Woman's Day (Australia)

‘My real mum fell victim to a serial killer’

This Adelaide woman was shattered to discover her mother had been murdered

- writes KRISTINE TARBERT

When Niki Lamb decided she wanted to find her birth mother, she was filled with anticipati­on and hope, imagining how they’d make up for lost time when finally reunited.

Yet her investigat­ions led to a shocking discovery. Niki’s biological mum Deborah Lamb was not only dead, but had been the seventh murder victim in the Truro serial killings – raped, then buried alive.

“I thought I’d have the chance to meet her, maybe ask some questions,” says Niki, who put in an enquiry with the Adoption and Family Informatio­n Service of South Australia. For eight long weeks she waited anxiously, until she finally got a call to come in.

“I knew something wasn’t right,” she recalls. “The minute I walked i in, the case officer said ‘You’re th the baby from the pictures in the papers’,pap ” says Niki, now 41.

Curious, she asked them to elaborate. “That’s when she told me my mother was one of the Truro victims, and had been raped and murdered. She put the file, which was about an inch and a half thick, in my hand and said the library was down the road, and I could find more informatio­n there. I was stunned.”

One of Australia’s worst serial killings, the Truro murders took place over eight weeks between December 23, 1976, and February 12, 1977, when seven young women and girls were raped and murdered.

The spree only ended by chance when killer Christophe­r Worrell, 23, died in a car accident just seven days after Deborah’s murder.

But he didn’t work alone. Police discovered he’d had an accomplice – James William Miller. The pair met in prison, where homosexual Miller reportedly fell under Worrell’s spell. Once the men were released, they began cruising the streets every night, looking for women for Worrell.

Miller would then drive them to a secluded place, where Worrell would have sex with the women, while Miller waited outside the car. But the “pick-ups” became more and more terrifying. First, Worrell began raping the women. Then he began killing them.

The ripple effect of these horrific murders was felt across the state for years. “Every kid my age, especially teenage girls, were told, ‘Don’t get into a car with a stranger, you’ll end up like the Truro girls,” says Niki, who was growing up with her adoptive parents in Glenelg at the time.

Flicking through newspaper articles of the crimes, Niki says she still has nightmares about what happened to her mother.

When 20-year-old Deborah fell pregnant with her fiance, her parents told her she was too young to raise a child – and convinced her to give Niki up for adoption.

It was just months later when Deborah was waiting at a bus stop that Worrell and Miller, posing as father and son, offered her a lift. They drove to Port Gawler, where Miller left her alone with Worrell. He told detectives that when he returned 30 minutes later Worrell was burying Deborah in sand next to the car, scraping dirt with his hands to cover her body.

“Everything was so graphic in the papers back then… It was horrific to read and to this day I still haven’t really processed it.”

Although the bodies of four victims – Veronica Knight, Sylvia Pittman, Connie Iordanides and Vicki Howell – had been found in Truro, for years the whereabout­s of Deborah’s body, and those of Julie Mykyta and Tania Kenny, remained a mystery.

Miller, suffering from depression after Worrell’s death, told a female friend about the murders and she eventually gave him up to police. On May 23, 1979, Miller finally cracked and revealed the location of the final three victims, including

‘Everything was so graphic in the papers then… it was horrific’

Niki’s mum. All the victims had been strangled, although there remains a strong suspicion Deborah was alive when buried.

“I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since reading that,” says Niki, who lives with her daughter*, 16, and 13-year-old son* in Hove, SA.

She feels robbed of birthdays and Christmase­s with her mum and is devastated her children will never meet their grandmothe­r.

“‘I love you’ is a very simple sentence people take for granted, and I’ll never have that from my mum. I only have one image of her holding me before she gave me up – a photocopy from the newspaper,” she says.

Niki reveals she wouldn’t have survived the shock of finding out the truth if it wasn’t for the support of her “amazing” adoptive parents, who’d given her a wonderful childhood – one Deborah would’ve been proud of.

“For six months she did one hell of a job trying to raise me by herself before she gave me up so I could have a better life,” she says.

Despite the trauma, Niki has been able to meet Deborah’s extended family, and was even contacted by her birth father, who tracked her down eight years ago.

“He’s a lovely guy. I even have half-brothers and sisters,” she says.

The stay-at-home mum says she feels blessed to be able to enjoy watching her own two kids grow.

“They are my everything, my world. It’s sad, but I’ve already lived 20 years longer than my mum; I’ve been given a gift that she wasn’t.”

 ??  ?? Police sift through Deborah’s grave – she was a victim of the Truro murders in the late ’70s.
Police sift through Deborah’s grave – she was a victim of the Truro murders in the late ’70s.
 ??  ?? “I only have one image of her holding me before she gave me up – a photocopy from the newspaper,” says Niki of her birth mum Deborah.
“I only have one image of her holding me before she gave me up – a photocopy from the newspaper,” says Niki of her birth mum Deborah.

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