Peter Keogh’s horror past outlined in Maria James inquest
The brother of a woman killed by her monster ex-partner has shared why he thinks the man could have killed a different woman seven years earlier.
Phil Cleary’s sister Vicki Cleary was only 25 when she was repeatedly stabbed at a kindergarten by her abusive ex Peter Keogh, who spent less than four years in prison for the crime.
Mr Cleary told the Coroner’s Court of Victoria on Monday he had uncovered evidence that suggested Peter Keogh also could have killed Maria James, who was stabbed 68 times behind her Thornbury bookshop in 1980 – seven years before Keogh fatally stabbed Ms Cleary.
Mr Cleary said that after his sister left Keogh she claimed he told her something chilling.
“I’ll do the same to you that I did to the bookshop woman,” he was told Keogh said.
Keogh’s psychologist and social worker called police two months after Mrs James’s murder and told them she thought Keogh did it, Mr Cleary said.
The social worker told police Keogh was a “woman-hater”.
There is no evidence Keogh and Mrs James had ever met, but they lived in the same small area and he was “capable of the kind of barbarism” that killed Mrs James, Mr Cleary said.
On the morning of August 26, 1987, Keogh waited for Ms Cleary to arrive at the kindergarten where she worked, violently attacked her with a knife, and left her body in the gutter.
He spent less than four years in jail for the killing because he used the now-defunct “provocation defence”.
The jury found he was not “a master of his mind” because Ms Cleary had left him.
It acquitted him of murder and convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Keogh learned Ms Cleary was living with another man two months after their break-up.
He “felt let down and angry”, Supreme Court judge George Hampel said when sentencing Keogh to a maximum eight years’ prison.
He served three years and 11 months before being freed into the community.
Mr Cleary also outlined Keogh’s history of violence to the court on Monday, which he had researched after his sister’s murder.
“I was interested in the justice system’s treatment of my sister, and women generally,” he said.
In 1963, Keogh held a knife to a woman’s stomach at a train station and told her to undress, and was shot in the leg by a police officer who rescued the woman.
In 1966 he was a person of interest in the bashing death of an elderly man.
In 1970 he bashed and attempted to rape a woman in the middle of the day at her Coburg home in a terrifying attack, for which he was convicted of breaking and entering, the court heard last week.
In the 1970s he was jailed for sexually assaulting young girls in the street in Northcote, including a nine-year-old, the court heard.
In the ’80s Keogh raped the sister of a woman he was dating, Mr Cleary said.
When a woman broke up with him, Keogh hid in a cupboard and then burst out, attacking her with a knife in front of her daughter, the court heard.
In 2000 Keogh told his girlfriend’s insurance company she planned to burn her house down and then set it alight himself, causing her to be investigated, the court heard.
Mr Cleary had called the police integrity unit and the arson squad in an attempt to get the matter investigated, he said.
“What do we do in a civil society when a woman’s home is burned down by the bloke that murdered your sister?” he said.
“I remember saying to the arson squad: ‘What are you doing? Is this bloke going to be charged?’”
“I’ve had calls from women who were raped by Peter Keogh who were not known to him.
“Keogh’s modus operandi was that any woman was fair game.”
He committed suicide in 2001.
Keogh is one of six persons of interest in the Maria James inquest, which continues Tuesday.
Originally published as Peter Keogh’s horror past outlined in Maria James inquest
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