Kate Moir: I survived Australia's worst serial killer couple
She escaped the clutches of Australia's most evil.
On Kate Moir’s birthday, she discovered that one of the merciless serial killers who abducted and sexually assaulted her could be freed from prison.
Shocked and angry, the feisty survivor decided enough was enough. It was the fourth time she’d been forced to relive the torment of 30 years ago – when evil couple David and Catherine Birnie snatched her off the street – by a mandatory parole hearing.
Kate was lucky, escaping the notorious Perth murderers who claimed four other lives.
Today, she is bravely campaigning for greater justice for families torn apart by domestic violence, murder and other heinous crimes.
Kate, 47, was an outgoing 17-year-old model when the Birnies dragged her into their car on the way home from a night out with friends. It was November 1986, and the couple had already abducted, imprisoned, sexually assaulted and killed four other young women in the space of just one month.
Kate was hailed as a heroine after escaping through a window and raising the alarm at a shopping centre near the Birnies’ Willagee home the following day.
The serial killers received four concurrent life terms for murder, but their 30-year sentences for the crimes against Kate were effectively forgotten in the system, leaving her hungry for justice.
David Birnie committed suicide in his cell in 2005, facing charges of jail rape, but Catherine remains behind bars.
Under WA sentencing laws, because her non-parole period is now up, the case must be considered by the Prisoners Review Board every three years, whether she asks for it or not.
And that means her one surviving victim must be contacted too.
‘I always end up spending my birthday on the phone to them,’ Kate, now an impassioned businesswoman, artist and mother-of-three, says ruefully.
‘It’s happened four times, and every time I hear her parole is being reviewed, I relive the nightmare. And it causes significant trauma because it feels like it happened yesterday.
‘Meanwhile, she got thrown a surprise 50th birthday party in jail, at taxpayers expense!
‘Twenty years, which when her non-parole period expired, is not life in prison. I am speaking for the families, relatives and friends of rape and murder victims who are traumatised on a three-yearly basis as violent criminals are considered for parole.’
Since launching her crusade – with the Empowerment Foundation and an online law reform petition, plus a Facebook page We Support Kate – encouragement has come from some surprising sources. ‘One of Catherine Birnie’s sons contacted me a few weeks ago to say he is totally against her ever getting released,’ Kate explains.
‘He is also backing the call for mandatory parole reform and harsher penalties for murder and any form of violent crime.’
Supporting New Idea’s We Care initiative, which offers practical support to women and children fleeing domestic violence, Kate stresses that domestic violence can take many forms.
‘It’s not just a physical thing. The abuse can also be emotional, sexual, verbal and financial – or a combination of all five.
‘There needs to be more education on the subject, which is one of the aims of my foundation, but meanwhile I’m delighted to see that New Idea is organising such practical help.’
Kate is determined to make a difference. After staying silent for almost 30 years following her ordeal at the killers’ hands, she is speaking out with a vengeance.
‘I want the legacy that I leave to be that of a survivor and a hero, never a victim. I prefer the term survivor to victim... victim is past tense. I am reclaiming my name as Kate Moir.’