I KNOW THE BALACLAVA KILLER
Tradie’s stunning claim 38 years after crimes that shook the Coast
A RETIRED tradie has dropped a bombshell 38 years after the Balaclava Rapist who terrorised the Gold Coast and Tweed went to the next level of evil and shot a man dead.
Frank De Michiel has told how a man who visited his home for Christmas drinks sneaked back late one night and was crouching beside his wife. Spooked, the intruder bolted. Mr De Michiel realised the man matched descriptions of the killer and alerted police, but heard nothing back.
“I KNOW who the balaclava killer is,” a male voice whispers down the phone.
“He was in my house.” Almost 38 years to the day since one of Australia’s most notorious rapists went to the next level of evil on February 2, 1980, and shot a man dead on the Gold Coast, a retired bricklayer has decided to go public because he believes he has the key to the city’s most infamous cold case.
Father-of-three Frank De Michiel has told how he woke one hot summer night at his Burleigh Heads home in December 1980 – 10 months after the murder – to find a man crouched on the floor beside his wife, who was also in bed.
He says he recognised the man as he pursued him, believing he had been a visitor to his house for Christmas drinks.
Now aged 71 and no longer living on the Gold Coast, Mr De Michiel says he told police at the time but after years of hearing nothing back, wants to share his story in the hope surviving rape victims and the family of the murdered man, Jeffrey Parkinson, might finally see the monster brought to justice.
In another development, a retired assistant police commissioner and former detective, Eric Strong, has revealed vital DNA evidence that could have identified the rapist was disposed of by someone at Lismore Police Station years after the detective stopped working on the case in the early 1980s.
IT was early December 1979 when a woman was abducted at gunpoint from her Gold Coast home. She was driven from Tugun into the hinterland and raped before being left in the boot of her car. She was rescued when passers-by heard her screams.
“The woman taken from Tugun was a cleaner at one of the clubs and she was due to go to work (when he entered the home),” Mr Strong recalls of the first in what would become a series of rapes.
“She was reading and he came in and he took the book off her. He took her way up into the hills and raped her up there and then he put her back into the boot of the car.
“He has always been very polite and well spoken and he wrapped up a rug or something to put under her head, the mongrel, and then took her in the car to a beach somewhere near Tugun and left her in the boot.
“She could have died there but she yelled out.”
In the following weeks, two couples were assaulted and restrained by a masked man. Each time, the attacker bound the man’s hands and raped the woman in his presence.
Another couple were confronted in their home in early 1980 but after forcing the woman to bind her husband’s hands, the rapist left when they pleaded the woman was pregnant.
Every victim described the attacker the same way – an athletic man with steely blue eyes and bushy eyebrows. Many said he smelt of motor oil.
“It was the first woman that detected the smell on him and later during the investigation the council were laying bitumen outside her house and she phoned to say it smelt something like that,” Mr Strong said.
Police would later recount that from the very first rape, they knew the attacker would strike again. On February 2, 1980, things heightened.
A Brisbane couple who were in a car at Twin Towns were approached by a masked man but the male, Jeffrey Parkinson, 33, fought back.
The killer ordered Mr Parkinson to drive to a secluded riverside reserve at Cobaki Creek before the 33-year-old launched himself at the armed man. A struggle followed but the 29year-old woman was able to open the car door. She fled in terror after Mr Parkinson told her to “run” with the sound of gunshots behind her.
His body was found beside the abandoned car after being shot several times.
THERE was one more rape in Burleigh Heads in October 1980 in which a woman was threatened with a sawn-off rifle.
Police never heard of the balaclava killer striking again.
But Mr De Michiel thinks differently.
He believes a man who was dating a friend, who visited his house for Christmas drinks in December 1980, was the killer.
Mr De Michiel believes it was the same man who later turned up at their Burleigh Heads home in the middle of the night, crept into their bedroom and was on the floor on his wife’s side of the bed when the couple spotted him.
“It was a really hot night and I remember the blankets were draping over the floor a little bit,” he said. “It was about 3am and I was awake, just lying there awake, and I heard a door handle click.”
The couple had three young daughters. He remembered feeling a “bit guilty” for not getting out of bed to see if one of the girls had woken with a fright.
“I didn’t realise my wife was awake too but then she whispered ‘There is a man there’,” he said. “He was hunched on the floor beside the bed next to my wife. I jumped out of bed but stumbled on the blankets and that gave the intruder the chance to jump to his feet and bolt. I was running down the hallway to the back door and it clicked to let him run away.”
Mr De Michiel told police at the time but all these years later still believes the rapist and murderer was the man who had come for drinks some days earlier. “I didn’t know it when I was chasing him but when it all cooled down, I realised who it was. There are so many point- ers that lead me to believe it was this guy.
“He told me he was a pig shooter, so he had access to guns. He was very apologetic toward my wife, like the killer was. He drove a motorbike. He also lived in the hinterland, where the first woman was taken to be raped. We also told him that we never locked the back door.
“All these years I’ve wanted to get to the bottom of it because everyone says it’s a mystery but my wife and I know who it is.”
The retired bricklayer, now in his 70s, said he wanted to share his story for the “victims and Jeffrey Parkinson’s son”.
“I have contacted the police and it hasn’t been solved. There is a guy out there that never had a chance to grow up with a father. I would just like him to know because it’s still a mystery.”
NEARLY four decades on, Mr Strong, 85, says the case still “niggles” at him and he believes it could have been
solved had crucial rape exhibits not been lost.
“All the way it’s been bungled and destroyed and there has been a lot that’s gone on,” he said. “We had the exhibits at Lismore (Police Station) and some new broom came in and destroyed them. Those were the rape exhibits and the night of the murder was not a rape, it hadn’t reached that fatal degree, but I think if we’d had those we would have (matched the suspect) to the murder.
“It’s one we should have won and we haven’t. But I think for the benefit of the public, he is locked up. Either that or he’s dead, because he’s of such a nature that he would just continue, which I think he did.”
DURING the investigation more than 5000 motorcyclists were investigated and hundreds of people had their blood samples taken, but the case came up with more dead ends than open windows, Mr Strong said.
“It just went on and on and on because he was such an obvious bloke as each of the victims identified the fella the same. One woman said he had the balaclava on and he had his hair (sticking out) above. She could describe it exactly – that he had black hair with auburn tips.
“We had another lady we put under hypnotherapy who we thought was most impressive and she saw a particular vehicle and could describe the numberplate under hypnosis.
“She thought it had a number five in it and we chased it down with a car in South Australia but that wasn’t it.”
Mr Strong said investigators managed to track down the firearm they believed was used by the balaclava killer to a gun shop at West Burleigh.
“He kept records, which was not done in Queensland, but he was a Sydney bloke and described the man the same and said there was another fella with him. He gave an address that was over near West Burleigh. It was a false address but it wasn’t far from a suspect’s home. So we failed.”
Despite never charging anyone for the chilling rapes and murder, police came close.
“We saw a bloke with a bullet in his leg and he’d been out west somewhere, so he said, and he had a sawn-off rifle,” Mr Strong said.
“We had a young fellow and his family had him spirited away in a safe house somewhere and that was a big organised thing one morning ... but it wasn’t him.”
THE last reported rape, at Burleigh Heads in October 1980 after Mr Parkinson was murdered, was “very similar” but Mr Strong was never convinced the balaclava rapist was responsible.
“All the others, they had been held up, some in their homes and some in cars,” he said. “In the last one, the girl came home at 2am or something like that, and I think he was probably on top of the roof.
“I don’t know if he had the balaclava on. Some disagreed with me and said it had to be him but I thought after he murdered that person, he went away.”
QUEENSLAND and NSW police both declined to comment when the name of the man Mr Di Michiel believed visited his home was put to them by the Gold Coast Bulletin. They also declined to discuss other suspects or persons of interest.
Queensland police said the investigation remained active and was being reviewed.
“The investigation into the 1979 rapes ... currently remains as an unsolved ‘cold case’ held by the Child Abuse and Sexual Crime Group, State Crime Command,” a Queensland police spokesman said.
“As part of core business, Child Abuse and Sexual Crime Group detectives regularly review cold case matters and respond to new or existing information. The balaclava rapist investigation is currently being reviewed.”
Detectives in 1980 examining the murder scene where the
body of Jeffrey Parkinson (left) was found. Right: A mock-up of the balaclava killer suspect.