Suitcase murderer ‘just like Milat’
The detective who caught serial killer Ivan Milat says another killer, one of the most evil Australia has seen in recent times, may have had Milat's murders in mind when he committed his own crimes.
While it took years after he committed his crimes, Daniel James Holdom's cruel past eventually caught up with him when he was handed two life sentences for the brutal killings of Karlie Pearce-Stevenson, 20, and her young daughter Khandalyce.
The murders happened two days apart in December 2008 but it took five years for police to work out what happened.
Karlie's body was discovered by dirt bike riders in the Belanglo State Forest - south of Sydney - in 2010.
It's the same place where Milat buried his victims years earlier.
Detective Clive Small, who worked on the Milat case, told Channel 9's 60 Minutes it was likely Holdom enjoyed the notoriety of Belanglo and the crimes associated with it.
"These are the actions of a killer who was going to hide what he did, but at the same time, appeared to enjoy the notoriety of it.
"I've seen some pretty notorious murders over my time and violence, but really this takes the cake …
"There was an immediate suggestion, of course, or questions asked, did Ivan Milat kill this person too? Was it another victim of Ivan Milat?" he told the program.
Detective Small said Holdom's crimes were similar to Milat's crimes.
"It had the hallmarks of a Milat murder in some ways. The fact that there'd been no attempt to bury the body, it had just been left off the vehicle tracks in the bush."
THE LONG CON
It took years for police to identify Karlie as the victim because Holdom faked that she was still alive.
"It's about him feeling in some ways like Milat. All that activity was about him being in control. I'm the boss, I'm in control, I can fool everyone," he said.
He went as far as using her bank accounts and duping her family and friends into thinking she was still alive.
Karlie's aunt Sharon told 60 Minutes that they had assumed she was alive but had chosen not to have contact with her family.
"There was mixed emotion, there was grief, and loss. There was a lot of anger around why, how could you do that?" she said.
Detective Small said when her body was found it was examined for DNA and cross checked with missing persons.
"They looked for people who disappeared under suspicious circumstances; but actually got absolutely nowhere. One of the main reasons being was because the killer, which was her partner, actually continued to maintain that she was alive," he said.
NSW Police enlisted facial anthropologist Dr Susan Hayes to help identify Karlie but it was difficult as she was not in the missing persons database.
Dr Hayes did produce a digital sketch which was strikingly similar to Karlie.
FAMILY FEARED WORST
Karlie grew up in Alice Springs, surrounded by family.
"She was a great mum, right from the very beginning," her aunt Sharon said … "she had a heart of gold."
Holdom exploited her trust. Her friend Tanya Webber, who eventually helped to crack the case, said she knew something was off about him from the start and "didn't like him at all".
"Karlie introduced me to him and he shook my hand, nice to meet you … He didn't really look me in the eye nothing really stood out except for he looked a lot older and we sort of wondered what Karlie was doing with him," she said.
In November 2008, Karlie and Khandalyce left Alice Springs with Holdom and never returned.
Ms Webber said about a week after leaving, Karlie called her crying.
"She just said to me that she thought she'd f***ed up. She wanted to come home, by the sounds of things. And I said, "Well, I can book a flight. I can pay for a flight. Do you have money?" "No, no, no. It's okay." And by the end of the conversation, she was sort of back to her giggly laughing self. So, I didn't think too much more of it."
That was the last time they spoke.
As the weeks went by Karlie stopped calling and her family started to worry.
One year after they left with Holdom, Ms Webber and Karlie's mum Colleen had had enough and went to the police.
Police spoke with Holdom who told them Karlie had taken Khandalyce and moved to Queensland. He also claimed he was no longer in contact with her.
Eventually Karlie's mother received a text message from her phone number saying that she was OK.
That was enough for police to close the missing person's report.
"It shouldn't have been pulled. We don't know if they'd actually seen Karlie, viewed Karlie. They had a photo but on reflection did they actually see her? Obviously not," Ms Webber said.
THE CHILD IN THE SUITCASE
It wasn't until five years later when Little Khandalyce's, 2, remains were found inside a suitcase alongside a remote South Australian highway, that Holdom's story started to come undone.
Detective Small said investigating police would not have expected to arrive to such a grim discovery.
It was later learned that Karlie and Khandalyce were murdered only weeks after they said goodbye to their family in Alice Springs.
But it wasn't until Ms Webber heard reports that the remains of a little girl had been found in South Australia that something clicked - she said her intuition screamed that it was Khandalyce.
"I just had a feeling about it. I can't really explain what that was," she said.
"It wasn't until another story came out and they released some clothing … And for some reason, it attracted my interest again. my husband walked through the door. And I said, "This could be Khandal's." And I was teary. I was … You know? he said, "It could be Khandals."
Ms Webber phoned CrimeStoppers. It was all police needed to finally crack the case and the hideous truth about Holdom was revealed.
"That phone call changed everything and it changed very rapidly," Detective Small said.