On 29 February 2000, in what must truly be Australia's most gruesome case of domestic violence, mother of four, Katherine Mary Knight cold-bloodedly prepared for the violent murder of her de facto husband, John Thomas Price, by sending the children away overnight. Then carefully selecting a sharpening steel and a long boning knife from her selection of butcher's knives, Knight began honing the knife until it was razor sharp, in preparation for the grisly task ahead.
During the day, John Price, reacting to death threats, had warned police and sought an Apprehended Violence Restraining Order against his wife, a person with a long history of domestic violence against previous partners. Her first marriage ended when first husband, David Kellet, fled in fear of his life. Knight would regularly fly into violent rages over nothing in particular, assaulting her husband with her fists, kitchen appliances and anything else she could lay her hands on.
The face of a sadistic killer:
Mary Katherine Knight
Late that night, after having sex with Knight, John Price dozed off, only to awake in terror to find Knight repeatedly stabbing him.
Severely wounded, Price leaped out of bed and fled towards the front door with Knight chasing and repeatedly stabbing him in the back. With blood spurting from an arterial wound, John Price just made to to the front door before collapsing in a pool of blood and and dying.
Using skills acquired as an abattoir worker, Katherine Price carefully skinned her husband before hanging his hide on a meat hook in their lounge room.
She then cut off his head and boiled it in a pot and baked pieces of his buttocks to serve with gravy to his adult children.
Luckily the police intercepted the "meal" before the children returned home.
Justice Barry O'Keefe sentenced Katherine Mary Knight to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The judge said that her papers were to be marked "never to be released."
Knight later appealed her sentence. The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal on 11th September 2006 rejected Knight’s appeal against the sentence, which she claimed was manifestly excessive. "This was such an appalling crime almost beyond contemplation in a civilized society,” Justice Peter McClellan said in his written judgment." The psychiatric evidence indicates that her personality is unlikely to change in the future and, if released, she would be likely to inflict serious injury or perhaps death on others", Justice McClellan said.
Below is a transcript, edited for brevity, of the summing up and sentencing by Justice O'Keefe in the Supreme Court of New South Wales held at Newcastle on 8 November 2001.
Katherine Mary Knight (the prisoner) was arraigned on 2 February, 2001 on a charge of having murdered John Charles Thomas Price (Mr Price) at Aberdeen in the State of New South Wales on or about 29 February 2000. She pleaded not guilty. The trial was initially fixed for 23 July, 2001 but was adjourned due to the illness of her counsel. She maintained her plea of not guilty and the trial was re-fixed for 15 October, 2001.
On 18 October 2001 the prisoner was formally charged with the murder referred to above and entered a plea of guilty to such charge.
Mr Price was killed late on the night of 29 February 2000 or during the very early hours of the morning of 1 March 2000. His death was as a result of multiple injuries to various organs of his body, secondary to multiple stab wounds.
The post mortem examination revealed that Mr Price had been stabbed at least 37 times in various parts of both the front and back of his body. There may have been more wounds inflicted, but the extent of those found and the subsequent acts of the prisoner in relation to Mr Price’s body rendered it impossible to know how many more there may have been and in particular the number of wounds which may have been inflicted in the area of his neck.Many of the wounds were deep, and extended into vital organs. These included the aorta, both lungs, the liver, the stomach, the descending colon, the pancreas, and the left kidney, the lower pole of which had virtually been sliced off.
The wounds inflicted on Mr Price and the injuries which they caused resulted in the loss of a great deal of blood. This was found splattered and smeared throughout various parts of the house and in a pool, which was quite deep, and measured 1 metre x 2 metres. This pool was in the hallway of Mr Price’s home. At the time the police arrived on the morning of 1 March 2000 the blood in it was not fully congealed and had dried only at the edges.The blows which inflicted the injuries to Mr Price were in a pattern that spread from the upper part of his body to his buttocks and below and had been struck with some considerable force by a knife which had a long blade. A butcher’s knife which answered such a description was found adjacent to the Mr Price’s body. In addition, a butcher’s steel for sharpening knives was found on a lounge chair next to his body. A sharpening stone was also found. It was open on a bench in the kitchen, quite close to the sink and stove. It had clearly been used.An examination of the blood stains, their differing characteristics and pattern of occurrence in various parts of the house, establish that Mr Price was first attacked by the prisoner in the principal bedroom of the premises at a time when he was in a recumbent posture. The wounds then inflicted were to the front of his body and it is clear that thereafter he got off the bed after, or as, some further injuries were being inflicted on him in the course of his attempts to escape from his assailant, the prisoner. He escaped from the bedroom and moved down the hall in order to get outside the premises but was pursued by the prisoner, who stabbed him in the back a number of times.
Whilst in the hallway he tried to switch on the light. At that time he was heavily blood stained both front and back and appears to have then had further stab wounds inflicted to the front part of his body. In the course of his endeavour to escape Mr Price reached the front door and opened it and, as is apparent from the blood stains on the outside knob of the front door, he succeeded in getting outside the house. However, he did not remain outside and was either dragged or, as is much less likely, came back into the house and fell in the hallway quite close to the open doorway that leads into the lounge room in which his body was later found by police.
That he lay in the hallway for some time is manifest by the considerable volume of blood found in the pool in the hallway.
After he had been dead for some time his body was dragged by the prisoner from the hallway into the lounge room. That he had been dead for some time before this occurred is demonstrated most graphically by the photographs which show the smearing of blood caused by the moving of his body, especially by the thighs, buttocks and thoracic area of his back which were in contact with the floor. Those photographs and the evidence relating to them and the events surrounding the death establish without doubt that at the time Mr Price’s body was moved the blood in the pool was not fully fluid and thus did not flow in to fill the gaps caused by the movement of the body.I am satisfied that at the time the prisoner dragged Mr Price’s body from the hallway into the lounge room it was, subject to the wounds which had been inflicted and to which I have already referred, still entire.Thereafter the prisoner, who had for many years worked as a meat slicer in abattoirs, skinned Mr Price’s body. This was carried out with considerable expertise and an obviously steady hand so that his skin, including that of the head, face, nose, ears, neck, torso, genital organs and legs, was removed so as to form one pelt. So expertly was it done that, after the post mortem examination, the skin was able to be re-sown onto Mr Price’s body in a way which indicated a clear and appropriate, albeit grizzly, methodology. One small segment was left in place – the skin on the left upper chest.At some time after Mr Price had been skinned the prisoner hung his pelt on a meat hook on the architrave of the door of the lounge room, where it remained until it was later removed by investigating police.
As is apparent from the fact that his head and neck were removed as part of one entire skin, Mr Price’s head was in place at the time he was skinned. However at some time between the time when the body was moved into the lounge room and skinned and about a time before 7.30 a.m. on 1 March 2000 the prisoner decapitated Mr Price’s body and at some stage arranged it with the left arm draped over an empty soft drink bottle, and the legs crossed. This was said in evidence to be an act of defilement demonstrating contempt for Mr Price’s remains.The evidence of the Medical Examiner establishes that the decapitation was effected at the C3/C4 junction and was done with a very sharp knife. The removal was clean and left an incised type wound. To remove Mr Price’s head in such a way required skill, which was consistent with the skills acquired by the prisoner in the course of her work as a meat slicer. It also required a steady hand at the relevant time.Not only was Mr Price’s head removed but parts of his buttocks were also sliced off. The excised parts of Mr Price were then taken by the prisoner to the kitchen and at some stage, after she had peeled and prepared various vegetables, she cooked Mr Price’s head in a large pot together with a number of the vegetables she had prepared so as to produce a sickening stew. The contents of the pot were still warm, estimated to be at between 40 and 50 degrees centigrade, when examined by police during the mid-morning of 1 March 2000. This supports the conclusion that the cooking of Mr Price’s head took place at a time into the early morning of 1 March 2000. The pieces which had been cut from Mr Price’s buttocks were baked in the oven of the premises by the prisoner together with other of the vegetables she had peeled. The gruesome steaks were then arranged on plates together with the vegetables which she had baked and left as meals for the son and daughter of the deceased, accompanied by vindictive notes to each in the handwriting of the prisoner. A third piece was thrown on the back lawn, whether for consumption by dogs or for some other purpose is not revealed in the evidence.In her record of interview taken late in the morning of 4 March 2000, the prisoner claimed that she had no recollection whatsoever of the events involving Mr Price’s death.The prisoner also claimed not to remember anything of the aftermath of the killing. However, somewhat later she gave a detailed description of events involving sexual intercourse between her and Mr Price on the night of and shortly before she killed him.
The circumstances of and surrounding the killing of Mr Price can thus be seen to be horrendous. Indeed they go far beyond the experience of any of the professional people, including experienced psychiatrists, that were involved in the case. A number of police officers who were highly experienced in examining crime scenes found the need to take stress leave because of the situation with which they were confronted when examining the crime scene at Mr Price’s house. Objectively the circumstances mark the killing and its accompanying incidents as being of the most gruesome kind, the murder as being in the most serious category of that crime. "Katherine Mary Knight you have pleaded guilty to and been convicted of the murder of John Charles Thomas Price at Aberdeen in the State of New South Wales on or about 29 February 2000. In respect of that crime I sentence you to imprisonment for life.