MAKING OF A MURDERER
INSIDE STORY OF HOW JEMMA LILLEY BECAME A DEPRAVED KILLER
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.
Roland Hulka is a friend of Lilley and her father.
Jemma Lilley grew up in Britain before moving to Perth.