Katherine Knight is the first Australian woman to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. She was charged with the murder of her partner John Charles Thomas Price in October of 2001 and is currently imprisoned at Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre in New South Wales.
Knight was born in an unconventional and dysfunctional family. Her mother, Barbara Roughan, was married to Jack Roughan and was living with him in a small town of Aberdeen in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley. They had four sons before Barbara started having an affair with Ken Knight, a friend, and coworker of her husband. Both the Roughans and the Knights were well known in the town. The affair caused a major scandal and so Barbara and Ken left Aberdeen and moved to Moree, New South Wales. None of her sons went with her as two of the older sons stayed with their father and the two younger ones were sent off to live with their aunt in Sydney. With Ken Knight, Barbara had four more children which included a pair of twin girls in 1955. Katherine was the younger of the twins. In 1959, Jack Roughan died and the two boys that were living with him moved in with Barbara and Ken.
Ken was an alcoholic who used violence openly and intimidation to rape Barbara up to ten times a day. Barbara would then tell her children intimate details of her sex life and talked about how much she hated sex and men (later in Katherine’s life when she complained to her mother about her partner wanting her to take part in a sex act she didn’t want to do her mother told her to just put up with it and stop complaining). Katherine claims that she was often sexually assaulted by several family members (not her father) which continued until she was 11. There were many doubts about these statements but family members have confirmed these events did happen.
Barbara’s great-grandmother was supposedly an Indigenous Australian from the Moree area who had married an Irishman. She was proud of this and like to think of her own family as Aboriginal. This was kept a family secret due to considerable racism at the time in the area and it was a source of tension for the children. Apart from her own twin, Knight was close to her uncle, Oscar Knight, who was a champion horseman. She was absolutely devastated when he committed suicide in 1969 and believed his ghost was visiting her. The family moved back to Aberdeen that same year.
When Knight was attending Muswellbrook High School she became a loner and was known to be a bully. She assaulted at least one boy at school with a weapon and was injured by a teacher who acted in self-defense. When Knight wasn’t in a fit of rage, she was known as a model student and often would earn rewards for her good behavior. She left school at the age of 15 without learning how to read or write and gained employment as a cutter in a clothing factory. A year later she left that job and started what she called her “dream job” which was cutting up offal at a local abattoir where she was quickly promoted to boning and given her own set of butcher knives. She would hand the knives over her bed in case she needed them which was a habit she continued until her incarceration.
Knight first met her first husband David Kellett in 1973. He was a coworker and a hard-drinking one at that. She completely dominated him. If Kellett got into a fight she would step in and back him up with her fists without any problem. In Aberdeen, she was known for fighting anyone who upset her. Knight and Kellett got married in 1974 and to her request, the couple arrived at the service on her motorcycle with Kellett intoxicated. As soon as they arrived Barbara gave Kellett advice, basically saying that Knight was crazy and that she’d kill him if he crossed her wrong. On their wedding night, she tried to strangle Kellett because he fell asleep after they only had intercourse three times. The marriage was violent, and on one occasion a heavily pregnant Knight burned all of Kellett’s clothes and shoes before hitting him across the head with a frying pan just because he had arrived home late from a darts competition. He feared for his life, so he fled to a neighbor’s house and collapsed onto the floor and was later treated for a fractured skull. Police wanted to charge her, but Knight talked Kellett into dropping the charges. In May 1976, shortly after Knight gave birth to their first daughter, Melissa Ann, Kellett left her for another woman and moved to Queensland, apparently unable to cope with Knight’s possessive and violent behavior. The next day Knight was was pushing her baby in a pram down the main street and throwing the pram side to side. She was admitted to St. Elmo’s Hospital in Tamworth where she was diagnosed with postnatal depression and spent several weeks recovering. After she was released she put her two-month-old baby on a railway line right before the train was due, stole an ax, and went into town and threatened several people. A man known as “Old Ted” was foraging near the railway line and found and rescued Melissa right before the train came. Knight was arrested and again taken to St. Elmo’s but apparently recovered again and signed herself out the following day.
A few days later, Knight slashed the face of a woman with a knife and demanded that she be driven to Queensland to find where Kellett was. The woman managed to escape after they stopped at a service station, but by the time the police arrived Knight had taken a young boy hostage and was threatening him with a knife. She eventually was disarmed when police attacked her with brooms and she was admitted to the Morisset Psychiatric Hosptial. Knight confessed to nurses that she had meant to kill the mechanic at the station because he had repaired Kellett’s car which she thought that had allowed Kellett to escape, and then she was going to kill her husband and his mother when she got to Queensland. Kellett was informed by police of the incident and so he left his girlfriend and moved to Aberdeen with his mother to support Knight. Knight was released on August 9th, 1976 into the care of her mother-in-law and with Kellett they all moved to Woodridge where she got a job at the Dinmore meatworks in nearby Ipswich. On March 6th, 1980 they had another daughter, Natasha Maree. In 1984, Knight left Kellett and moved in with her parents first in Aberdeen and then to a rented house in Muswellbrook. She returned to work at the abattoir but she injured her back the following year and went on a disability pension. The government gave her a Housing Commission house in Aberdeen.
In 1986, Knight met 38-year-old miner David Saunders. A few months later he moved in with her and her two daughters even though he kept his apartment in Scone. Knight soon became extremely jealous regarding what he did when she wasn’t around him and would often throw him out. He would go back to his apartment and she would follow him and beg him to return. In May of 1987, she cut the throat of Saunders’s two-month-old dingo puppy in front of him for no more of a reason than to show what would happen if he ever had an affair and then she knocked him out with a frying pan. In June of 1988, she gave birth to her third child Sarah which caused Saunders to put a deposit on a house which Knight paid off with her workers’ compensation in 1989. She decorated the house with animal skins, skulls, horns, rusty animal traps, leather jackets, old boots, machetes, rakes, and pitchforks. There was no space in the house that wasn’t covered.
After she had an argument with Saunders she stabbed him in the stomach with a pair of scissors. He moved back to Scone but then returned back because she had cut up all his clothes. He then took a long service of leave and went into hiding. Knight tried to find out where he was but no one was telling her. Several months later he returned to see his daughter and found out that Knight claimed she was afraid of Saunders and they issued an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) against him.
In the year of 1990, Knight got pregnant by John Chillingworth, a 43-year-old former abattoir coworker. She gave birth the following year to a boy that they named Eric. The relationship lasted three years before she left Chillingworth for a man she was having an affair with named John Price.
John Charles Thomas Price was the father of three of Knight’s children while she was having an affair with him. He was liked by everyone and his own marriage ended in 1988. His two-year-old daughter remained with his ex-wife and his two older children lived with him. Price knew Knight had a violent reputation and still allowed her to move into his house in 1995. His children seemed to like her and he was making a lot of money and his life seemed to be going in an upward direction. In 1998, they had a fight over Price’s refusal to marry Knight and in retaliation to that she videotaped Price stealing from his place of work and sent it to his boss. Although the items were out of date medical kits he had scavenged from the rubbish pile he was fired from his job that he held for 17 years. That same day, Price kicked out Knight and the news of what she had done spread throughout the town. A few months later Price started the relationship again with Knight but did not let her move in this time around. The fighting became even more frequent and his friends wanted nothing to do with him as long as he was in a relationship with her.
In February of 2000, a series of assaults on Price led up to Knight stabbing him in the chest resulted in him kicking her out of his home permanently. On February 29th he stopped at the Scone Magistrate’s Court on his way to work and took out a restraining order on Knight in an attempt to keep her away from him and his children. That afternoon Price told his coworkers that if he didn’t show up to work the reason would be that Knight had killed him. They pleaded him not to go home but he said he thought if he didn’t Knight would harm his children. Price got home and saw that Knight had sent his children to a friend’s house for a sleepover, so he decided to spend the evening with his neighbors before going home and sleeping at around 11PM. Earlier that day Knight bought new lingerie and videotaped her all of her children while making comments that made it seem like her last will and testament. Knight arrived later at Price’s house while he was sleeping and sat and watched TV for a few minutes before having a shower. She then woke Price up and they had sex, which afterward he fell asleep.
At 6AM the next day neighbors from the day before became concerned when they noticed that Price’s car was still in his driveway and when he didn’t show up to work his employer sent a worker over to his house to see what was wrong. Both the neighbor and the worker tried to knock on his bedroom window to wake him up, but they noticed blood on the front door and alerted the police who arrived around 8AM. They broke down the back door and found Knight comatose from taking a large number of pills. She had stabbed Price while he was asleep. According to the blood evidence, Price was trying to turn the light on before trying to escape while Knight chased him through the house. He managed to open the front door and get outside but he either fell backward or was dragged into the hallway where he bled to death.
After killing Price, Knight went to Aberdeen and withdrew $1000 from Price’s ATM.
His autopsy showed he had been stabbed at least 37 times, in the front and back of his body with wounds going into vital organs. Several hours after Prince had died Knight skinned him and hung his skin from a meat hook on the architrave of a door to the lounge room. She also decapitated him and cooked parts of his body and it seemed that she was planning on serving his cooked body parts to his children along with a variety of sides. There were names of two of his children placed by the plates already set out on the table. It seems she tried to eat a meal but she threw it out onto the front lawn, possibly to support her later claim of having no memory of the crime. Price’s head was found in a pot with vegetables, and judging by the temperature of the pot it was concluded that it was used that morning. Sometime later Knight posed the body with the left arm draped over an empty soft drink bottle with his legs crossed. This was claimed in court to be an act of defilement. Knight wrote an accusatory note that had blood and small pieces of flesh covering it, and the accusations were found to be groundless.
Knight had an initial offer to plead guilty to manslaughter but she rejected it and she was arraigned on March 2nd, 2001 on a charge of murdering Price to which she pled not guilty to. Her trial was supposed to be on July 23rd, 2001 but was adjourned due to her counsel’s illness and it was set for October 15th, 2001. Two psychiatrists concluded she suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. She filed an appeal but was denied, thus leaving her as the first woman to be spending life in prison without parole for murder.