I got you with that title, didn’t I? It’s like, “Honey! I’m
home in the stew!”
Now that I have you’re attention, Ohhh shiiiittttt, do I have a story for you. We are going to learn about Katherine Knight, the first women in Australia’s history to be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Be prepared, because this bitch is a special kind of terrible.
I first heard about this case while I was watching make-up tutorial videos. Seems weird? I’ll explain. I haven’t really worn makeup since March when I started working from home, because what’s the fucking point? “Do it for yourself!” Aw, sweet…but no. Do you have any idea how much money I’ve spent on makeup? I’m not wasting that beautiful shit on the same pair of PJs I’ve been wearing for two days while I sit in front of the TV eating pretzel thins by the handful.
Part of me is definitely deprived of the joys of makeup though, so I’ve been filling that Color Pop palette sized hole in my heart by watching Bailey Sarian. Now, I admit I figured I was too old to really card about YouTube personalities, but apparently I just needed to find the right one. Now that I’ve discovered Bailey and her Mystery Makeup Monday series my life will never be the same. It’s makeup and a true crime story. I want to be her when I grow up. I love her.
What do I not love? Killing your husband and trying to eat him.
This case is fucked up – from the beginning of Katherine Knight’s life until she’s incarcerated. Hell, even beyond that. This woman says she is regularly visited in prison by the ghost of her dead uncle. Okay.
So here’s my content warning: if you’re triggered by things like domestic violence, child abuse or FUCKING SKINNING A HUMAN BODY, peace the fuck out.
The rest of you, gather ’round because it’s story time…
Now, I’m not the type to blame a shitty upbringing as the reason why a person becomes a less than desirable member of society – we are all capable of making choices, right or wrong. But, having a hard childhood certainly doesn’t help the overall outcome, sometimes it warps a young mind or exacerbates already if-y DNA.
Katherine Knight was born in October of 1955 to Barbara Roughan and Ken Knight. Prior to Katherine’s birth, Barbara was married to Jack Roughan. They had four sons. Barbara started an affair with Ken Knight, who was a close friend and co-worker of Jack’s.
In the small, conservative town of Aberdeen in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley, Barbara and Ken’s affair caused some serious pearl-clutching, biblical judgement scandal. The local backlash basically forced Barbara and Ken to move, leaving her four sons behind. The new couple settled in Moree.
Barbara and Ken went on to have four daughters. The youngest being a set of twin girls, Joy and Katherine.
In 1959, Barbara’s estranged husband, Jack, passed away. Two of their sons who were still living with Jack at the time of his death, moved in with Ken and Barbara.
In the house of eight, Ken was a severe alcoholic who revelled in being extremely physically violent towards Barbara. It has been claimed that he would rape Barbara up to ten times a day. Now, I’m not doubting this, but I just have to say that this man must have been a serious sex addict, or whatever you want to call it, to be able to do it ten times a day while also very drunk. That is no easy feat.
Barbara, being the shining example of motherhood that she was, would then go to her four daughters and tell them all about the intimate details of her “sex life” with their father. She would cry and complain about how much she hated Ken, hated all men, and how they were all the same; that all men were just like Ken.
Katharine claims that she was frequently sexually assaulted by family members growing up (her half-brothers?), though she denies her father was one of the perpetrators. This went on until she turned 11-years-old. Psychiatrists accept Katherine’s claims of assault, though they doubt some of the details, and her family members confirmed the general idea of events did happen.
Is it any surprise then, that between the abuse her mother endured, the molestation Katherine experienced and her mother’s ritualistic behaviour of using her daughters as her personal human diaries for all the terrible details of her life, that Katherine would grow up to become distrustful and hateful towards men?
Katherine attended Muswellbrook High School where she was described as being a loner and a bully who liked to prey on smaller kids. She assaulted at least one boy with a weapon and even injured a teacher, who then had to act in self-defence against Katherine
When she was 15, Katherine dropped out of school without ever learning how to truly read or write. Effectively illiterate, Katherine started her “dream job” at a local slaughterhouse where she could watch and participate in animal slaughter, something that brought her happiness. I guess that wasn’t super fucking creepy and a giant red flag to her boss or co-workers, because she was quickly promoted to boning (don’t make a joke, don’t make a joke, don’t make a joke.) Katherine was given her own set of butcher knives with the promotion, which she hung over her bed so that they “would always be handy if I needed them.” Quote. This was a habit she would continue in every home she lived until her incarceration.
In 1973, Katherine met David Kellett when he started working at the Aberdeen abattoir. He was a hard, heavy drinker who had lost his previous job working for the railways at Coffs Harbour after a train hit a school bus and killed six children. His heavy drinking was attributed to the accident and he was eventually fired.
While he was dating Katherine, he would sometimes “partner” with her twin sister. I can’t find out if this was on purpose, an agreed upon arrangement or if he was always so drunk he couldn’t tell them apart? But in any context, it’s fucking gross.
In 1974, Katherine and David got married. She arrived at the service on her motorcycle and David was already near blackout drunk at the altar. So obviously, that marriage was off to a great start. Barbara gave David some motherly advice for marrying her daughter. She said, according to David Kellett:
“You better watch this one or she’ll fucking kill you. Stir her up the wrong way or do the wrong thing and you’re fucked, don’t ever think of playing up on her. She’ll fucking kill you. She’s got a screw loose.”
If someone said that to me about the person I was about to marry, I would be out of there like a Julia Roberts movie.
Barbara must have been a goddamn psychic, because on their wedding night, Katherine tried to strangle David. She later explained it was because he fell asleep after “only” having sex three times.
Okay, girl must have inherited her dad’s sex drive because I’m good for one time and then it’s like don’t fucking touch me for the next 12 hours, at the least. Probably closer to twenty-four.
The wedding night was a preview of what the entire marriage would be – violent and toxic. On one occasion, heavily-pregnant with their first child, Katherine burned all of David’s clothing and then hit him over the head with a frying pan because he had arrived home late from a darts tournament. David fled in fear for his life and was treated for a fractured skull.
Police wanted to charge Katherine, but she promised David she would change and it was enough to convince him to drop the charges against her and move back home.
In May 1976, shortly after the birth of their first child, Melissa, David left Katherine for another woman and moved to Queensland with his mother after having it up to his fucking fractured skull with Katherine’s abuse. The next day, in a clear mental break, Katherine was seen pushing her newborn daughter in her stroller down the main street of Aberdeen. She was throwing the pram from side to side, and then violently thrashed the baby around in the public square. She was institutionalized and diagnosed with postnatal depression. Katherine spent several weeks recovering before she was released.
Almost immediately after being released, Katherine took Melissa, placed her on active train tracks and then marched into town with an axe and threatened to kill people. A local man known to the townsfolk as “Old Ted” was foraging near the railway line when he heard baby Melissa and rescued her, by all accounts, literally only minutes before a train was due to pass over her.
Katherine was arrested and taken back to the psychiatric hospital BUT WAS SOMEHOW ABLE TO SIGN HERSELF OUT THE NEXT DAY? The hospital staff claimed she was “recovered.”
Surprise, surprise she was most definitely not recovered, and less than a week after her release, Katherine took one of her prized butcher knives out for a spin on the town. She found a woman with a car, slashed her across the face and forced the woman to drive her to Queensland so she could find David.
When they stopped at a service station, the woman was able to escape, but by the time the police arrived on scene, Katherine had taken a young mechanic at the service station hostage with the intent of killing him because he had apparently repaired David’s car, allowing him to leave. She told police her intention was to get to Queensland and kill David and his mother.
Okay… and I just can’t with this next part…
When David was informed of Katherine’s intentions, he and his mother MOVED BACK TO ABERDEEN in order to “support” Katherine.
David why do you have to break my heart this way?
I guess the idea is that when she was released for a third time from the psychiatric hospital in August 1976, she was placed into the care of David and his mother. I get abusive cycles are hard to break and that he probably thought he was doing the right thing by becoming responsible for Katherine. It’s still unfathomable that he was willing to go back to her considering everything she’d done to him, but logic goes out the window when your leg is trapped in someone’s snare.
In March 1980 they had a second child together, a daughter, named Natasha.
And here’s the fucking kicker – in 1984, Katherine left David. She. Left. Him. After all of that. At least David is free, is all I can say.
Katherine rented an apartment near her work at the abattoir, but after hurting her back, she left her job and was given government housing accommodations in Aberdeen, where, I have to assume by now, everyone knew she was a total banana sandwich, except, apparently, for the next few men who would still fall for her “charms.”
In 1986, Katherine met David Saunders. Within a couple of months he had moved into her home with his daughters, although he kept his own apartment in Scone. Almost immediately after moving in, Katherine’s abuse would rear its ugly head. She would regularly throw Saunders out of her house in fits of jealousy over what he did when she was not around and the attention he gave his daughters.
The cycle continued over and over: Saunders would move back to his old apartment, and Katherine would then show up and beg him to come back. Things reached a peak in May 1987 when she cut the throat of Saunders’ 8-week-old dingo puppy in front of him as a warning of what would happen should he ever leave her or cheat on her. This bitch hurt a puppy and now my heart is shattered into a million little pieces. Hurting people is one thing. Hurting animals is a whole other level of heinousness for me. Sorry, not sorry.
After killing his puppy, Katherine knocked David over the head with a frying pan. I guess that was becoming a signature move.
In June 1988, Katherine gave birth to a third daughter, her only with Saunders, Sarah. Because of their new family, Saunders put a deposit on a house which Katherine then paid off with her workers’ compensation that came through the next year. Katherine decorated the house with animal skins, skulls, horns, rusty animal traps, machetes, rakes and pitchforks, among other things. No space, including the ceiling was left uncovered.
After a particularly intense fight, Katherine hit Saunders in the face with an iron before stabbing him in the stomach with a pair of scissors. In fear for his life, Saunders took a leave of absence from his job and went into hiding. Katherine tried to hunt him down, but none of Saunders’ family or friends would admit to knowing where he was.
Several months passed before Saunders reappeared, showing up at the animal carcass house to see his daughter Sarah, but when he arrived he found that Katherine had gone to the police and told them she was afraid of him. Once he stepped foot on the property, he was arrested and served a restraining order, no longer allowed to have any contact with Katherine or his daughter.
Sometime in 1990, Katherine became pregnant by John Chillingworth, an abattoir co-worker. They had a son named Eric. Their relationship lasted for three-years before she left him for another man, John Price.
John Price was known throughout Aberdeen as a “terrific bloke” who was liked by everyone who knew him. He had three children from his first marriage, which ended in 1988. His youngest daughter had remained in the custody of his ex-wife, but the two older children lived with him. And in 1995, Katherine moved into his home with her own children.
John’s children liked her well enough, he was making enough money in the local mines to support their large blended family, and apart their violent arguments, John and Katherine were seen by family and friends to have a life that was “a bunch of roses.”
One thing Katherine and John fought over more regularly the longer they were together was his refusal to marry her. He just wasn’t interested in being married again. After one particularly terrible fight over the blessed sanctity of marriage, Katherine videotaped a number of items that John had allegedly stolen from work and sent it to his boss. The items were out of date medical kits that John had scavenged from the garbage, but his boss felt he had no choice but to fire John. He had worked that job for seventeen years.
Totally unable to forgive Katherine for what she’d done, John went immediately home and kicked Katherine out of his house. John also told friend and family what she had done, and word of Katherine’s behaviour started to spread throughout the small town like wildfire.
But like we’ve seen time and time again in abusive relationships, John eventually took Katherine back after only being apart for two months. Price, this time, refused to live with Katherine and required that they maintain separate residences. Once again, the fighting reached new levels every day. The relationship was so toxic that John’s family and friends refused to speak to him while he remained with Katherine.
In February 2000, John and Katherine were in the middle of a heated argument at his home. Things eventually became physically violent when Katherine stabbed John in the chest. This must have been a strong moment of clarity for John because he threw Katherine out of his house and told her their relationship was officially over. The next day he went to the Magistrate’s Court and took out a restraining order against Katherine in order to keep her away from him and his children.
While at work that afternoon, John told his co-workers the ever ominous warning that we hear in cases like this over and over again – should he ever not come into work, it would be because Katherine murdered him.
His co-workers begged John not to return home, to stay with one of them or find a motel room, but John said he had no choice. If he didn’t return home to get his children, Katherine would hurt them instead. When John got home that evening, he found that Katherine (though not in the house herself ) had sent away his kids to have a sleepover at a friend’s house. Satisfied that his kids were safe, but still concerned for his own life, John spent the evening at a neighbour’s house. He left around 11 p.m. to get some sleep, apparently assuming that Katherine wouldn’t be a threat after midnight?
While John was sleeping, Katherine showed up at his house wearing new black lingerie that she had bought special for the occasion. She watched him sleep for a little while before waking him up to have sex, after which, he fell asleep.
I can’t get into the psychology of that timeline of events because it’s too fucking weird. “She’s going to kill me. I’m scare for my life. Okay, let’s have sex. I’m going back to sleep.”
In the early hours of the morning, while John was asleep, Katherine took out her prized selection of butcher knives from her years at the abattoir and repeatedly stabbed John. According to the blood evidence, John tried to escape. He got as close as opening the front door, but either stumbled back inside or was dragged back into the hallway by Katherine. He died in the hallway due to blood loss from his stab wounds. He was stabbed 37 times on both sides of his body, with many of the wounds targeted to vital organs.
Katherine left the house sometime after this and withdrew $1000 from John’s account at an ATM.
At 6 a.m, the neighbour who had let John spend the evening was concerned to see his car still in the driveway. He should have left for work already. Knowing everything John had shared the evening before, the neighbour called the police. At the same time, when he didn’t arrive at work, a co-worker was tasked by his boss and colleagues to go to John’s house and check on him. The neighbour and the co-worker together tried to get into John’s house, but all the doors and windows were sealed up. Knocking on the door and the bedroom window wasn’t bringing John to the door.
Police arrived on scene at 8 a.m. and broke down the back door in order to gain entry.
As the police checked the home, calling out for John, one officer moved aside a curtain in the doorway leading to the family room. When the police officer pulled his arm away, it was covered it blood. It was then that the officer realized it wasn’t a curtain hanging in the doorway, it was John’s skin.
During the trail, the medical examiner would describe the skinning:
“After he had been dead for some time, his body was dragged by [Katharine] from the hallway into the lounge room, and thereafter [she] 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 grisly, methodology.”
After skinning John, she hung his skin on a meat hook in the doorway. She then decapitated him and cut up parts of his body. In the dining room, the table had been set with place settings for each of John’s children. Police found John’s head warming in a pot on the stove, surrounded by vegetables. Pieces of his body – later determined to be his buttocks cooked like pieces of steak – were ready to serve with baked potatoes, pumpkin, beetroot, zuchinni and cabbage with gravy.
Katherine intended to feed John to his own children.
Knight left a note with John’s body, bloodstained and covered in pieces of flesh, it read:
“Time go you back, Johanthon for rapping my douter. You to Beck for Ross – for Little John. Now play with little Johns dick John Price.”
The translation is roughly a claim that John raped Katherine’s daughter and perhaps his own daughter, Beck. Little John was John’s son.
These accusations of rape were found to be groundless during the trial.
John’s headless body was arranged with his left arm draped over an empty 1.25-litre bottle of pop, and his legs crossed. The prosecution claimed this demonstrated Katherine’s contempt for John.
Police eventually found Katherine in bed, comatose from taking a large number of pills, an apparent suicide attempt.
It has been reported that one of the police officers who was first on the scene, quit the force only days later, forever traumatized by what he had seen.
Katherine originally offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, but this was rejected by the prosecution. She was arraigned on March 2, 2001 for the murder of John Price. She pleaded not guilty.
The trial started in October of 2001. The judge started by offering all prospective jurors the option of being excused due to the seriously graphic nature of the photographic evidence that would be shown by the prosecution. Many jurors accepted this offer, with several more dropping out after the witness list was read. By the time the jury was empanelled, Katherine’s attorney announced that she had changed her plea to guilty, thereby forgoing a jury trial.
The judge ordered a psychiatric assessment of Katherine to make sure she understand what pleading guilty would mean for her and to find if she was in fact mentally fit enough to make such a plea.
Katherine’s legal team was set to argue her case using amnesia and dissociation as her main defence, things that were supported by most psychiatrists who evaluated Katherine, though they did find her “sane.” It was concluded the Katherine had borderline personality disorder, a disorder that is characterized by strong emotional reactions, a long-term pattern of unstable relationships and and a distorted sense of self.
No reason has ever really been given for why Katherine changed her plea from not guilty to guilty, and it’s especially odd, because even to this day Katherine does not accept responsibility for her actions. At the sentencing hearing, Katherine’s lawyers requested that she be excused from having to hear any graphic testimony, but the request was denied. When the medical examiner took the stand and began describing John’s skinning and decapitation, Katherine became hysterical and needed to be medically sedated.
On November 8, 2001, Knight was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The judge ordered her prison record be marked as “never to be released.” This was the first time in Australia’s history that a sentence like this was imposed on a woman.
In June 2006, Katherine tried to appeal her life sentence, claiming that the penalty did not suit the crime. For real, she thought her sentence was too severe. The court dismissed her appeal writing in the judgement, “This was an appalling crime, almost beyond contemplation in a civilized society.”
Katherine Knight is still in prison. She is 64.
According to her former partner, and the father of her son Eric, John Chillingworth, he still visits Katherine in prison. He’s quoted as saying to The Daily Mail:
“She sees a psychiatrist regularly and over the years she’s done a lot of self-improvement work. She does pottery, she likes painting. She seems to be calmer… she gets on with everyone there and they call her ‘grandma.'”
Despite holding out hope that she will one day walk free and get to meet her grandchildren and be apart of her four children’s lives, Katherine will likely die in prison.
Chillingworth has said, “Is she a threat to society? No, I don’t believe so… But would society accept her after being released? I would say no.”
Okay, pour your thoughts out on this crazy story, friends! There are so many moments that are truly shocking, and some that are so head-scratchingly bizarre that I was at a loss for spicy commentary.
I can’t help but feel there were multiple times throughout Katherine’s life, especially with David Kellett, that some kind of mental health intervention could have taken place and maybe that would have saved John Price’s life in the future. I know David and his mother tried, but without the proper resources, it’s understandable that it became too much for them.
Unfortunately, David Price’s life was ended in one of the most gruesome ways I’ve ever read about. And now his children, friends and family have to continue life without him. All because domestic violence and mental health issues were never successfully intervened on.
Domestic violence and abusive relationships can become this deadly. There is always the potential someone will lose their life. And sadly, it is such a toxic endless cycle that family and friends typically decide to bow out of for their own mental health, or because they don’t really know why you’ve become so distant. I’ve been there myself. I begrudge no one in my life their decision to walk away, but it’s important for those on the outside to recognize small signs of abuse, or listen to their gut, and not be afraid to speak up, ask questions and offer a safe place, even if it’s rejected. Especially in our current times of COVID. Abuse rates have been skyrocketing.
If you are in an abusive relationship, please reach out to someone. Take that first step. I know it’s scary, but it’s worth it. It’s better to be alone, than be lonely with someone else. Especially when that someone else doesn’t love you the way love is meant to feel. Your friends and family want you to be safe and happy and free. You are not a burden. We would all be more than ready to help you make an escape plan.
Please check here for ways to signal over video chat that you’d like someone to check on you, without leaving a digital trace.
If you want to seek help but your phone or computer is being monitored by your abuser, you can message me using my contact form and ask if I’m interested in sharing my ARCs. If you tell me you are specifically interested in my copy of THE NIGHT SWIM, I’ll email you back and ask for your address for “shipping.” I’ll contact local authorities on your behalf and let them know you need help.
I’ve been where you’ve been. There is another side.
Until next time, Booknerds…
These posts are getting a lot more attention then I ever thought they would, so I figure I should start including my sources, so y’all don’t think I’m just making this shit up as I go along.