Convicted murderer Ashley Mervyn Coulston.
Convicted murderer Ashley Mervyn Coulston.

Unsolved sex attack linked to notorious triple killer

Police have made a DNA match between a notorious triple murderer and an unsolved sex attack investigation in NSW.

Ashley Mervyn Coulston, 64, is serving three consecutive life sentences in a Melbourne prison for the callous murders of three university students in the 1990s.

Coulston, who made headlines as "Captain Bathtub" in 1998 when he sailed across the Tasman Sea in a tiny boat, has also been identified as a key suspect in a series of harrowing sex attacks across different states.

Coulston, who kidnapped two teachers when he was only 14, was suspected of being the Sutherland Rapist who terrorised women at gunpoint in Sydney's south in the 1980s.

Convicted murderer Ashley Mervyn Coulston. Picture: Supplied
Convicted murderer Ashley Mervyn Coulston. Picture: Supplied

 

Coulston was living in Sydney at the time, used a similar modus operandi in his other crimes and shared the same blood type as the offender.

Now police may be one step closer to solving the case Coulston's DNA was linked to an old exhibit.

The Sunday Telegraph understands NSW Sex Crimes Squad detectives recently reviewed a historical sexual assault case file and asked the Forensic Analytical and Science Service to re-examine old evidence.

It is understood Coulston's DNA was found, suggesting he was involved with the crime or present at the scene.

Coulston being led into court in Melbourne in 1993. Picture: NewsCorp
Coulston being led into court in Melbourne in 1993. Picture: NewsCorp

 

Detectives are now cross-referencing Coulston's movements when he was a free man against other unsolved crimes to see whether he can be linked to anything else.

"As part of the NSW Police Force's commitment to bringing offenders to justice, the State Crime Command's Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad regularly reviews unsolved cases, particularly where there is an opportunity to re-examine evidence and exhibits," a police spokesman said.

 

NSW Police would not confirm exactly which sexual assault the DNA link related to.

It also wouldn't comment on claims that a request had been made to interview Coulson in prison.

Coulston was celebrated as a solo yachtsman who conquered the Tasman Sea before he was pinned as a dangerous criminal. Picture: Supplied
Coulston was celebrated as a solo yachtsman who conquered the Tasman Sea before he was pinned as a dangerous criminal. Picture: Supplied

 

Advancements in forensic technology have allowed police to retest ageing exhibits, like pieces of clothing or blood stains, and pursue prosecutions in cold cases.

Coulston is being held in Barwon prison in Melbourne after being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

He never provided a motive for lining up students, Kerryn Henstridge and Anne Smerdon, both 22, and Peter Dempsey, 27, inside a Burwood share house in 1992 and shooting them in the back of the head.

The clean-cut killer was arrested months later when he tried to abduct and tie up a couple in a park in Melbourne.

Kerryn Henstridge, 22, and two flatmates killed by Coulston in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood in 1992.
Kerryn Henstridge, 22, and two flatmates killed by Coulston in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood in 1992.

 

One of the victims broke free and caught the attention of a security guard.

Coulston shot the guard in the hip but police eventually detained him.

His firearm was linked to the triple murder in Burwood months earlier and Coulston was charged.

It was only after he was thrown in jail that he became a person of interest in two notorious serial rapist cases on the Gold Coast in Queensland and in the Sutherland Shire.

Several women were abducted and sexually assaulted at gunpoint in the late 1970s and '80s in southeast Queensland by a man dubbed the "Balaclava Killer". The boyfriend of one victim was shot dead during a struggle with the masked offender near Tweed Heads in 1980.

A police dummy displayed on the Gold Coast dressed as the Tweed Heads Murderer – the Balaclava Killer in December, 1980. Pic: News Corp
A police dummy displayed on the Gold Coast dressed as the Tweed Heads Murderer – the Balaclava Killer in December, 1980. Pic: News Corp

 

At the time, Coulston was living on his family farm in Kyogle in northern NSW.

Between 1985 and 1987, women in the Sutherland Shire, including Miranda and Kirrawee, were abducted, bound and gagged in a series of terrifying sex attacks.

Police established the offender in each attack had an A blood type and Coulston was living in southern Sydney at the time.

On Australia Day in 1988, he finished his custom-built 2.4 metre yacht, G'Day 88, and planned to sail to New Zealand, a feat that made headlines at the time.

He was rescued mid-trip at sea by a tanker but eventually made the solo sailing trip from New Zealand to Queensland the following year.

He then moved to Victoria, where he committed the triple murders, which a judge referred to as one of the most heinous multiple killings in the state.

Originally published as Unsolved sex attack linked to notorious triple killer

Anne Smerdon was also murdered by Coulston.
Anne Smerdon was also murdered by Coulston.


Businesses lose $10K every week, many ‘will not make it’

Premium Content Businesses lose $10K every week, many ‘will not make it’

An industry leader says many businesses face shutting their doors

Delays, lane closures as $1.5M highway work gets underway

Premium Content Delays, lane closures as $1.5M highway work gets underway

Roadworks on the Bruxner Highway between Lismore and Casino

New wedding website makes walking down the aisle easier

Premium Content New wedding website makes walking down the aisle easier

TWO Tweed Coast mums have created a new, popular wedding business in COVID-19...