true crime

"The couple who kidnapped me have been glorified. But they were cowards."

Ghastly, torturous, hideous.

These are just some of the emotive words used to describe notorious serial killers, David and Catherine Birnie.

However, they aren’t the adjectives Kate Moir would choose.

“Calculating, calm and lethal,” she says of the couple who held her captive for 12 hours in their suburban Perth home more than three decades ago.

The mother of three was 17-years-old when she was kidnapped by the Birnies in 1986 and her escape ended a five week murder spree.

Kate had been walking home from a pub in Clairmont when a couple pulled up beside her in a brand new red car.

“Tell your readers to tell their children not to get in a car with a couple,” she said. “There was nothing that made them suspicious.”

Indeed, four other young women had already fallen victim to the same couple, Mary Nielson, Susannah Candy, Noelene Patterson, Denise Brown, aged 22, 15 31 and 21, respectively.

Tragically, none of them survived.

If you read about the Birnies’ crimes online there is a plethora of graphic horror stories but, according to Kate, the reality was much more clinical.

“All the stuff on the web is crap,” she says, “everyone thinks these ghastly, torturous, hideous things happened to me and the victims and they did not.”

In order to “set the record straight” she is writing a book about her experiences, due out early next year.

“They have been sensationalised, glorified and ‘cultified’ … but they were cowards,” she says. “They kept [their victims] in perfectly good conditions so they could murder them later and then they murdered them by giving they sleeping pills.”


A recent photo of Kate with her eldest son. Source: Supplied.

When Kate did manage to escape the Birnies' Willagee home, she ran to the local shopping centre to find help.

"It said that I left naked and weeping," she clarified, "I left the house fully dressed."

Her abductors were arrested soon after and it took less than a day for David Birnie to confess to the four murders, despite police only having circumstantial evidence against him.

He and his wife were awarded four consecutive life sentences. He committed suicide in 2005, but she is still behind bars.

Having now served the minimum non-parole term of 20 years, under WA sentencing laws, Catherine Birnie's case must now be considered by the Prisoners Review Board every three years.

Her fourth bid for parole was rejected in March this year- she had not even applied for it.

Each time Birnie's case comes up Kate must be notified, which she says causes her significant trauma by forcing her to relive an ordeal she desperately wants to forget.

"It feels like it was yesterday," she says.


Catherine Birnie is currently serving four life sentences in Bandyap Women's Prison in Western Australia. Source: Wikipedia

She is currently fighting for significant parole reform in WA, calling on the Attorney-General Michael Mischin to create exceptions to the the mandatory parole consideration if the prisoner does not apply for release.

She would also like to see harsher penalties for murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children.

Kate has launched a Facebook campaign and an online petition, which has already garnered more than 11,000 signatures.

Since doing so, she says she has been contacted by countless other victims, many of whom have "stronger" stories than her own.

"The criminal justice system is flawed. The criminal justice system is weak. The criminal justice system fails us," she says.

For his part, Mischin "acknowledges the concerns felt by victims and their families and is looking at ways to reduce stress felt by the families during statutory reviews of prisoners".

He told the the West Australian earlier this month victims and their families may opt out of being contacted each time a parole review is considered, but the reality is few would.

"I am looking at further ways to improve the process, including legislative amendments," he said.

Kate is now 46 and runs a successful cleaning business in Broome, she studied law and politics at university.

She says wants the Birnies forgotten so she can move on with her life, which is part of the reason she has chosen to speak directly to the media.

She wants to rewrite her story as one of survival rather than victimhood.

"I prefer the term survivor to victim ... Victim is past tense," she says.

"I am reclaiming back my name as Kate Moir."