The West Australian - - FRONT PAGE - Tim Clarke re­ports

How does a sparky, bright-eyed eight-yearold with mu­sic in her fin­gers and art in her soul be­come a heart­less, sadis­tic mur­derer with an as­pi­ra­tion to be­come a se­rial killer?

For Roland Hulka — who watched Jemma Lil­ley grow up, put her up in his home and helped her move into and ren­o­vate her own house and vis­ited her in prison nu­mer­ous times — it is hard to rec­on­cile the girl he knew with the woman she be­came.

But this week, as he watched Lil­ley la­belled as one of the State’s worst killers when she was jailed for life, the re­al­i­sa­tion he had been a fa­ther fig­ure and friend to a mon­ster fi­nally hit home. And it hurt.

“Af­ter sit­ting in on that trial I would have found her guilty,” Mr Hulka said. “It was pretty com­pelling.

“Here is a girl with out­stand­ing tal­ents and artis­tic qual­i­ties. Draw­ing and tat­too­ing and a very high IQ.

“Be­fore all this hap­pened I was ac­tu­ally proud of her, proud to know her and of her tal­ents. She used to call me her Aus­tralian fa­ther.

“But you can’t dis­miss the ev­i­dence that came through at the trial — there was too much that was damn­ing.”

It is an in­sight that is fas­ci­nat­ing and dis­turb­ing. An­other layer to one of the most hor­rific crimes in modern WA his­tory — the genesis of which be­gan on the other side of the world two decades ago.

The Bri­tish town of Stam­ford in Lin­colnshire is lined with honey-stone streets and dot­ted with five me­dieval churches.

It is so mid­dle Eng­land that it has been used as a back­drop for pe­riod dra­mas such as Mid­dle­march and Pride and Prej­u­dice, and so pic­turesque it was named the best place to live in Bri­tain by the Sun­day Times.

It is where Mr Hulka was raised and went to school with Richard Lil­ley, who mar­ried and had sev­eral chil­dren, in­clud­ing Jemma Lil­ley.

Mr Hulka moved to WA in 1986 but stayed in touch with his friend and on a trip back to the old coun­try in 1999 first met his daugh­ter.

“She seemed quite a happy sort of girl,” he said. “She was play­ing the pi­ano the first time I walked in the front room, there she was

away. There was noth­ing out of the or­di­nary.”

On the sur­face at least, be­cause there was al­ready a dark past shap­ing Lil­ley.

Di­ag­nosed with dys­lexia and autism aged six, she still had a bet­ter-than-av­er­age per­for­mance at school.

At home though, there was a fa­ther work­ing long hours, and a mother with men­tal health is­sues which led to re­ported fre­quent phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal

abuse of her chil­dren. There was a break-up, and cus­tody for Mr Lil­ley.

There were scars. “Richard ac­tu­ally dis­tanced Jemma from her mother, be­cause of the trauma she had gone through,” Mr Hulka said.

“Richard put a co­coon around her . . . but I don’t think the motherly, fe­male in­flu­ence was there.”

It still wasn’t when Lil­ley moved to Perth on a work­ing visa as an 18-year-old, havtin­kling

ing stud­ied art and com­puter game de­sign at col­lege.

Mr Hulka was asked by his old friend if she could stay with him in Fre­man­tle. He agreed.

But when she got here, Lil­ley was not the bright girl he had first met.

“She seemed a lot dif­fer­ent when she came over,” Mr Hulka said. “She had lost that glow and that smile. It was daunt­ing, and at one stage a lit­tle bit creepy — she was a stranger in a strange land.”

Lil­ley was be­com­ing stranger in her own land, too.

Ac­cord­ing to those close to the fam­ily in Bri­tain, Mr Lil­ley’s new part­ner, Nina, who he had met and mar­ried a cou­ple of years ear­lier, was ter­ri­fied — and be­ing ter­rorised — by a teenager ob­sessed with se­rial killers, tor­ture and death.

Speak­ing to me­dia in Bri­tain af­ter the con­vic­tion, Nina said she knew her step­daugh­ter needed help. “She al­ways had an ob­ses­sion with se­rial killers as a teenager, but she said it was a way of vent­ing her frus­tra­tion,” she said.

“I re­gret I wasn’t more force­ful in get­ting her to get help.

“It seemed to es­ca­late be­fore she left for Aus­tralia. She got so ob­sessed by the book that even pre­par­ing to go to an­other coun­try got side­lined.”

The book was Play­zone, an idea for a com­puter game which had ger­mi­nated in Lil­ley’s head.

It re­volved around a se­rial killer called SOS, his fol­low­ers called mag­gots, and their de­sire to kill for plea­sure.

She read sec­tions of the book aloud at home and wore a bizarre mask which fea­tured on the cover of the self-pub­lished novel.

“I used to feel trapped when she was here — so I left,” Nina told the Bri­tish press. It was around the same time that Lil­ley came to WA.

Mr Hulka said: “The in­ter­est in hor­ror, and se­rial killers es­pe­cially, was there. She was proud of her book and ex­pected every­one else to have an in­ter­est in it. But I think it was of the devil.”

Lil­ley found work at a north­ern sub­urbs tat­too par­lour and at Wool­worths. She worked days at one and nights at the other.

She loved mo­tor­cy­cles and played pool in Fre­man­tle. When she moved out of Mr Hulka’s house af­ter eight months to live with her su­per­vi­sor and that woman’s brother, Gor­don Gal­braith, Mr Hulka thought she was still naive, but not dan­ger­ous.

A mar­riage — and a Freddy Krueger-themed wed­ding — to Gor­don, a gay man with whom Lil­ley said she had no sex­ual con­tact with, al­lowed her to gain her per­ma­nent Aus­tralian res­i­dency.

But ac­cord­ing to Mr Hulka, she did not want to use it.

The liv­ing ar­range­ments fell apart along with the mar­riage and Gor­don took his own life in Au­gust 2014.

“She went across to Eng­land for a hol­i­day, and didn’t want to come back to Aus­tralia, but her fa­ther pushed her to come back,” Mr Hulka said.

“I think if there were dif­fer­ent choices made . . . none of this would have hap­pened.”

It was upon her re­turn that Lil­ley bought the house in Broughton Way, Ore­lia, with some fi­nan­cial help from Mr Hulka. He also helped her move and ren­o­vate.

But he knew noth­ing of Lil­ley’s in­creas­ingly de­praved fan­tasies, nor her fast friend­ship with mother-of-three Trudi Lenon — the type of older woman who had been so ab­sent from most of her life.

Nei­ther did Mr Hulka know any­thing of the dis­ap­pear­ance of young Aaron Pa­jich-Sweet­man in June 2016. It hap­pened while he was on an­other trip to Bri­tain.

He be­came aware of the case when his daugh­ter rang to say Lil­ley had been ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of the young man’s mur­der.

“To ac­tu­ally learn a young lady . . . that was very sim­i­lar to a daugh­ter had been ac­cused of mur­der — I couldn’t be­lieve it,” Mr Hulka said.

“I was the per­son who had to tell Richard. He was as­tounded, he went to pieces ac­tu­ally. It is a hell of a thing to have to tell some­one.”

Dur­ing nu­mer­ous pre-trial prison vis­its Lil­ley in­sisted she was in­no­cent.

“Ob­vi­ously the first ques­tion I asked was, ‘Did she do it?’,” Mr Hulka said. “She said she didn’t, and I gave her the ben­e­fit of the doubt.

“She was very blase and was not stress­ing out that much. She came across as if she was telling the truth.”

But she wasn’t, which be­came plain to Mr Hulka as he sat through days of har­row­ing ev­i­dence in court.

The guilty ver­dict took just over two hours. Mr Hulka’s re­al­i­sa­tion took a lit­tle longer.

“I have seen her once af­ter the trial, she was in tears,” he said. “And I told her, ‘I think you did it’. And she couldn’t look me in the eye.”

Jemma Lil­ley with her fa­ther, Richard, right, at her wed­ding to Gor­don Gal­braith, left, and the two with their wed­ding cer­tifi­cate.

Greet­ings from the Freddy Krueger char­ac­ter. A signed pic­ture to Jemma Lil­ley from Robert Englund and, left, his sig­na­ture in a tat­too on Lil­ley. Jemma Lil­ley’s art­work.

Pic­ture: Ian Munro

Roland Hulka is a friend of Lil­ley and her fa­ther.

Jemma Lil­ley grew up in Bri­tain be­fore mov­ing to Perth.

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