on the following Friday, 26 March. She noted this appointment on a calendar she kept for such purposes at your home.
11 At 8.24pm on the evening of 22 March 2004, another friend of your wife telephoned her at home and had a long, and apparently normal, conversation with her. The following day, at about 2.00pm, Anna phoned her private health insurance fund and enquired as to adding her unborn baby to her health cover. That mundane matter of personal business was the last known interaction between your wife and another adult human being, apart from you, before her death.
12 The only account of the events immediately surrounding your wife’s death and that of Gracie comes from what you eventually told police investigators. That the most important parts of your account are true may be confidently accepted even if there may be some doubt about matters of detail. It is with some concern that I recount these events but, for the reasons already advanced, it is important that they be placed on the public record.
13 You told police that it is probable that on the evening of Tuesday, 23 March you and Anna argued, although you could not recall any specific subject of such argument. You both went to bed at about the same time, between about 9 and 10 o’clock. Anna went to sleep but you did not. You lay awake next to her, brooding on what you regarded as your unhappy marriage. You had thoughts of killing her. After entertaining these thoughts for some indeterminate time you went to the garage, retrieved the spear gun which you had earlier bought and loaded it with one of the spears you bought with it. You returned to your bedroom and shot your wife in the left temple with the spear gun from a distance of but a few centimetres. She did not stop breathing so you fired a second spear into her head, in the same area as the first. This action killed her. You immediately covered your wife’s body with towels so that you would not have to look at her, closed the bedroom door and went downstairs to sleep on a foldout sofa bed. During this whole dreadful episode Gracie was asleep in another room.
14 The next day, you attempted to remove the spears from your wife’s head. Being unable to do so, you unscrewed their shafts leaving the spear heads embedded where they were. You later buried your wife’s body in a shallow grave in the backyard and commenced to act out an increasingly elaborate charade to cover your participation in this crime. This deception lasted for three months until you finally confessed to police on 22 June.
15 The story you invented to explain Anna’s disappearance involved a pretence that she had left you for another man. To add verisimilitude to it you engaged in activities, many of which were extremely callous, to mislead others, particularly your wife’s family, as to the truth.
16 The day after your wife’s death, you took Gracie to and collected her from her childcare centre. You lied to a TV serviceman who came to your house to prevent him finding your wife’s body which, at that stage, was still in the bedroom.
17 On the following day, 25 March 2004, you told two of your wife’s friends that she had left you but could be contacted on her mobile phone. You did not take Gracie to childcare that day, but on the following day, the Friday, you did and told the staff there that as you and your wife had separated, she would not be attending again. You telephoned your mother-in-law in New Zealand in response to messages she had left for your wife on your answering machine. You told her that Anna had left you for another man on the previous Tuesday and that you did not know where she was. You said that you expected her to return to collect Gracie on the following Sunday.
18 In fact, as you later told police, from the moment you killed your wife you began to have thoughts that you would have to kill Gracie to maintain your façade of innocence with respect to Anna’s murder. Indeed, at some time between your wife’s death and the time you actually killed your daughter, you took her with you to Sport Phillip Marine whilst you purchased another spear for the spear gun. There could have been only one reason for that purchase, which was carried out in circumstances of unspeakable callousness.
19 On the evening of 27 March 2004, according to your own account, you put Gracie to sleep in her cot and then drank a number of glasses of whisky and Coke to numb your senses to enable you to carry out your intention of killing your own baby daughter. At about 9.00 or 10.00pm, you retrieved the spear gun from the garage and loaded it with the newly acquired spear. You went to Gracie’s bedroom where she slept in her cot and fired the spear gun at her head. You may have closed your eyes before you did so. The spear struck her head on the left side and penetrated her skull. But Gracie did not die. She screamed loudly with the spear still embedded in her skull. You told police that you then went downstairs and retrieved the two spear shafts which you had removed from your wife’s head earlier that week. You returned to Gracie’s bedroom and, using the spear gun, fired these two steel rods into her head; but even these further assaults did not achieve your purpose, so you pulled the first spear from your daughter’s head and fired it again. Only then did this defenceless child die.
20 You returned to Gracie’s bedroom the next morning and pulled the spears from her head whilst holding a towel in front of your face, as you could not bear to look upon the child you had so cruelly killed. You wrapped her body in garbage bags and a tarpaulin and bound her with black duct tape. You then disposed of her body at the Mornington refuse transfer station, discarding at the same time the spear gun, the spears and some of her clothes and toys.
21 Over the following week you systematically disposed of various items of property associated with Gracie by taking them to the transfer station. Thus you continued the deception you had already begun and which you maintained over succeeding weeks to create and maintain the impression that your wife had left and had subsequently taken Gracie with her.
22 On the day you disposed of Gracie’s body you phoned your mother-in-law and told her that Gracie was now with Anna in a “bigger and better place.” You also made a call using Anna’s mobile phone and made the first of several withdrawals from her bank account at an ATM in Chelsea using her card. Between then and 15 May 2004 you made a number of calls using Anna’s mobile phone to maintain the impression that she was still alive.
23 On 29 March 2004, you created a false email using Anna’s name and email address and sent it to her brother in New Zealand. This email set out the scenario you invented to explain her failure to contact her family. It sought to create the impression that she had ended her marriage to you to be with another man to whom she was pregnant, and that she was well and happy, as was Gracie. Far from allaying the Kemp family’s fears, this email heightened them. Anna’s mother reported her daughter as a missing person to police in Dunedin. Subsequently you assured a New Zealand police officer in a phone call that Anna had left with Gracie and was living in the Chelsea area. You gave the police officer Anna’s mobile phone number.
24 On Monday, 29 March 2004, you went to Bunnings hardware store in Frankston and bought a roll of duct tape, two poly tarps and an 1800w Homelite electric chain saw. A day or so later you exhumed your wife’s body from its burial place in your backyard and, using the chain saw, cut the body into three pieces, wrapped those pieces and disposed of them, the chain saw and everything else you had used, by depositing them at the Mornington transfer station. From there they were taken, in the course of the transfer station’s operations, to a landfill site elsewhere on the Mornington Peninsula.
25 Over the succeeding days and weeks you disposed of the blood stained mattress from your bedroom, wrote letters to Anna’s friends and sent false emails to family members. You arranged for flowers to be sent to your mother-in-law as if from your wife, with greetings for her birthday and Mother’s Day.
26 Meanwhile, Anna’s family became very concerned for her welfare and on 20 May 2004, New Zealand police requested Victoria Police to conduct enquiries into the apparent disappearance of Anna Kemp and her daughter, Gracie. The same day police from Mornington attended at your home and spoke to you. You told them that your wife had left on 23 March and that she had returned and collected Gracie the following weekend. You said you believed they were living in the Chelsea area but did not know the actual address. She had returned to Mornington a number of times, you said, to collect clothing and personal belongings. You made a written statement to police denying any involvement in Anna’s disappearance or that of Gracie.
27 In your statement you said that you and your wife had experienced marital disharmony for some time before she left and that eventually she told you that she wanted to separate and that there was another man to whom she was pregnant. You said this conversation occurred on the Tuesday after you, Anna and Gracie had been on the steam train family outing. This day was, of course, as you later confessed, the day you killed your wife.
28 You said that on the same night Anna left your home she took various personal items with her and that she left in a car with someone else. You said she did not take Gracie but said she would come back for her. Your statement went on to detail how she returned the following weekend and took Gracie away with her and that you had only seen them on about three occasions since.
29 Covert surveillance of your activities by police over subsequent days led to their observing you retrieving a credit card from a plastic bag hidden in bushes near a toilet block in Mornington. You were also observed discarding possibly incriminating material in a garbage bin at Mount Martha, a bayside beach not far away.
30 In late May you allowed yourself to be interviewed on television more than once. These interviews were widely broadcast and reported in newspapers. You spoke about the disappearance of your wife and daughter, expressed concern for Gracie and said that you had spoken to Anna about a week earlier. You denied to journalists that you had harmed either of them. Thus you extended the fraud you had already perpetrated on Anna’s family and friends to the wider Victorian community.
31 On 10 June, you were again interviewed by police at Mornington by way of a long recorded interview. You maintained your story that Anna had left voluntarily on 23 March.
32 On 22 June, you were arrested by police and again interviewed, this time at the Homicide Squad at St Kilda Road. Two interviews were conducted. In the first, you continued to deny your involvement in your wife and daughter’s disappearance. However, after speaking to your family after this interview, you were interviewed again and admitted to both murders.
33 In the second of your interviews on 22 June, you said that your marriage was unhappy, and that your wife was controlling and moody. You claimed she came between you and your family and siblings and prevented you from seeing them as often as you would have liked. Whether such claims have any truth or not now matters not at all. Anna cannot deny them. They provide neither justification nor excuse for anything that you have done.
34 Over a period of three weeks late in June and July 2004, an extensive search of a landfill site on the Mornington Peninsula where refuse from the Mornington transfer station was dumped was undertaken by a large number of police and other searchers. The remains of both Anna and Gracie were found and subsequent pathology examination at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine largely corroborated your confession as to how they died and how you disposed of their bodies.
35 Your family background, which can be gleaned both from various witness statements and from what you told Mr Ian Joblin, a forensic clinical psychologist who examined you for the purpose of giving evidence before this Court, was unremarkable. Your parents are alive as are your four older sisters and a younger brother. None have any criminal or anti-social histories. Your parents, now retired, were shopkeepers in Mornington.
36 You acknowledged to Mr Joblin that your childhood and early adult years were marked by social problems. You were not particularly happy at school and had few friends. You completed Year 12, although you did not pass the examinations.
37 Upon leaving school, you were employed by the State Bank and subsequently by the Commonwealth Bank. You remained in that employment until 2002, when you resigned to go into a conveyancing business with a somewhat older friend with a view to taking over the business upon his retirement. Coincidentally, your leaving the bank coincided with the day of Gracie’s birth, 13 August 2002.
38 You had not apparently suffered any serious health problems at the time of the events giving rise to this case, although you consulted a general practitioner, Dr Andrew Kotsimbos, in the weeks immediately before 23 March 2004 complaining of disturbed sleep patterns. You were prescribed sleeping tablets of two different types with little effect and the doctor discussed with you the possibility of your having an underlying depressive illness. Eventually, Dr Kotsimbos did diagnose depression but that was only after a consultation on 1 June 2004, when your history to him included the false story of Anna’s having left you. He found that you were then agitated and were suffering from poor memory and concentration. These findings are not surprising having regard to the stress you must have been under as a consequence of having persisted, for over two months, in a public falsehood concerning the fate of your wife and daughter.
39 Dr Lester Walton, a forensic psychiatrist, examined you on two occasions whilst you were on remand. He described you in much the same way as your counsel did, as being socially inept, dependant, passive and a retiring individual who was unable or reluctant to confront problems. His view was that you perceived irresolvable difficulties in your family situation and that you reached the conclusion that the only solution to these difficulties was to kill Anna, and subsequently, Gracie. He thought that although many of your actions since committing these crimes suggested the opposite, you have made some expressions of remorse within the limits imposed by your underlying personality.
40 Dr Walton offered the opinion that these killings were “irrational” although he could find no evidence that you were suffering from any frank psychiatric illness. I presume that by “irrational” he meant that you considered the killing of your wife and, later, your child were the only options you could see to relieve a state of desperation you considered yourself to be in. As evidence of this irrationality, Dr Walton recounts your speaking of feeling “threatened” by your daughter – a situation which is, of course, objectively absurd.
41 Although you described to police a feeling of being “another person” when you were committing these murders, Dr Walton considered that this was not a description of hallucinations indicative of psychosis, but a degree of what he termed “dissociation of personality.” He thought that you were “afflicted by a clinically significant depressive disorder prior to the killings, although seemingly not of very major proportions”.
42 When Dr Walton saw you on the second occasion, in April this year, he noted that you were then being held in a special unit at Barwon Prison and periodically required close observation and special treatment because of suicidal tendencies consequent upon the depression you were suffering.
43 As far as your risk of re-offending is concerned, Dr Walton considered that the fact that you have no prior convictions, let alone any for violence, was probably the most reliable of a number of unreliable predictors for future violence. He considered that violent behaviour in people of your personality generally arises out of a set of particular circumstances which are unlikely to be repeated. Accordingly, he thought it unlikely you would re-offend. In this respect you are not unlike the vast majority of murderers who never repeat their crimes.
44 Mr Ian Joblin, to whom reference has already been made, has also examined you on two occasions. Based on the history you gave him, information he obtained from members of your family and a perusal of the documentation in this case, he formed the opinion that leading up to the birth of Gracie you were in a somewhat fragile psychological state. He considered you to be an inadequate, isolated and withdrawn individual. You had few appropriate social skills and few friends. He thought you were very dependant on your parents and lacked the psychological resources to cope with the stressors in your life, your marriage, the arrival of a child and your change of career from employed bank officer to being self-employed in your conveyancing business.
45 Mr Joblin considered that by late 2003 or early 2004 the matters referred to, the difficulties Gracie experienced in her early months and Anna’s announcement that she was pregnant again caused you to attribute your difficulties to her. You told Mr Joblin that Anna was “killing you” and he interpreted this as having two possible meanings; that you thought she was killing you psychologically or that your depression was causing you to be sometimes suicidal. It was in this psychological turmoil that you bought the spear gun and began contemplating, if not deciding upon, killing your wife.
46 Mr Joblin agreed with Dr Walton that you were not psychotic at the time you committed these offences, nor should you be diagnosed as having an anti-social personality disorder. However, he considered that the offences did not occur in a psychological vacuum but that at the time of their occurrence you were in a state of considerable psychological abnormality. In his oral evidence, Mr Joblin agreed with the proposition that his conclusion as to your having a significant abnormality is no more than appropriate acceptance that anyone who could do what you did must have been abnormal.
47 Mr Joblin’s view as to your behaviour in attempting to divert suspicion from yourself in respect of your wife’s death was that that behaviour became virtually an intellectual exercise for you. He said you found discussion of the issue of remorse too difficult to engage in although by the time of his second consultation with you he thought that you were very aware of what you had done.
48 The purpose of psychological and psychiatric assessment of people in your position is not to seek to excuse criminal behaviour although, in some cases, where psychosis or similar conditions are diagnosed, it may lead to that result. It is rather to provide a sentencing court with as much relevant information as possible to carry out its task of imposing an appropriate sentence. If such assessment enables a court to reach a firm conclusion as to why a particular offence has been committed it is in a better position to impose a just sentence. In your case, the assessments of Dr Walton and Mr Joblin lead to a conclusion that you were not suffering from any psychiatric illness or any identifiable psychological abnormality at the time you committed these offences but that you were the subject of psychological stressors to which you reacted in an abnormal manner. As Mr Joblin said, to have chosen the behaviour you did itself indicates abnormality. Such a conclusion neither justifies nor excuses your conduct. It throws but little light on the question of why an otherwise law abiding member of society would do what you did when legal mechanisms, however imperfect, exist to settle matrimonial disharmony without recourse to violence. That what you did was egregiously wicked cannot be gainsaid even if it is more difficult to reach the same conclusion as to your subjective moral culpability beyond reasonable doubt. However that may be, your preparations for these crimes and your attempts to hide their perpetration, as well as the method you chose for carrying them out, strongly support a conclusion, for sentencing purposes, that you were at all times fully aware of what you were doing and that what you were doing was objectively wrong.
49 The Court has before it a number of victim impact statements including statements filed by Anna Kemp’s mother and her two brothers. These statements attest to Anna’s family’s love for her and her daughter and their shattered expectation of the birth of her second child. The effect of Anna and Gracie’s deaths, the manner of their occurrence and the lengths to which you went to disguise your involvement in them, including the slurs you cast on your wife’s character in the course of doing so, have all had a devastating effect on her family and some members, at least, of yours. These victim impact statements, insofar as they contain relevant and admissible information, have been taken into account in fixing your sentence.
50 The fixing of an appropriate sentence requires the Court to have regard to a number of statutory and common law principles. First, it must take into account the maximum sentence prescribed by law; in this case life imprisonment. Having done so, it must consider the need to punish you to an extent and in a manner which is just in all the circumstances. The sentence fixed must have regard to the principles of general and specific deterrence, your possible rehabilitation, denunciation by the Court of the type of conduct in which you engaged and protection of the community. The Court must have regard to any matters which aggravate the commission of the offence in respect of which sentence is to be passed and of any facts which might mitigate the requirement for condign punishment in any given case. A separate sentence must be fixed in respect of each offence being considered.
51 With respect to the murder of your wife, Anna Kemp, there are significant matters of aggravation. First, there is the question of premeditation. Whether you formed an intention to kill her when you bought the spear gun or when you tested it in your backyard some time before 23 March as the Crown submitted, you had certainly formed that intention when you went to your garage on the evening of that day, retrieved it, loaded it and returned to your bedroom. Your killing your wife was no impulsive act of desperation.
52 Secondly, there was the method of carrying out this crime. It was singular in its barbarity. Thirdly, there was the fact that your wife was pregnant. Your act effectively destroyed two lives, not one. Fourthly, there was the desecration of your wife’s body in the manner of its disposal as already described. Fifthly, there was the extensive charade in which you engaged to try to conceal your involvement in this crime. Sixthly, there is the effect that Anna’s death and the method of its occurrence has had on those closest to her. Finally, there was the enormous cost to the State of the investigation of the circumstances of Anna’s disappearance and the ultimate search for her remains.
53 Against these aggravating factors you are entitled to have taken into account your previous good character, including your lack of prior convictions and your ultimate confession to this crime, including your plea of guilty which obviated the necessity for a perhaps lengthy trial which would have significantly increased the anguish of Anna’s family and those others affected by her death. You are entitled to have consideration given to the matters deposed to by Dr Walton and Mr Joblin as to your psychological state immediately prior to the commission of the offence and any effect that that might have had on your subjective moral culpability.
54 Your counsel urged the Court that remorse should be found in your ultimate confession to the investigators followed by your plea of guilty. She pointed to the comments of Dr Walton and Mr Joblin on this topic, qualified as they were.
55 Remorse is an elusive concept. A confession and a plea of guilty will not always denote its existence. They may be as consistent with the existence of a strong Crown case as with repentance. In your case, although your actions during and after the commission of these crimes would tend to suggest a lack of any concern for what you had done, at least until 22 June last year, Mr Joblin’s assessment that you were well aware of the gravity of your actions indicate the commencement of a contrition process. No doubt in the coming years the gravity of your actions will weigh more heavily on you. You may reach a state of genuine remorse; it is to be hoped that you do. A positive finding that you have done so yet, however, cannot be made.
56 Finally, your time in prison, especially in the early years of your sentence, is likely to be marked by hostility and even violence from fellow prisoners which, in turn, is likely to lead to your having to be isolated, thereby making the ordeal of incarceration particularly onerous.
57 With respect to the murder of Gracie, all of the aggravating and mitigating factors referred to are equally applicable except, of course, the fact of your wife’s pregnancy. However, there are further significant aggravating factors in Gracie’s case which are not present in the case of your wife. Gracie was a defenceless child for whom you had a legal and, more importantly, a moral responsibility and whatever your motive for killing Anna might have been, in Gracie’s case it was simply so that your first crime would not be discovered. Having regard to these additional factors, it would have been logically possible to impose different sentences for each of these offences. However, distinctions at this level of heinousness invite unseemly comparisons which are, in the circumstances, unnecessary.
58 The most significant principles in the sentencing process in this case are punishment and the condemnation of the community of these offences. Fortunately, crimes of this nature are rare so that general deterrence has little role to play in sentencing and specific deterrence and the protection of the community would be relevant, on the evidence, only if your former domestic circumstances were to be replicated. Having regard to the sentence which is to be imposed this is so unlikely as to render those principles of little significance in this case.
59 Having regard to all the considerations in the sentencing process the aims of sentencing in this case can only be appropriately met by the imposition of sentences of life imprisonment on each of the two counts of murder to which you have pleaded guilty.
60 The law of this State requires a court sentencing an offender to fix a non-parole period as part of the sentencing process unless it considers that the nature of the offence or the past history of the offender makes the fixing of such a period inappropriate. The Crown Prosecutor submitted that no non-parole period should be fixed in this case. He based this submission on what he said were the overwhelming aggravating factors to which reference has already been made. His argument was that, in effect, where the aggravating factors are as significant as they undoubtedly are in this case any mitigating circumstances, normally required by law to be taken into account, are completely obliterated and have no effect on the sentencing process. He referred to cases in which Courts of Appeal have adverted to the possibility that even sentences of life imprisonment without parole might be appropriate in some cases. He submitted that this was one such case.
61 Whilst the prosecutor acknowledged the usual mitigating effect of a plea of guilty he said that it should not have that effect in this case. Even had the case required a trial the secondary victims of these crimes, that is to say your wife’s family, would not have needed to be involved in any such trial so that they have been spared nothing by your guilty plea. Nor he said should the saving to the State be considered having regard to the enormous cost of the investigation bought about by your perfidy. Further, in the circumstances your prior unblemished record should not carry sufficient weight to support the fixing of a non-parole period. He argued that you should never be released from prison.
62 To give effect to the prosecutor’s submission the Court would have to reach a firm conclusion that it was inappropriate in your case to fix a non-parole period in this case. Such is the effect of statute law.
63 The prospect of imprisonment without the possibility of release removes one of the most significant incentives to rehabilitation. It removes any basis for hope of ultimate release. In your case, having regard to your age, such a sentence could well involve your serving 40 to 50 years in prison without any prospect of regaining your liberty no matter how much you change, whether as a result of the ageing process caused by the effluxion of time, or the inevitable effects of being institutionalised over a long period. In the circumstances, when these matters are taken into account together with your prior good character and the fact that you pleaded guilty, albeit after a long period of deception, the Court is not satisfied that despite your horrendous crimes all hope of ultimate release should be denied to you.
64 It must be remembered that the fixing of a non-parole period does not mean that you will be released upon its expiration. It does mean however that you will serve every day of it without the possibility of any remission. Upon its expiration you will be entitled to have your case considered by the Parole Board or such other executive body as is by then concerned with such matters. It will determine whether you should then be released, no doubt informed by reports of your conduct whilst in prison. It is more appropriate that the question of whether you should ever be released is determined then in that manner rather than by this Court today. The imposition of life sentences for each of these murders will be ameliorated in your case by the fixing of a non-parole period.
65 It is the sentence of the Court that on the count of having murdered Anna Marie Kemp you be imprisoned for the term of your natural life and on the count of having murdered Gracie Louise Sharpe you be imprisoned for the term of your natural life. It is further ordered that you serve a minimum of 33 years in prison before being eligible for parole. It is declared that a period of 409 days has been served by you as pre-sentence detention in respect of this sentence and it is directed that this declaration and its effect be entered in the records of the Court.