In the 1980s, Lance Williams went from being a lowly public servant, to the man suspected of committing one of the most shocking crimes in recent memory – the Claremont serial killings.
While the now 59-year-old was ultimately cleared as a person of interest in 2008, his mother (who asked not to be named) says the experience has scarred him for life.
“He still suffers from anxiety,” she told Perth Now. “He used to be in a terrible state. Even up to a few years ago he thought people were still following him around the place.”
The killings, which occurred in the mid-1990s, paralysed Perth. Three young women vanished within the space of just 14 months after nights out in the same affluent suburb; the remains of two later discovered dumped outside the city, the other never found.
What followed was one of the longest and most expensive police investigations in Australian history, culminating in the December 23 arrest of Bradley Robert Edwards, 48 – a man who had not previously been connected to the case.
After previously targeting Williams, a former Claremont mayor and a taxi driver, police believe they finally have their man.
But 19 years on, the pain persists for Williams. The single man became a suspect 1997 after he offered a lift to a female undercover officer who asked him for directions to a bus stop.
According to Bret Christian, Perth newspaper proprietor and author of a book on the case, it’s believed she was dressed as a ‘party girl’ as part of a sting operation to catch the Claremont killer.
“She was wired and Williams dropped her off three or four kilometres down the road and that was it – police thought ‘he’s the bloke picking girls up’ and they became more and more convinced he fit the profile of the killer, which turns out to be all complete bulls**t of course,” he told news.com.au.
Williams' mother says he was questioned for 24 hours, his clothes taken for forensic testing. Then in the years that followed, their property was raided three times, their back patio dug up, their house bugged, their other son questioned.
For close to two years police sat outside the family home, watching Williams, observing his movements.
'They’d sit there from a Friday night, when he came home at five o’clock. They’d be sitting outside there until Monday morning and following him off to work again," Mrs Williams said. "He’s had a terrible life over it."
Yet Williams' father told Perth Now neither Lance nor the rest of the family have received an apology from police for the way they were treated. “You can forgive," he said, "but you can’t forget."