ROCKHAMPTON, QUEENSLAND – AUSTRALIA.
Females began disappearing around Rockhampton, Queensland, in August 1998. In less than a year “The Rockhampton Rapist” had struck fear into the quiet community as five local females were abducted, raped and murdered. Leonard John Fraser was charged and brought to trial, but as evidence played out in court, the case took a startling twist.
The Rockhampton Rapist
Leonard John Fraser spent much of his adult life behind bars. Illiterate, Fraser left school at 14, and within a year was court ordered to live at Gosford Boys’ Home in New South Wales, after he was caught stealing. Once released, he graduated to robbery, assault, car theft, and rape. He lived off the proceeds earned by prostitutes, and had numerous homosexual affairs. In 1974, he was found guilty of a string of rapes across Sydney, after attacking at least four women, and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. He was released after seven years, and immediately fell back into crime. He committed more rapes and sexual offences, and served at least another two stays in prison. Each time he was released, he set out to commit similar crimes. He was also known to have sex with dogs.
On August 31, 1998, Natasha Ryan, 14, went missing after her mother dropped her off in front of her high school. She had previously run away and had been experimenting with drugs. Fraser confessed to murdering Ryan on a farm where he later buried her body beneath a mango tree.
On December 28, 1998, Julie Dawn Turner, 39, disappeared after leaving Rockhampton’s Airport Liberties nightclub. She was in an abusive relationship and was planning on leaving her boyfriend. She had briefly worked with Fraser at a local abattoir.
On March 1, 1999, Beverley Doreen Leggo, 36, was doing her banking in Rockhampton when she vanished. She was reported missing by her landlord, and her handbag was found on the banks of the Fitzroy River. She too was in a volatile relationship.
On April 18, 1999, Sylvia Maria Benedetti, 19, a drug user and a “street wanderer” was last seen sitting beside Leonard Fraser on a bench in Rockhampton Mall.
On April 22, 1999, Keyra Steinhardt, 9, was abducted, raped and murdered in broad daylight as she walked home from school. Her parents had only recently allowed the girl to walk home alone.
Given the name of “The Rockhampton Rapist,” Leonard Fraser appeared at his first trial for his crimes against Keyra Steinhardt. He received an indefinite life sentence on November 9, 2000. Besides being previously been imprisoned for other rape offences, he also confessed to killing a series of women in other unsolved cases. Collections of ponytails were found at Fraser’s apartment from women that could not be identified. He confessed to multiple crimes and murders spanning over 30 years. If all the confessions were true, he would be one of the worst serial killers in Australia’s history.
Fraser was further charged with the murders of the other four females who had gone missing since 1988. Three of the victim’s remains had been found, and he was suspected in another three disappearances. His second murder trial began at the start of April 2003.
Lead Up to Crime
Natasha Ryan had a history of being a troubled teen, experimenting with drugs, suspended from school, and slashing her wrists for which she received counselling. She had tried to run away twice before, though the reasons why are not clear. Before her disappearance, Ryan hinted to a friend that she was planning on going into hiding, but had concerns she would get her boyfriend into trouble. On both previous occasions she stayed with her 22-year-old boyfriend, milk deliveryman, Scott Angus Black. Black had previously dated Ryan’s older sister.
In 2002, convicted child killer, Leonard John Fraser, was charged with her murder. The Rockhampton community held a memorial service in her honour.