The Frankston Murders
In June 1993, Elizabeth Stevens, 18, was murdered on her way home from the bus stop. Her death began a seven-week reign of terror for the people of Frankston. A serial killer was on the loose. No one was safe, not young mother, Debbie Fream, 22, taken on a trip to the shops, nor Natalie Russell, 17, murdered on her way home from school.
The serial killer, Paul Denyer, was captured and sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, he was granted a 30-year minimum sentence. Fast forward 30 years, and Denyer has applied for parole.
Award-winning crime writer Vikki Petraitis was on patrol with police the night the final murder took place. She wrote the bestselling book, The Frankston Murders, which has never been out of print. Vikki has revisited the case in a long-form podcast to remind the world why Denyer must never be released.
The Frankston Murders podcast uncovers new material and new victims stalked by Denyer in the lead-up to the killings. Vikki interviews prison guards, police officers, family members, and people caught in the periphery of a serial killer.
Created by Vikki Petraitis
Research and writing by Vikki Petraitis
Audio production and scoring by Mike Migas
Audio production by Anthony Telfer
Archive production by Catherine Seccombe/Arcdive
Archival audio supplied by The Footage Company / Nine Network Australia
In the lead up
The signs were there but no one recognised them as a serial killer in the making. Stalking, ‘accidentally’ ramming women and children with shopping trolleys, pets at the local kindergarten killed and left for the children to find.
Stalking turns to murder
When Elizabeth Stevens left Tasmania, seeking a career in the army, she stayed with relatives, finally settling in Langwarrin to finish her studies. On a cold Friday night in June, her worried aunt and uncle wait for her, but she doesn’t come home.
After work Thursday 8 July, Roszsa Toth caught the train home to Seaford. Walking in the dark past the Seaford Reserve, Roszsa saw a man watching her. He suddenly lunged and grabbed her. She fought her way from him and was picked up by a passing car.
A young mother vanishes
Debbie Fream’s new baby was just 12 days old when she invited a friend over for dinner to show him the baby. In the middle of cooking, she ran out of milk and left the friend with the baby while she went to the local store. She never returned.
A frantic hunt for Debbie is shadowed by images of her partner Garry and their tiny baby. He begs for Debbie to come home on the nightly news. Four days later, a farmer discovers her body. The public panics and fears of a serial killer grow.
Natalie, the final victim
Natalie Russell was on her way home from school at 2.30 in the afternoon when she was targeted by the serial killer. He had grown cocky and left evidence at the scene that would link him to the murders.
The net closes in
While Natalie’s loved ones spend the night wondering if the body found could be her, police frantically hunt the killer, fearing he’ll strike again. When two cops report checking a car near the murder scene, his name comes up on the computer.
Denyer’s confession is like nothing the police have seen before. He is cocky and boastful and details his crimes with a note of pride in his voice. However, he is cagey about some aspects. He talks to the detectives like they are all friends.
The sentence that didn’t last
As Natalie’s family holds her funeral, the police prepare the case against Denyer. He pleads guilty and the judge gives him a life sentence. He appeals and is granted a 30-year non-parole period. Widespread community outrage follows.
We need to talk about Denyer
So who is Paul Denyer? He was a boy with some strange and concerning habits which people noticed. As a 21-year-old in prison, he had to navigate a whole new world. We meet the people who met him in prison.
The ever after
When Denyer’s reign of terror was over, he left devastation in his wake. Family and friends struggle to make sense of the crimes. Debbie Fream’s son, now nearly 30 speaks of his loss. With the parole bid looming, we all need to be warned.
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