Richard Dorrough: RAN sailor leaves chilling note that all but confirms ‘double life’ as serial killer
A former Australian Navy sailor who committed suicide has left a chilling note admitting to killing “three times”.
Richard Dorrough, 37, was engaged, had three young children and was working as a diver when he walked into a Perth gun range in 2014 and turned the pistol on himself.
Days later, a package sent by him arrived in the mail for his fiancée with some of his personal belongings, including a book.
On one page he scribbled the note: “I killed three times.”
There was no further explanation, details or apology and he left no mention of who he killed and why.
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But the former HMAS Geelong crewman, described as polite and charming by those who knew him, led a double life with police frustratingly close to locking him up in the past.
His confession was revealed on TV show Under Investigation on Wednesday, with Senator Dorinda Cox, forensic psychologist Dr Sarah Yule, former detective Gary Jubelin and human rights lawyer Dr Hannah McGlade joining host Liz Hayes.
“He didn’t have the courage to make those admissions when he was still alive,” Mr Jubelin said.
“He just kind of hung it out there, which is pretty cruel . . . and send it to his fiancee, what kind of person does that?”
Despite no specifics in his confession, Dorrough is connected to the three young women who were found dead.
Camera icon Richard Dorrough, 37, was engaged, had three young children and was working as a diver when he walked into a Perth gun range in 2014 and turned the pistol on himself. Credit: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian
The first was Sara-Lee Davey, a 21-year-old Indigenous woman who lived in Broome.
Dorrough had only been in the navy for two years and was receiving less-than-favorable evaluations from officers when his ship HMAS Geelong docked at the remote town and he was allowed on shore leave.
He met Davey in the early hours of January 13, 1997, at the Nippon Inn where she was on a night out with friends and convinced her to leave with him.
The two went back to the wharf where his ship was moored and tried to board, but were stopped by the navy seaman on duty.
Dorrough then took Ms Davey to the end of the wharf and returned to the ship minutes later with only scratch marks on his face.
A nearby fisherman would later report hearing a scream from the wharf, then a splash.
The young woman was reported missing days later and has never been found.
Camera icon Jeffrey Hunter speaks to the media with his mother, Irene Davey. Credit: Glenn Cordingley/Broome Advertiser
Her mother, Irene, who was away on a short trip, returned to Broome three days later and when she was unable to contact Sara-Lee, she immediately went to the police.
“I think we were dismissed by everyone, including the local police,” she said.
“We left it in the hands of the law and hoped they would find her, but it never happened.”
Irene went back to the police station every morning for over a month without success.
She also publicly appealed to find her daughter on television and continues to fight for answers to this day.
When a proper investigation began nine days after her disappearance, Dorrough sent out with any evidence.
Mr Jubelin said the police should have interviewed Sara-Lee’s friends at the bar, located Dorrough, thoroughly searched his cabin and taken the clothes he was wearing.
Three months later, Dorrough was tracked down by police as a person of interest, but detectives wrote off the interview as inconclusive.
The second likely victim was Maori woman Rachael Campbell, a 29-year-old single mother who was murdered in Sydney on 6 November 1998.
Camera icon Rachael Campbell earned money as a prostitute and carried a small pocket knife with her for protection. Credit: Provided
Ms Campbell earned money as a prostitute and carried a small pocket knife with her for protection.
She was found naked and wrapped in a sheet outside St Joseph’s Church in Rosebery in the city’s south with stab wounds to her neck.
Like Ms Davey, her mother also reported her missing, but the police were slow to act.
Dorrough lived just 3 km away and owned an orange van similar to one Ms. Campbell saw what he got into.
The trail went cold, but when a national DNA database was established 10 years later, samples from Ms Davey’s case produced a match – Richard Dorrough.
By then he had long since been discharged from the navy due to incompetence.
He stood trial for her murder in 2010, arguing he was a client of Ms Campbell on the night of her murder but did not kill her.
He was found not guilty by a jury.
The judge would later state publicly that if it were up to him, he would have delivered a guilty verdict.
“How was he acquitted? I would have been very shocked to know what I know about the case,” said Mr Jubelin.
Two people who were never called as witnesses at the trial were Dorrough’s brother-in-law, Stuart, with whom he lived in Perth when he was arrested, and Karen, the girlfriend of a former girlfriend.
Stuart said when he checked Dorrough’s room after his arrest, he found laptops opened to numerous pornographic websites, but the devices were never seized by police for investigation.
While Karen said he told his girlfriend outright in front of her that he was “scared of them (the police) taking his DNA because he killed someone in Sydney”.
The third likely victim was hairdresser Paula Brown, who was killed by blunt force trauma to the head in Sydney’s Oxford Street in May 1996.
Camera icon The third likely victim was hairdresser Paula Brown, who was killed by blunt force trauma to the head in Sydney’s Oxford Street in May 1996. Credit: Provided
According to the Under Investigations panel, she fit the profile of women Dorrough targeted and her salon was across the street from a bar frequented by Navy sailors.
In addition to the blows to her head, she also had another obvious injury – bite marks, which were also found on Ms Campbell’s arm.
“It’s certainly quite rare behavior and a strong link between the cases,” forensic psychologist Dr Sarah Yule told the panel.
To this day, all three murders are officially unsolved.
Human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade said the justice system had failed the women, all of whom are of indigenous heritage.
“Dorrough was a white-privileged man. How do you get away with murdering three indigenous women in this country?” she asked Ms. Hayes.
Anyone with information about the cases, which all remain open, is urged to contact police.
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