August 27, 2007
– Detectives who worked on the homicide case of Mersina Halvagis have praised today’s sentencing of serial killer Peter Dupas as “a proper sentence”.
Dupas was today sentenced to a life sentence with no minimum term for the 25-year-old’s stabbing murder at Fawkner Cemetery 10 years ago.
Speaking outside the Supreme Court after Justice Philip Cummins handed down his sentence, homicide squad Detective Senior Sergeant Jeff Maher said police was pleased with the outcome.
“I’m very pleased for the Halvagis family, they have gone through a lot over the last decade and it’s good to have a conclusion,” Detective Maher said.
“The sentence handed down by the judge reflected community expectations.”
Detective Maher also paid tribute to his fellow police investigators for the Dupas conviction.
“Greg Hough and Paul Scarlett worked very hard on the investigation and … the proof was seen today, with a right and proper sentence.”
Dupas, 54, was found guilty of Ms Halvagis’ murder earlier this month after a 22-day trial that included testimony from a woman who said she had seen him at Fawkner Cemetery on the day Ms Halvagis was murdered.
Dupas pleaded not guilty to the murder.
Dubbed Victoria’s worst serial sex killer, Dupas is already serving a double life sentence with no minimum term for the murders of Nicole Patterson in 1999 and Margaret Maher in 1997, and remains the prime suspect in the murders of three other women.
‘You are a psychopath’
Today’s sentencing ends a decade-long police investigation and family campaign for justice after Ms Halvagis, 25, was found murdered near her grandmother’s grave by her fiance on November 2, 1997.
In sentencing Dupas, Justice Cummins called for changes to the sentencing act to give more weight to the rights of victims of crime.
He described the trial as a “vindication of the rights of Ms Halvagis” and of all victims of crime.
Justice Cummins noted that Dupas had no remorse for his crime and no prospect of rehabilitation.
“You do not suffer from any mental illness,” he said.
“Rather, you are a psychopath driven by a hatred of women.
“For the murder of Mersina Halvagis I sentence you to life imprisonment. I refuse to set any minimum term. Life means life.”
Justice Cummins said Ms Halvagis actions on the day of her murder were typical of her devotion, goodness and consideration for others.
Addressing Dupas, he said: “Your presence at the cemetery was typical of your evil: cunning, predatory and homicidal.”
“You’re a strong man with strong arms and hands. Ms Halvagis was but 45 kilograms in weight and 150 centimetres in height.
He described the attack as “swift, savage and brutal”.
Dupas inflicted 33 stab wounds on his victim, breaking Ms Halvagis’ bones, passing through her lungs, penetrating her neck and cutting through her heart.
But Justice Cummins said Dupas’ cunning had brought him undone.
During the trial, witness Andrew Fraser, who had shared a cell with Dupas at Port Phillip Prison, showed the court a re-enactment of how he said Dupas silently “pantomimed” the stabbing of Ms Halvagis.
On other occasions, Dupas allegedly told Mr Fraser he left “no forensics” at Fawkner.
“You left no forensics at Fawkner – words which would come back to haunt you.”
Killer showed little reaction
During sentencing Dupas showed little reaction, apart from the occasional grimace and when star witness Andrew Fraser’s name was mentioned he appeared to roll his eyes towards the ceiling.
At the end of sentencing he rose, adjusted his jacket and was led from the court
A TV camera was allowed into the court today to film the sentencing.
Justice Philip Cummins allowed a single camera into the court, with the footage to be distributed to online and TV outlets.
The first televised sentence occurred in 1995 when Nathan John Avent was sentenced for the murder of a 10-year-old boy with a tomahawk.
Outside court, homicide detective Senior Sergeant Jeff Maher said he was pleased with today’s sentence.
“The sentence and the sentencing reflected community expectations,” he said.
While Dupas is also the prime suspect in the murders of three other women – Helen McMahon, Renita Brunton and Kathleen Downes – today’s sentencing may bring some closure for the Halvagis family.
Ms Halvagis’ father George has spent the past decade fronting a very public campaign for information about his daughter’s killer.
Earlier this month, Ms Halvagis’ brother Nick said he was relieved at the guilty verdict handed to Dupas but said the family felt her absence every day.
“You might be going to work and you hear a song that has no relevance to your sister, but you (think of her),” he said.
“Her death was a very small part of her existence. We are going to do our best to remember those 25 years.” – Dan Harrison with Reko Rennie & Peter Gregory