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Telstra’s failings and the other missed clues in the Claremont killings investigation

During Edwards’ murder trial, it was revealed Telstra had no records of the altercation having taken place. He continued to work for the telco up until the day of his arrest in 2016 and used his work car to abduct his victims from the streets of Claremont.

On Sunday, it was revealed for the first time that a manager at the company had spoken with Ms Davis about the incident, which she believed police and Telstra – then known as Telecom – did not take seriously enough at the time.

“Telecom was certainly not listening to what I was saying about the attack at the time,” she said.

“[A Telecom manager] actually referred to Bradley Edwards as ‘young Bradley’ and that’s always stuck in my mind.

“The other thing that he said was he was very stressed, that he was having personal relationship problems and that he just snapped … and my response to that was, ‘Well it’s not normal behaviour for somebody with relationship problems to attack a vulnerable person who they don’t even know’.

Wendy Davis around the time of the attack.

Wendy Davis around the time of the attack. Credit:60 Minutes

“I felt powerless, I felt as though nobody was listening to what I was saying.”

Edwards’ father, Bruce, was a long-time employee of Telstra.

Telstra has not commented on whether his father’s position had any influence on his attack going seemingly unpunished by his employer.

Telstra’s inaction was one of a number of missed opportunities which could have altered the murderous path Edwards was forging. The second was the police response to the incident.

Despite the evidence suggesting Edwards could have been charged with deprivation of liberty, or another more serious sex-based offence, police charged him with common assault and he was sentenced to two years’ probation.

At the time of his arrest, his fingerprints were taken. But police did not make the connection that the same prints were already on record as part of an unsolved 1988 prowling case in Huntingdale, where a man was stalking the streets and had attacked a woman as she slept in her bed.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said: “The systems were simply not as integrated then as they are now.”

He conceded that, had Edwards been charged with a sex offence before the murders, he may have appeared on police’s radar sooner, revealing Edwards was not among the 18,000 people brought to the Macro Taskforce’s attention over the two-decade search.

Police began chasing a Telstra lead following the deaths of Sarah Spiers and Jane Rimmer.

The tip-off was likely in connection to the 1995 abduction and rape of a teenager at Karrakatta Cemetery, where a security guard saw a Telstra van leaving the area around 4am.

Edwards confessed to that crime in 2019.

A man in a Telstra car was also seen leering at a woman in Claremont the night after Ms Spiers vanished on January 27, 1996.

The two tips were enough for detectives to request a list of Telstra employees who were assigned vans. Edwards was assigned a Toyota Camry station wagon at the time, and was not included on the list – although the telco acknowledged employees often had access to pool vehicles.

“Also please note that the driver’s name we have recorded may not be correct as sometimes vehicles change hands or are borrowed etc,” Telstra responded.

Bradley Edwards' father, Bruce Edwards.

Bradley Edwards’ father, Bruce Edwards. Credit:Sharon Smith

Macro Taskforce sent a second request to Telstra in 1998 – after three women had been killed – following up a line of inquiry involving “Telstra Camry sedans”.

By this stage, detectives had also received at least two tip-offs in relation to the Claremont murders about women reporting a man in a Telstra vehicle offering them a lift home when they mistook his white station wagon for a taxi.

Police asked for a list of drivers of all active Telstra vehicles from January 25 to 28, 1996, however Telstra’s response omitted Edwards’ name in error.

Had his name been included, police could have found Edwards’ 1990 conviction for attacking a woman at Hollywood Hospital.

Another infuriating dead-end for investigators was the last moments of the women’s nights before they were abducted.

In Ms Glennon’s case, there was no CCTV vision of her after she left the Continental Hotel in search of a taxi.

In Ms Rimmer’s case, there was CCTV showing the 23-year-old leaning against a pole outside the venue looking out onto the road and glancing at her watch.

Her body language suggested she was looking for a taxi or lift home.

The CCTV at the hotel worked on a loop, switching between the several cameras covering the venue’s entrances and rear area.

The camera cut away from Jane at 12.04am. When it cut back at 12.05am, she was gone.

It’s possible in those crucial seconds, Edwards could have pulled up beside her, or detectives could have seen the direction she left in.

Another covert camera operating on the evening, set up by police following the disappearance of Ms Spiers, also failed to spot Edwards’ car.

Of the hundreds of vehicles that passed it on Bay View Terrace, the number plates of fewer than half were clearly visible due to limitations in the technology.

On the day after Edwards was convicted, Ms Glennon’s father, Denis, thanked the police for their efforts in Australia’s longest-running and most expensive murder investigation.

“My family has no criticism of what the police or the scientists might have done better during the very lengthy investigation,” he said.

“They did the very best they could with the information, with the methods, with the equipment that they had available to them at that time.”

Edwards was arrested in 2016 following a cold case DNA breakthrough in the Huntingdale prowler case.

Ironically, if that case had been solved in 1990, the 2016 testing of a kimono dropped at the scene – which led police to identify Edwards as the suspected Claremont serial killer through a DNA link – would likely have never occurred.

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Edwards has been convicted of the murders of Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon and will be sentenced on December 23.

He was acquitted of Ms Spiers’ murder.

Telstra has been contacted for comment.

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