Name - Kerry WHELAN

Age when missing - 39
Circumstances - Missing feared abducted May 6th 1997

June 30, 2002 - 60 minutes story
It's five years since Kerrie Whelan disappeared and her family received a ransom note demanding $1 million. Not long after, the police were describing Bruce Burrell as "a person of interest". Burrell was eventually charged with Mrs Whelan's murder, but the case was later dropped when crucial evidence was ruled inadmissible. Well, this week a coronial inquest into the death of Kerrie Whelan and the disappearance of another woman, Dottie Davis, found there was evidence that they'd been murdered by a known person. During the inquest, Bruce Burrell refused to answer scores of questions put to him about the disappearance of the two women.
Mrs Whelan was last seen alive in May 1997, while Ms Davis was last seen leaving her Lurline Bay home to visit a sick friend in May 1995.

*Update - Bruce Burrell has been convicted of Kerrie's murder.

Kerrie's body remains missing.

Ransom note demanded $US1 million
By Nicolette Casella - The Sunday Telegraph

August 19, 2005

BERNIE Whelan nearly collapsed after receiving a ransom note the day after his wife Kerry disappeared, according to Mrs Whelan's close friend.

Giving evidence at the New South Wales trial of Bruce Allan Burrell, who denies kidnapping and murdering Mrs Whelan, Marjorie Minton-Taylor described how Mr Whelan turned into "an absolute mess" as he read the note demanding $US1 million for his wife's safe return.

"He became very agitated. He was an absolute mess. He nearly passed out," she told the Supreme Court.

The court heard Mr Whelan asked for Mrs Minton-Taylor and her daughter Amanda Minton-Taylor, now Mrs Peters, to come to the family's Kurrajong property on May 6, 1997 - the day that his wife went missing allegedly wearing $50,000 worth of jewellery.

Mrs Minton-Taylor said she stayed at their home for the next 19 months to look after the Whelan children, during which time she became their "substitute mother".

When asked to describe Mrs Whelan's relationship with her children, she said: "Oh, she was the mother of the year." She then burst into tears.
She said Mrs Whelan's relationship with Mr Whelan was "excellent" and that she was "looking forward to going to Adelaide" with her husband the day she went missing.

The court heard that morning Mrs Whelan dropped by Mrs Minton-Taylor's Glossodia home on the way to a 9.30am "appointment" and gave her $100 because she was going to be babysitting the Whelans' children while they were away.

Mrs Minton-Taylor said she and Mrs Whelan had planned to take a holiday together in London in July that year, but she never saw or heard from her again after her visit on May 6.

When Mrs Minton-Taylor joined the family that had gathered at the Whelans' home later that night, the court heard she rang her friend of 20 years, "colourful character" Karl Bonnette.

"I was worried that Kerry might have been bashed and all her jewellery had been taken," she said.

"I thought he might have known something or heard something."

In other evidence yesterday, Mark Mascari, a former Parkroyal Hotel employee, said Mrs Whelan did not seem distressed before she exited the Parramatta underground car park at 9.38am on May 6 - the last time she was seen alive.

After Mr Whelan found his wife's car that afternoon, the court heard he rang security consultant Stephen Benton, managing director of Intellisec, who spent the next 2 1/2 hours scouring the area. However, at 11.40pm that night he told Mr Whelan the search had been unsuccessful.

He returned with a private investigator the following day, when the police investigation was also launched.

Nanny speaks at Burrell trial
By Nicolette Casella

August 18, 2005

FORMER nanny Amanda Minton-Taylor has denied having an affair with Bernie Whelan while he was married to his now missing wife Kerry, telling a New South Wales court she "likes younger men".

Ms Minton-Taylor, now Mrs Peters, yesterday told the Supreme Court "nothing ever happened" between Mr Whelan and herself.
Her denial came under cross-examination from defence counsel David Dalton at the trial of Bruce Allan Burrell, who is charged with Mrs Whelan's kidnap and murder.

The court heard Ms Minton-Taylor, who was employed as the Whelan's nanny and horse trainer, sometimes stayed overnight in a one-bedroom cottage on the Whelan family's Kurrajong property.

She said one of her two boyfriends at the time, either Damian Barker or Damon Spackman, would occasionally stay with her.

But she never used "opportunities" to have an affair with Mr Whelan when they were alone together on the estate.

"It wouldn't even enter my mind. It's ridiculous," she said.
The court heard the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Inspector Dennis Bray, asked Ms Minton-Taylor after Mrs Whelan disappeared on May 6, 1997, if she had had an extra-marital affair with Mr Whelan.

She denied the suggestion at the time and told Mr Dalton yesterday her position had not changed.

"I keep my first opinion," she said yesterday.

When asked by senior Crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC what her reaction was when Insp Bray raised the issue, she said she found it farcical.

"I actually laughed because if anyone knows me they know that I like younger men. To me it was just an outrageous remark," she said.

The allegation of an affair was first raised in court on Tuesday when Mr Whelan was under cross-examination.

The retired millionaire industrialist denied the allegation, describing it as a "scurrilous suggestion".

Earlier yesterday, the jury visited the Park Royal Hotel in Parramatta, where Mrs Whelan, 39, was last seen exiting the car park at 9.38am on May 6, 1997. Ms Minton-Taylor told the court Mrs Whelan visited her at her mother's house earlier that morning and, reading from her police statement from the time, said: "She appeared to be happy, bright and bubbly."

Why former friends fell out
From: By Nicolette Casella
August 17, 2005

BERNIE Whelan had fallen out with the alleged abductor and killer of his wife Kerry in the months before her disappearance over some missing cattle and a gun, it was revealed in court yesterday.

Mr Whelan told the Supreme Court he was annoyed with his former employee and friend when he called on April 7, 1997, four years since their last contact.
Mr Whelan told the court Burrell had offered to take some of his cattle when the Whelans' Kurrajong property was in drought.

But Burrell later told him the cattle had wandered off his Bungonia property into the National Park and had not been found.

Mr Whelan was also annoyed with Burrell for not looking after a gun he had sold him.

Mr Whelan said Burrell rang him after he was retrenched as advertising manager of Crown Equipment and asked if he would sell him a .44 magnum semi-automatic rifle because he said he needed to shoot some wild pigs.

Mr Whelan said Burrell later told him the gun had been stolen from the boot of his car while he was making a call in Redfern.
After Mr Whelan's evidence, Justice Graham Barr directed the jury that the two incidents were not assertions that Burrell had committed a criminal act.

The Whelans' former nanny Amanda Minton-Taylor, now Mrs Peters, broke down and sobbed in court as she recalled Burrell visiting the Whelan's Kurrajong property.

She said she gave Burrell the code that opened the electronic gates to the estate after he told her he was a friend of Mr and Mrs Whelans.

Ms Minton-Taylor said she saw Burrell having a cup of tea and chatting with Mrs Whelan.

When Burrell got up to leave, Ms Minton-Taylor said "he leant forward to give Kerry a kiss. She turned her head and he kissed her on the cheek".

She told the court that when Mrs Whelan came inside she asked her "a favour". Ms Minton-Taylor claimed Mrs Whelan said to her: "Please don't tell anyone that he was here. I'll let you know in a couple of weeks why he was here."

Ms Minton-Taylor said she then looked strangely at Mrs Whelan, who said, "Don't worry, I'm not having an affair", adding afterwards, "it was a surprise".

Ms Minton-Taylor told the court: "The night Kerry went missing it was the first thing that popped into my head."

Copycats 'targeted Whelans after abduction'
From: By David King - The Australian
August 16, 2005

COPYCAT extortionists targeted the family of missing Sydney woman Kerry Whelan after news of her alleged abduction became public, a court heard yesterday.

Bernie Whelan, a wealthy industrialist whose wife Kerry vanished on May 6, 1997, told the NSW Supreme Court his family had endured several extortion attempts.
"There were a number of copycat attempts on my family after Kerry disappeared because of the press statements referring to my wealth," he said.

"There were at least three attempts on my family ... to extort money. On at least one occasion police had to take some pretty serious action."

Mr Whelan is giving evidence at the trial of Bruce Allan Burrell, a 52-year-old former advertising salesman, who is accused of Kerry Whelan's kidnap and murder.

Mrs Whelan was last seen leaving the Parramatta Park Royal Hotel at 9.38am on May 6, 1997. The next day, Mr Whelan received a two-page typed ransom note demanding $US1million.

Police have accused Mr Burrell, a former employee of Mr Whelan, of luring Mrs Whelan to the hotel and murdering her soon afterwards. They allege his motivation was financial.
Mr Burrell denies the charges.

Under cross-examination from defence counsel David Dalton, Mr Whelan said Mr Burrell had telephoned him on April 7, 1997 - a month before Mrs Whelan's disappearance - and had a "pointless" conversation with him.

Mr Whelan said he had expected Mr Burrell to ask for a favour or a job, but his former employee had done neither.

Mr Dalton asked Mr Whelan if he and Mr Burrell had agreed to meet for lunch after the April7 phone call.

Mr Whelan said they did not make that arrangement.

The trial continues.

Whelan 'found wife's keys in car'
From: AAP By Kylie Williams
August 11, 2005

BERNIE Whelan choked back tears today as he told a New South Wales court how he found the keys to his wife's car still in the ignition on the day she went missing.

Mr Whelan was giving evidence at the NSW Supreme Court trial of Bruce Burrell, who has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murdering Kerry Whelan on May 6, 1997, somewhere in NSW.
He said that on the day of his wife's disappearance, they were supposed to have met at his office at Smithfield, western Sydney, at 3.45pm to catch a flight to Adelaide and begin a holiday.

But Mrs Whelan never turned up.

"I thought something was seriously wrong because Kerry just didn't miss aeroplanes," Mr Whelan said.

Shortly after 5pm, Mr Whelan said, he went gone to the car park at the Parkroyal Hotel at Parramatta, where his wife normally parked her car.

The court has been told the 39-year-old mother of three was last seen at the hotel at 9.40am that same day.
"I went back to the car and found the keys in the ignition, which alarmed me greatly," Mr Whelan said.

He choked back tears as the court heard the 000 call he made from the car park to raise the alarm.

The day after the disappearance, Mr Whelan received a ransom note at the family's Kurrajong home in the Blue Mountains, demanding US$1 million for her safe return.

"The rate of exchange means you will pay $1,250,000 Australian," the letter said.

Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, asked Mr Whelan if he had done anything to secure the ransom money.

Mr Whelan said he had removed a letter from his personal safe which the president of the company for which he worked, Crown Equipment, had given him 15 years earlier.

"It was highly confidential and it was only to be opened under special circumstances," Mr Whelan said about the letter.

The court was then closed and nothing else was said about the letter in open court.

Mr Whelan said on April 7, 1997, he received a phone call out of the blue from Mr Burrell after having had no contact with him for four years.

Earlier today, the court was told Mr Burrell had worked for Mr Whelan at Crown Equipment for three years, but was retrenched in 1990.

"It was a long time since I had spoken to Mr Burrell and it was a strange conversation because I was trying to think why he'd call me and there didn't seem to be a purpose," Mr Whelan said.

By 1997, Mr Burrell was in financial difficulties having been unemployed for seven years, recently divorced and facing a new mortgage of more than $1000 a month.

Mr Whelan said he thought Mr Burrell had rung to ask for a job or financial assistance, but he had only inquired about his work and travel commitments.

"I remember him asking me about my movements," he said.

But Mr Burrell's counsel, David Dalton, said his client made the call only to find out about work, and had also rung another former employer for the same purpose.

"At the same time he initially approached Mr Whelan, he was speaking to at least one other ex-employer asking for help," Mr Dalton said.

The trial continues tomorrow.
Burrell 'sought false alibi'
By Kylie Williams - Herald Sun

MURDER accused Bruce Burrell rang a man in an attempt to construct a false alibi for the day of Kerry Whelan's disappearance, a Sydney court heard today.

The New South Wales Supreme Court today played a police recording of a telephone call Mr Burrell made to his neighbour Kevin Cooper on August 8, 1997.
Mr Burrell asked Mr Cooper in the call if he could remember ringing him on May 6 that year, regarding a visit by Canberra foresters to Hillydale, Mr Burrell's property in the NSW Southern Highlands.

Mr Cooper said in court today that he could not remember when he rang Mr Burrell regarding the foresters' visit, or if he initiated the call.

Mr Burrell has pleaded not guilty in the NSW Supreme Court to kidnapping and murdering Mrs Whelan, 39.

The mother of three was last seen in the car park of the Parkroyal Hotel at Parramatta on the morning of May 6, 1997. Her body has never been found.

At the time of Mrs Whelan's disappearance, Mr Burrell lived on a property called Hillydale at Bungonia.

The Crown has said that Mr Burrell's call to Mr Cooper was intended to construct a false alibi for the day of Mrs Whelan's disappearance.

"Yeah mate, it was early May," Mr Burrell was heard saying in the taped phone call.

"And, mate, I've got a feeling it was the sixth of May that we spoke that you rang me."

Then Mr Cooper was heard to say he would check his diary, and he found Mr Burrell's name.

"Oh, I've got it in the diary," he said.

Giving evidence at the trial today, Mr Cooper said he could not remember the date of the call about which Mr Burrell had asked him.

Mr Cooper said the diary entry referred to the date he had organised for foresters from Canberra to look at a few Southern Highlands properties.

"I remember contacting Bruce after inspecting (Hillydale)," Mr Cooper said.

"Whether is was immediately after or the next day I don't know."

Mr Cooper said he could not remember whether he called Mr Burrell, or Mr Burrell called him.

"Could Mr Burrell have been returning a call as a result of a message your wife left on Monday night," Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, said.

"Yes," Mr Cooper said.

Missing woman's stepson denies role

21sep05 - Herald Sun

THE stepson of Kerry Whelan has told a Sydney murder trial he had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Trevor Whelan was giving evidence today at the New South Wales Supreme Court trial of Bruce Burrell, who has pleaded not guilty to murdering and kidnapping Mrs Whelan in NSW on May 6, 1997.
Mr Whelan, 46, was adopted by Mrs Whelan's husband Bernie and his first wife Helen when he was a child.

He told the court he was initially upset that his father started a relationship with Kerry Whelan but by the time she disappeared, his relationship with her and his father was "good".

"Did you have anything whatsoever to do with the disappearance and or death of Kerry Whelan?" crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC asked him.

"No I did not," Mr Whelan replied.

The day after Mrs Whelan's disappearance, Bernie Whelan received a ransom note at the family's Kurrajong home demanding $US1 million for her safe return.

The body of Mrs Whelan, 39, has never been found.

It is the crown case that Mr Burrell, 52, was in financial difficulty at the time.

The trial continues.

Whelan questioned over missing wife
Kylie Williams - The Courier Mail
FOR the first time since Bruce Burrell went on trial seven weeks ago for the murder of Kerry Whelan, her husband Bernie Whelan was yesterday asked if he was involved in his wife's disappearance.

"No, I was not," Whelan said, after being recalled to give evidence at Burrell's trial in the NSW Supreme Court.

Burrell has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murdering Mrs Whelan on May 6, 1997, somewhere in NSW.

A mother of three and Whelan's second wife, Mrs Whelan was last seen in the car park of the Parkroyal Hotel at Parramatta, in western Sydney, that morning. Her body has never been found.

Whelan was questioned by Burrell's lawyer David Dalton.

"Were you involved in the disappearance of your wife Kerry Whelan?" Mr Dalton asked.

Whelan denied he was involved in any way with his wife's disappearance, and said under cross-examination that he did not have any financial difficulties at the time.

"It (my financial position) was extremely strong," he said.

The court was told earlier that Whelan had received a ransom note at the family's Kurrajong property the day after his wife disappeared demanding $US1 million for her safe return.

Whelan said yesterday that as of May 1997, he and his wife had an overdraft facility of about $250,000 and assets worth about $5 million.

The Crown alleges Burrell was having financial problems when Mrs Whelan disappeared.

The trial continues today.

Case against accused killer 'only a theory'
By Nicolette Casella - The Sunday Mail

THE case against Kerry Whelan's accused killer "is but a theory" without any concrete evidence to support it, a court heard yesterday.

In his closing address, Bruce Burrell's barrister David Dalton said a fitting description for the Crown case would be: "Hypothesis upon hypothesis upon hypothesis".

Burrell, 53, who knew Mrs Whelan through her millionaire husband

Bernie, is charged with abducting and murdering the wealthy mother of three for financial gain in 1997.

He denies all charges.

"There is not one item of concrete evidence connecting this man to Kerry Whelan's disappearance. Not one," Mr Dalton said.

"Not any forensic evidence. No witnesses that saw Kerry Whelan on that day with Bruce Burrell.

"In fact, the evidence is quite to the contrary."

Mr Dalton said Mrs Whelan's fingerprints were not found in Burrell's car "or anywhere else associated with [him]".

He suggested police involved in the investigation "quickly lost sight" by focusing their attention on Burrell.

He said the Crown's assertion that Burrell's "plan A" to kidnap Mrs Whelan when he visited her family's Kurrajong estate on April 16, 1997, was "extraordinary".

The barrister added it was a ludicrous notion that Burrell would make himself visible - by going to see her when he knew other people were there - if he had planned to abduct her.

He also attacked the Crown's submission it was an "enduring mystery" that motived Mrs Whelan to allegedly meet with Burrell on May 6, 1997.

"The Crown doesn't even have a rational hypothesis," Mr Dalton said.

A phone call to Crown Equipment on May 23, 1997, from an anonymous male caller demanding police and media be called off could have been by an officer trying to frame Burrell, he suggested.

The court has heard the call was traced to a phone box outside the Empire Hotel in Goulburn.

Burrell admitted making a call from there that morning, but he said he rang his solicitor.

Mr Dalton will continue with his address today.

Burrell found guilty of Whelan murder - Herald Sun

A JURY has found Bruce Burrell guilty of kidnapping and murdering Sydney mother Kerry Whelan.

Mrs Whelan was 39 when she disappeared on May 6, 1997. Her body has never been found.
The day after she went missing, her husband Bernie Whelan received a ransom note demanding $US1 million for her safe return.

The New South Wales Supreme Court heard Burrell kidnapped the mother-of-three out of financial desperation.

But because Mrs Whelan knew Burrell, he killed her to prevent her identifying him, it was alleged.

Burrell, 53, pleaded not guilty to both charges when his trial began in March.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for nine days before today finding him guilty of Mrs Whelan's kidnap and murder.

Burrell did not react as the jury foreman handed down the guilty verdict. His barrister, David Dalton, asked Justice Graham Barr to poll the jury members.

When the judge asked for further explanation, Mr Dalton said: "We'd like to check that every juror agrees with the verdict."

Justice Barr asked the foreman whether the verdict was the verdict of all the jurors.

"It is," the foreman replied.

Burrell did not apply for bail and it was formally refused by Justice Barr, who remanded him in custody for a sentencing hearing on June 23.

Burrell loses appeal against Whelan conviction
March 16, 2007 - 10:49AM

The man who was jailed for life for the kidnap and murder of Sydney mother Kerry Whelan has lost an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Bruce Burrell appealed against his conviction for the 1997 abduction and murder of Mrs Whelan on 10 grounds, one relating to a note in which a juror indicated the jury could not agree and further deliberations would serve no useful purpose.

The judge's decision to send the jury back after reading the note on June 5 last year resulted in a unanimous guilty verdict the following day.

In his appeal, Burrell argued the note indicated the juror felt he or she was being pressured.

But the Court of Appeal found the judge had not erred in sending the jurors back to continue their deliberations.

''The fact that the minority juror felt pressure from the other jurors was not surprising,'' the Chief Judge at Common Law, Peter McClellan, said in his judgment today.

''Antipathy between individuals, however caused, is unfortunately an unavoidable fact of life and must be expected to exist amongst jurors from time to time.

''It could not provide a reason to discharge the jury.''

Burrell was friendly with the Whelan family and had worked for Mrs Whelan's husband, Bernie.

The Crown alleged Burrell kidnapped Mrs Whelan out of financial desperation, then killed her so she could not identify him.

Her husband, Bernie Whelan, received a ransom demand the day after his wife disappeared.

Last year's Supreme Court trial was the second for Burrell.

A jury was discharged in November 2005 after one juror failed to reach a guilty verdict.

Mrs Whelan, a 39-year-old mother of three, disappeared on May 7, 1997. Her body has never been found.


The cruellest of crimes

  • February 28, 2009 - SMH

Twelve years after Kerry Whelan's kidnapping, details of the case are finally revealed, write Ellen Connolly and Candace Sutton.

Bernie Whelan had never handled so much cash - huge wads of $100 notes tied with rubber bands and packed into calico bank bags. It was the million-dollar ransom for the life of his beloved wife, Kerry, kidnapped from Parramatta's Parkroyal Hotel four days earlier.

"Follow all instructions or your wife will die," read the typed letter, which turned up in the mailbox at Bernie's Kurrajong home in Sydney's north-west on May 7, 1997, just 24 hours after Kerry went missing. Bernie followed the orders in the ransom note - all except the demand he not contact the police.

The money was placed in a green garbage bag and secured in Bernie's bedroom safe, under 24-hour protection.

The whole thing felt surreal to Bernie, as though he was an unwilling character in a movie, not unlike Ransom, which the Whelans had watched together only weeks earlier.

After 17 years of marriage, he could not fathom that Kerry was gone and he was stuck in this awful reality.

Bernie Whelan, who was head of the Australian arm of the multinational company Crown Equipment, and his three children - Sarah, 15, Matthew, 13, and James, 11 - were now on an active file of the FBI in Washington.

Confused and fretting for their mother, the children were taken under police escort to a safe house while Australia's biggest kidnap and ransom operation was played out.

Unbeknown to the public - police kept their manoeuvres secret from the media - the Whelans' once tranquil rural neighbourhood was now crawling with heavily armed members of the State Protection Group, an elite corps of officers trained to deal with hostage negotiations.

Lying in Bernie's horse paddocks in Kevlar helmets and bullet-resistant vests, each carried two firearms: a Heckler and Koch MP5, the 700-millimetre German submachine-gun that was standard issue for counter-terrorist forces, and a Glock 22 .40-calibre pistol. The camouflaged officers had stun grenades and canisters of tear gas and capsicum spray. Their body armour added about 30 kilograms to each officer's weight.

Inside the house, Bernie Whelan was also wearing a bulletproof vest.

The atmosphere was electric as Bernie sat in the family lounge room with six hostage negotiators, his eyes focused on the telephone, praying for it to ring, waiting for the kidnappers to call and tell him Kerry was still alive.

Civilians are usually excluded from major covert police operations, but Bernie was needed. He had to talk to the kidnappers and personally deliver the million-dollar ransom. "Most importantly you've got to ask for proof of life," the negotiator instructed Bernie. "You want to speak to your wife and you must insist on hearing Kerry's voice."

Bernie's Mercedes-Benz was wired up with tracking devices and radio equipment in preparation for the ransom delivery. A helicopter was on standby and the snipers were ready to shoot.

Day after day, and desperately tired and running on adrenalin, Bernie sat waiting with detectives for the call. It never came, and police decided Bernie should make a public appeal to the kidnappers.

"Kerry, if you can hear what I'm saying, I want you to know that we all love you and we will do anything to get you back, but most of all, don't give up." Bernie stared into the camera, his lip quivering.

At a media conference in Sydney, he told reporters: "I will do whatever they ask and will go anywhere to ensure the safety of my wife. The crime against us can only be described as mental terrorism. The children and I have only kept our sanity due to the love we have for each other and the love from close friends who have been minding us. They [the Whelan children] are very vulnerable at this time and barely coping with this tragedy."

For weeks, the media camped outside the Whelan home as the story of the kidnap of a multimillionaire's wife captured front-page headlines across Australia.

But the media had found another focus - the prime suspect, Bruce Burrell, who lived on a farm near the tiny town of Bungonia, south-west of Goulburn. Burrell, who worked for Crown Equipment before Bernie retrenched him in 1990, had made an unexpected visit to Kerry in mid-April 1997, three weeks before she vanished.

Burrell intended to abduct the mother of three that day, but abandoned his plan after discovering her youngest child, James, was at home from school.

When Burrell departed, Mrs Whelan asked "a favour" of the children's nanny and horse trainer, Amanda Minton-Taylor: "You never saw him here. Don't tell anybody. Give me a couple of weeks and I'll tell you why. Don't worry, I am not having an affair."

On the morning of May 6, Kerry Whelan drove to the Parkroyal Hotel in Parramatta, telling her husband she had a 9am beautician's appointment. Closed circuit television cameras captured her walking up the ramp of the underground car park and disappearing from view.

In the ensuing weeks, police raided Burrell's house and found a cache of weapons, a chloroform bottle and two obscure - but revealing - notes which suggested a kidnap and ransom plan.

They searched the Bungonia state recreation area, which backed onto Burrell's property, scouring vast tracts of bush, abseiling down deep ravines, and diving in chilly dams. After several exhausting months, the police packed up and left.

Media attention waned, and the investigating team was drastically reduced. Nevertheless the taskforce commander, Dennis Bray, would not give up, persevering over the next decade to nail Burrell for Kerry Whelan's murder.

Bray was driven for another reason: he was convinced Burrell had killed the elderly widow Dorothy Davis after she demanded repayment of a $100,000 loan.

It was too much of a coincidence that Burrell would know two rich women, both of whom vanished without trace.

The case eventually made it to the NSW Supreme Court, thanks to the efforts of Bray and the Senior Crown Prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, QC, who was convinced he could get a conviction despite the jury not hearing much of the incriminating evidence which had been ruled "prejudicial" to Burrell getting a fair trial.

The suppression order was finally lifted last November, allowing our book Ladykiller to publish details denied to the jurors in the trials involving the disappearances.

No juries were told of the damaging discovery by police of the near-empty bottle of chloroform in Burrell's house. Nor did they hear that Burrell had boasted to friends he could hide a body in bushland where "no one would ever find it".

Similarly, jurors did not hear of a UBD street directory found in Burrell's car. He had used a highlighter pen to mark the route from the Parkroyal Hotel in Parramatta, where Kerry Whelan was last seen, to her husband's factory in Smithfield.

Also excluded from the trial was Burrell's phone call to the help desk at Canon about his typewriter, which police believe was used to construct the detailed ransom letter.

James Whelan's evidence about Burrell's secret visit to his mother was struck out, as was some of Amanda Minton-Taylor's account of the day. Burrell's defence team had objected to the inclusion of Kerry's comment: "That bastard, why did he do this to me?"

The judge ruled the words inadmissible at trial because they were obscure and their target unclear.

Police deduced that Burrell arranged that day to meet Kerry at Parramatta, although the reason for the meeting remains an enduring mystery. With no obvious answer, rumours swirled that Kerry was having an affair with Burrell; there was never any evidence.

Instead, police believe Burrell was either blackmailing Kerry Whelan or, being the generous woman she was, Kerry had offered to lend the cash-starved Burrell some money.

Evidence of Burrell's arsenal of weapons was not allowed, nor did the jury hear the videotaped interview with Jennette Harvey, a wealthy widow who police believe Burrell was also targeting.

In a dying deposition made in September 1997, Mrs Harvey revealed how Burrell was pressuring her into investing in a phony diamond scheme. She told Bray that she too would mysteriously have disappeared had she entered the Burrell scheme.

After a hung jury and two trials, Burrell was convicted of the Whelan and Davis murders, and is now serving a life sentence.

The events took a heavy mental and physical toll on Bernie Whelan. He looks every bit his 70 years; the pain and enduring sorrow haunts his face and 12 years of hard labour fighting for Kerry have left him frail and emotionally unstable. "No one can understand what we've been through. Kidnapping is the cruellest of crimes," Whelan said.

"Bruce Burrell was once my friend. He was welcomed into my home. He cuddled my children, then he betrayed me in the worst way imaginable. He's not an insane person - he's just a cold-blooded killer who would do anything for money."

Bernie Whelan hopes Burrell will one day tell police where the bodies are buried. A choice between Burrell's conviction or the return of Kerry's remains for proper burial is no contest, he says.

"The children and I would without doubt choose to bring Mum home."

Candace Sutton's and Ellen Connolly's Ladykiller will be released by Allen and Unwin on Monday.

Convicted killer Bruce Burrell's gun kept by his sister

SHE is the sister of Sydney double killer Bruce Burrell; a woman who admits to hanging on to a gun he owned after he was jailed for murdering Kerry Whelan.

But Tonia Pai wept yesterday as a magistrate assured her she would not be punished for her brother's deeds.

The true significance of the weapon Pai was charged with keeping may never be known - and the mystery surrounding just how Mrs Whelan died never resolved.

Police have long sought the Browning Buck Mark .22 which they suspected Burrell used in the 1996 kidnapping and death.

But its whereabouts eluded police from the time it was reported stolen in 1996 until it surfaced in a northern beaches home earlier this year.

Ms Pai yesterday pleaded guilty to two firearms charges in Manly Local Court, admitting she had failed to keep the weapon safely and had done so without a licence.

The court heard Burrell had lived with her "on and off for many years" and Ms Pai had found the gun in his belongings shortly after he was jailed for murder in late 2008.

She told her father about the discovery, and he said he would tell Burrell's legal team. But he died within weeks - and the gun stayed where it was.

Burrell loses sentence appeal

Pai even moved house with it in late 2009, stuffing it in the back of a bedroom wardrobe in her next home.

She moved again late last year, with the new tenants finding the gun months later and reporting it to police.

Pai's solicitor Ian Byrne told the court yesterday his client had made "full and frank admissions" to police as soon as they spoke to her about the discovery of the weapon.

He said she had merely hidden it from her children, and completely forgot it when she moved house.

He urged leniency by Magistrate David Amati, saying the mother-of-five had lost both her father and husband about the time she found the gun. "Despite what she has been handed by life she certainly tries to do her best," he said.

Mr Amati initially told the court he was "troubled" by her conduct, adding: "This is one of the most notorious murder cases in this state in some years ... she found a gun, why didn't she hand it in?"

However Mr Amati said it was clear she had no knowledge of its importance and sentenced her to an 18-month good behaviour bond.

Burrell is serving two life sentences for murder.


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