real life

Ivan Milat isn't the most feared Australian criminal. Rebecca Butterfield is.

Ivan Milat, the notorious ‘Backpacker Killer’, is not the most feared person in prison. Nor is it Martin Bryant – the man who went on a killing spree in Port Arthur, claiming 35 lives in what was the worst ever mass shooting in the world at the time. No, the one who needs chains, leather straps and a full-time posse of guards is not even a man.

The most dangerous inmate in Australia is Rebecca Butterfield – a self- mutilating murderer infamous for slicing guards, inmates and herself. And for the very first time, we can reveal the full details of the jailhouse slaughter that saw her become the first inmate to be kept locked up indefinitely under a controversial new law. Meet Australia’s worst inmate, the first woman to ever have her file marked ‘too dangerous to be released’.

***

Rebecca Butterfield looked across the yard, eyes firmly focused, finger raised.

‘Who’s that?’ she asked.

‘Her?’ Jill, a 28-year- old newcomer, already a veteran of the NSW corrections system, shrugged.

‘That’s Lou.’

Butterfield said nothing. Instead, she simply sat and silently stared. The woman who had caught her eye was Bluce Lim- Ward. Bluce was considered a model inmate and had not so much as had an argument since being sent to the softest slammer in Sydney.

‘She’s cute,’ Butterfield said, finally breaking her silence.

The big girl licked her lips.

‘It was a fatal attraction,’ Jill said. ‘A real-life fatal attraction.’

Yep, a deadly infatuation involving mimicry, menace and finally murder.

‘Lou was a sweetheart,’ said Jill. ‘She was only in there for something very minor, and she was getting ready to go home when Rebecca came into the jail. It was really f*cking strange what happened. There was no reason for it at all. Rebecca took to her straightaway. She started asking all these questions about her first before actually finding the courage to go and talk to her.’

Lim-Ward was immediately kind to Butterfield. She suspected nothing. And why would she? Lou was a wallflower. A pretty little thing who liked to cook and water the garden.

‘I don’t know what Rebecca’s intentions were to this day. I don’t know why she formed this thing for Lou. Maybe she wanted to have a relationship with her? Something sexual? She could have been that type. But it was definitely a fatal attraction. Shit got really weird, really quick.’

It started with singlets, shorts and hairstyles.

‘She began doing her hair the same as Lou,’ Jill said. ‘If Lou wore it up, then Rebecca did also.

It wasn’t much at first, but we noticed. She started parting her hair to the same side as Lou, cut it to the same length.’

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And then came the clothes.

‘We don’t have too many dress options in jail. But if Lou came out wearing a white singlet and Rebecca had on green, Rebecca would rush in and get changed into a white one too.’

Lim-Ward was oblivious to the threat this woman posed. She embraced Rebecca, thinking that she had a kind, new friend. An admirer?

‘Lou didn’t have a bad bone in her body,’ Jill said.

‘She’d worked as the assistant of industries. She wasn’t a drug user or a fighter. She wasn’t anyone who demanded attention. She was a real good cook and liked to work. I remember having a big talk to her about her future, and she was going to go back to the Philippines to spend time with her family and start her life over.’

But she would never get the chance.

Rebecca waited . . . her knitting keeping her busy until it was time to kill.

‘I’ll never forget that day,’ Jill said. ‘She spent the morning knitting. She liked to knit. She did that until all the girls from industries came home from work. We lived in these little houses. We were in stage two, so we could come and go as we pleased. Rebecca was in the non-smoking house, but she would always go next door to the smoking house. I think it was called
House 11. It was very communal and friendly – not what you’d think a jail would be like.’

Well, at least until Butterfield brandished the knife.

‘She walked in with a huge meat knife in her hand,’ Jill said. ‘Not a steak knife but a much bigger one – like a small meat cleaver. We were all stage two, as I said, and we were allowed to have a knife set in our house. Rebecca had pulled the biggest one out.’

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And now she was steaming towards Lou. She ignored the other girls as she charged in, an unstoppable train carrying a full freight of pain.

‘And then she stabbed Lou,’ Jill said. ‘Right in the back. I heard Lou scream. It was horrible. It’s sending shivers down my spine recalling it now. Oh, how I wish I could forget it.’

Jill, frozen with fear, watched Butterfield tear through Lim-Ward’s skin, into back, bone and bum.

‘There was blood flying everywhere,’ Jill continued.

‘Rebecca just kept on stabbing her in the back. I don’t know how many times she stabbed her. I saw her stab her three or four times before I could even manage to scream.’

Jill, a tiny woman and recovering heroin addict, knew she could not overpower the marauding
behemoth. So she ran.

‘I went straight out of the hut and up to the office to get help,’ Jill said. ‘Another girl ran with me. We screamed as we ran: help, help, help!’

The pair got to the main gate and frantically bashed into the intercom, pressing, pounding and praying for help.

‘But no one answered,’ Jill said. ‘There were no officers in there. There was a big superintendent meeting on that day, and they were all over meeting the mothers with their babies. It took about 40 minutes for an officer to answer the knock-up [prison slang for raising an alarm].’

Bluce Lim-Ward was dead when paramedics arrived, having suffered 33 stab wounds.

Butterfield tried to escape through the laundry when security finally turned up.

‘A disturbing feature of the case is that there was absolutely nothing to suggest the victim did anything to provoke the prisoner,’ said the judge who convicted Butterfield of the murder. ‘Her past history indicates that unprovoked and violent attacks upon others have been part of her criminal history.’

‘We were heartbroken,’ Jill said. ‘We built a little memorial garden for Lou out the back. It was all because Rebecca was jealous of her. Well, that’s what I think. They left the bloodied house untouched for eight weeks. Guys from the South Coast, blokes in periodic detention, ended up being sent up to clean it.’

Butterfield was taken back to Long Bay Correctional Complex, where she spent her days strapped to a bed, thick- gauge leather straps holding down our very own Hannibal Lecter.

‘She’s a disgusting thing,’ Jill said. ‘I have no doubt she’s the most dangerous woman in the system. She would be the most dangerous person in the system. She can never get out. She’s a cold blooded killer and a complete nut.’

This is an edited extract from Green Is the New Black by James Phelps, published by Penguin Random House Australia, available now, RRP $34.99.

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