Malcolm Naden said he wanted a life sentence, and now the notorious double murderer and former bushland fugitive has been given exactly that.
After nearly seven years on the run following the brutal murder of two young women, and months of legal debate, the 39-year-old Dubbo man has today been sentenced to life in jail by NSW Supreme Court Justice, Derek Price.
The decision marks the end of an extraordinary and disturbing chapter in Australia's criminal history, which began in 2004 when Naden indecently assaulted a 12-year-old girl in the outer suburbs of Dubbo.
About six months later, when Naden's cousin, 24-year-old Lateesha Naden confronted him over the attack during a car trip, he strangled her to death, dismembered her body and buried the remains at an isolated spot beside the Macquarie River near Butler Falls.
Ms Nolan's family are still searching for her remains.
Five months after the January 2005 murder, with Lateesha Nolan's family fearing the worst, Naden killed again.
The victim was Kristy Scholes, the 24-year-old defacto partner of Naden's cousin who lived in the house next door at Bunglegumbie Rd, Dubbo.
In mid June 2005 Ms Scholes and her children had temporarily moved into Naden's house while their house was being painted and his grandparents were away in Sydney.
On the night of June 21, Naden attacked the young woman in the bathroom from behind and strangled her to death as her children slept in a bedroom nearby. He then had sexual intercourse with her lifeless body in his bedroom before covering her with clothes and fleeing.
For the next six-and-a-half years, Naden lived an extraordinary fugitive existence in a vast swathe of bushland from Dubbo to the upper reaches of the Hunter Valley.
The 39-year-old former abattoir worker survived by breaking into remote bushland cabins and stealing food, clothing, alcohol and other provisions, as well as more bizarre items such as a DVD player and a pair of gardening gloves.
Police came close to catching Naden on numerous occasions, from his infamous break-in at the Dubbo Zoo in December 2005, to a confrontation at Nowendoc during which Naden shot a senior constable through the shoulder with a self-loading rifle.
In one of the largest manhunts in Australia since the 19th century search for the Kelly Gang, police tried everything to track the fugitive down, from scores of movement sensors placed in Hunter Valley bush cabins to a A$250,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest.
Finally, shortly after midnight on March 22 last year, Naden was surrounded and captured at a cabin near Gloucester, with the now famous police dog ''Chuck'' locking onto the 39-year-old's leg and preventing him from attempting another miraculous escape.
"Thank God it's over - I've had enough," Naden reportedly told police.
Over the next six weeks, through two lengthy handwritten statements and several formal police interviews, Malcolm John Naden confessed to all of his crimes and indicated his intention to plead guilty to them.
"I killed her; why her? There was no real reason." Naden said of Lateesha Nolan in one of the handwritten statements.
"If it wasn't her it would have been someone else ... I must leave the 'whys' up to a therapist to help me solve these puzzles that have us both questioning and looking for answers."
"I just know something went wrong somewhere and I am unable to put my finger on it. It seems as though I must have my own search party, plumb the depths of myself and see what it uncovers."
Despite confessing to his crimes, there was still a degree of confusion as to Naden's mental state at the time of the murders and whether he feels any remorse about them now.
The crucial question during the three days of sentencing hearings held over the past two months was whether or not Naden is suffering severe depression and, if so, what role this played in his crimes.
The psychiatrist called by the Crown, Dr David Greenberg gave evidence Naden exhibited "psychopathic and schizoid traits" but in terms of diagnosable disorders he had no more than mild depression. But the defence's psychiatrist, Bruce Westmore, diagnosed "chronic and severe depression".
There was evidence that Naden told a prison psychiatrist: "once those walls are broken down, once you kill someone, you can't put them back up, you're going to kill again".
But Naden's barrister, Mark Ierace, SC, said these comments reflected Naden's "desire to ensure he receives a life sentence" rather than his true feelings.
The families of Naden's victims, many of whom are directly or indirectly related to Naden himself, called for the 39-year-old to be given a life sentence.
During an emotional series of victim impact statements they told the court of their grief and pain over the horrific murders and the assault, as well as living in fear while the 39-year-old was on the run.
"Only days before she disappeared, Lateesha rang me and said 'Dad, I've finally got a car that can make the trip to see you,' Lateesha Nolan's father Mick Peet said, fighting back tears.
"The next thing to happen changed my life for ever. I felt like my heart stopped beating when they told me she was missing.
"When they found her car abandoned, I was confused. When it became clear that something terrible had happened I was angry. Over the next seven years I nearly lost everything I had lived for.
Malcolm Naden after his arrest at Rawdon Vale, west of Gloucester, in March last year.
"To Malcolm I ask the question I don't ever think will be answered – why."
It seems that question is set never to be answered.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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