Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lesbian vampire killers and the turd from hell

Google's spiders give me the creeps and put me in mind of those relentless, tentacled robots in The Matrix or the heat-seeking creepy crawlies in Minority Report. One minute you are engaged in a perfectly innocent search, the next you have been hypertextually hijacked and sent spinning, slave to the algorithm, into the outer reaches of cyberspace. Not to mention a wormhole stuffed with monsters that runs off Memory Lane.

Google's spiders don't creep me out as much as lesbian vampire killers though - which is what they directed me to while searching for an old yarn of mine on bareknuckle boxing on the Burmese border. Instead, I was confronted with belligerent bull-dykes from Brisvegas and whisked back through time to the late 1980s and the first really big, international-headline-making court case I ever covered as a mild-mannered young reporter at The Courier-Mail, Brisbane's newspaper of record.

It turned out that I was a footnote in a surprisingly entertaining academic analysis of the tortured mind of Tracey Wigginton, Australia's notorious 'Lesbian Vampire Killer', the tortured prose of the hacks who covered her gory story and the subsequent vampire circus of a trial.

Here's the link and like I said, it's anything but an arid academic yawnfest:   Apparently Brisbane's answer to Myra Hindley was the victim of a patriarchal society and forced into a crisis of gender. Sick of getting it in the neck from The Man, she decided to bite back. And I always thought she was just an uncommonly sanguinary psycho. In any case, I've now spent half the day remembering one of the most unpleasant human beings (and I use the term loosely) I've ever encountered.

It was my dubious honour as a newspaper court reporter to cover the trial in all its frothy gothic horror. In a town where the streets are as clean as the living, the possibility that a coven of blood-sucking brides of Beelzebub had run amok shook people to the core.

The crime was nasty and brutish. The victim, short. Edward Baldock, a ginger-haired bantamweight  of a man, was stumbling home drunk from the pub through an inner city park. Wigginton, her lover and two other friends lured him into the bushes with the promise of sex. After the victim had neatly folded his clothes and waited, naked, by the river for the romp that never was, Wigginton slashed his throat open with two knives and then sucked blood from the wound in what was later described as a vampiric feeding frenzy. The women were all lesbians and belonged to a subculture known as 'Swampies' - a kind of low-rent Goth, favouring basic black, Doc Martens and occult tattoos. Apparently Swampies only listened to 'acid house' although I suspect now the prosecutor may have had his musical genres confused. It's hard to conflate the hands-in-the-air sounds of Manchester's Summer of Love with the knife-in-the-neck horrors of Wigginton's wig-out.

As the trial unfolded, the other three women put the figurative knife into Wigginton. In hushed tones before a spellbound gallery and furiously scribbling reporters, they claimed Wigginton was a real vampire and didn't eat food but subsisted on the blood of pigs and goats. Her lover told the court how Wigginton would make her cut her wrists so she could feed. She avoided sunlight and never looked into mirrors. She could look at you and make herself disappear until all that was left were her 'cat's eyes'. She had sex with a man in a ceremony in front of a group of her lesbian friends in the hope of conceiving a child. She worshipped satan and boned up on the occult. She boasted of her prowess at cunnilingus, which she enjoyed more if her partner was menstruating. At school, she'd been expelled for molesting girls. She had 'Hitler-like powers' to control people and had mastered the art of hypnosis. She indulged in a spot of S&M and liked to force her lovers to wear collars and be her slave.

For weeks we heard excruciating psychobabble about her 'multiple personality syndrome' - a popular wheeze at the time with lawyers who knew they were clutching at straws. Wigginton, a shrink asserted, had four personalities: Bobby, the bloodthirsty and callous killer, Big Tracey, a tough but kind-hearted salt of the earth type who was horrified by the murder, Little Tracey, an innocent child, and The Observer, who watched the others dispassionately. In Matlock mode, the silks sashayed and blustered, showily carving off each fresh morsel from the funny farm, emoting and enunciating like summer stock hams.

More? You want more? As the killers had searched for their victim, they cruised Brisbane's midnight streets in the sine qua non of the suburban family, a Holden Commodore sedan. As they prowled, they grooved to the freaky funk of Prince's Batdance. The hits just kept on coming. It was the story that kept on giving. The yarns practically wrote themselves.

Now Wigginton was an imposing specimen and certainly no shrinking violet. Edging six feet tall, built like a masonry outhouse, with cropped black hair and unblinking black eyes to match. I remember those eyes well, because every so often - especially on days when the paper's headline had been unusually lurid or not to her liking - she would slowly swivel her fearsome bulk and fix me with a withering gaze. Sitting in the public gallery and giving me the ceaseless stink-eye was a glowering posse of her fellow swamp creatures and camp followers. As the trial neared its end and a moral panic gripped the city, these women became increasingly angry. Due to my paper's ubiquity, I was the chief target of their ire.

During the frequent and prolonged breaks for legal argument (which could not be reported and thus precipitated mad rushes for the phones to file copy) some of these women would sidle up to me and issue veiled (or sometimes bare-faced) threats. We know where you live, they'd smirk. How's your wife, they'd leer. You're a poofter, aren't you, they'd bluster, which was pretty rich coming from a bunch of rug munchers. Fucken journalists. You're all scum. What about writing the truth for a change? Why do you fucken hate Tracy? What'd she ever do to you, ya dickhead.

I laughed it off for the most part. I wasn't exactly dodging bullets in the Middle East, where the first Gulf War was winding down. I figured I could handle a few Addams Family rejects. Depending on my mood, I would either ignore them, ask them what Robert Smith was wearing since they'd stolen all his clothes, or suggest that since it was another dreaded sunny day, they might be better off at the cemetery gates (although I suspected Anton La Vey and Aleister Crowley would be more their speed than Keats and Yeats). Eventually a verdict was reached. Wigginton and her lover got life. One woman got 18 years. The youngest was acquitted. There followed a flurry of purple prosed features, hectoring editorials and hand-wringing think pieces. Within weeks of the trial's end, one enterprising scribe had already turned a quickie book around (putting paid to any vague fantasies of my own to literarily leverage the lesbian vampires). Life went on, not least for Tracey Wigginton. End of story.

Except that a couple of weeks later, my then wife, who managed a busy branch of a woman's fashion chain, noticed a tall, fat and slightly crazed looking woman clad in full Goth regalia staring daggers at her from across the street. She unlocked the store and began the morning rituals, somewhat unnerved by scowling Swampy and her unmistakably bad vibes. Seconds later, Swampy enters the store, grabs a frock that wouldn't even fit around one of her legs and barges past the bemused staff, making a beeline for the changing rooms. My wife paused, shrugged, and then went about her business. But so did Swampy.

After what seemed like a suspiciously long time to be locked in a changing room, Swampy erupted from the cubicle, door banging in her wake, and bolted for the front door like a bat out of hell. As Swampy dipped her prop forward's shoulder and blasted through the heavy glass, there came a blood curdling scream from the back.

An ashen-faced employee was holding the changing room door with one hand, and her nose with the other. Coiled with almost artistic precision, dead centre of the changing room, was what my wife described as the most enormous poo she had ever seen. So big it seemed scarcely human.

Then again, perhaps it wasn't.


  1. Nice read. I vaguely remember the story of that turd! Now where's the Colonel!

  2. Do you think anyone will get the joke in the first caption?

  3. I didn't even get it... tequila... tequila... nope. Drawing a blank.

  4. Changed it. A bit too obscure ...