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Child killer stays silent on death bed
Simon Brook would be 48 years old today, had he not been lured from his Glebe home to
a nearby park in 1968, when he was three years old.
No one has ever been convicted of murdering the toddler, whose body was found off Glebe
Point Road the next day, but his parents Donald and Phyllis Brook aren't looking for answers any more.
They know that
Derek Ernest Percy was responsible.
"We don't need any more information about Simon, we know what happened to him," his father, Professor Brook, said.
Nevertheless, police were hoping for a deathbed confession that would put an end to one of the state's most enduring
murder mysteries. But at 2am on Wednesday, their hopes were dashed.
Percy passed away aged 64 in a Melbourne hospital, marking the end of one of the most notorious episodes
in Australian crime and leaving the families of three NSW murder victims with cold comfort.
"A confession would have been irrelevant to us," Professor Brook told Fairfax. "I don't think
there's anything he could have told us that we didn't know. As to his motivation, he might have said something
about that but heaven knows what. He was an awful person and the fact he is now dead is good because we wanted
to be certain this would never happen to another child."
Percy was kept in custody for life after being found not guilty by reason of insanity of the abduction and
murder of Yvonne Tuohy, 12, from a Melbourne beach in 1969.
He was linked to the deaths and disappearances of nine children, including Simon in 1968 and 15 year-old neighbours
Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Sydney's Wanda Beach in 1965.
Detective Chief Inspector John Lehmann, from the NSW Unsolved Homicide Team, was in touch with his Victorian counterparts.
They questioned Percy several times from his hospital bed in his last week, but they gleaned no new information.
"It certainly closes a chapter in a notorious episode of crime in Australia ... but it doesn't necessarily close
a chapter in our unsolved homicide cases and we'll keep pursuing those cases until someone is brought to justice," he said.
Simon, who had earlier been spotted in Jubilee Park after going missing from his home, was found with wads of newspaper
stuffed down his throat, his throat slit with a razor blade, his trousers removed and his lower body mutilated.
Witness descriptions of men in the park matched those of Percy and when asked by a detective and old school friend
if he remembered killing Simon, Percy replied: "I wish I could. I might have. I don't remember."
A 2005 inquest was halted after two days and referred to the DPP for murder charges but the DPP found insufficient evidence to proceed.
In 2011, Professor Brook made another pitch to the DPP for murder charges because he feared Percy would be released on
parole, free to attack another child.
"The thing about the lapse of time in relation to grief is not that grief diminishes it, just that it comes upon one less
frequently," he said on Wednesday. "It's still there in just the same. The only thing that's gone away is the
danger of Percy to small children."
He sympathised with the families of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt, who were stabbed and murdered in the dunes of Wanda Beach.
Percy was staying with his grandmother in Ryde just a kilometre from the Sharrock and Schmidt homes at the time and
matched a description of a young man who tried to talk to the pair on a train.
In 2008, police raided a shed of Percy's belongings, finding a lesbian cartoon with the word Wanda scrawled
on it and a note referring to "baby under three" with a severed penis.
Last year, it was revealed that a blood stain taken from the scene returned a faint match to a male
but Inspector Lehmann said forensic analysis was ongoing and there was no breakthrough.
Marianne Schmidt's sister Trixie Falzon told a magazine in 2010 that the unsolved murder
had "left a hole in my heart that I've never gotten over".
"I'd ask her killer: 'Why did you do it?' " she said. "They were innocent young women."
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New evidence in kill mystery
New evidence has emerged implicating jailed child killer Derek Percy in an unsolved death of a Sydney boy.
Percy, who has been in prison in Victoria for 42 years after being found insane, is suspected of being involved
in the death or disappearance of at least nine children in three states during the 1960s.
He has even been linked to the disappearance of the Beaumont children from Glenelg beach, in 1966, when he was
about 17 and on holiday with his parents in Adelaide.
On Channel 7's current affairs show Sunday Night tonight, investigative journalist Graham Archer interviews
a witness, who has never previously come forward, who connects Percy to the 1968 death of toddler Simon Brook, in Glebe.
The witness, whose name has not been released, was a 10-year-old living at an orphanage next door to the building site
where the three-year-old's body was found.
The witness has described seeing Percy, who worked at nearby Garden Island naval base, holding Brook's hand on the day
of his murder, and seeing Percy staring through the fence at the children in the orphanage.
Archer said the witness had come forward after seeing Percy's photograph in a book about him by investigative journalist Debi Marshall.
"The witness adds enormous weight to the other evidence against Percy," he said. "Percy could
be conceivably charged in Simon Brook's killing."
The witness, who has since contacted police, said: "I seen Derek Percy, I know it was him that I seen.
"I didn't want to remember. I just didn't want to remember it. I was trying to forget."
When police detectives visited the orphanage the witness said: "I was way too scared to talk to them. I
didn't want to get in trouble for looking through holes in the fence and talking about what I'd seen".
Simon Brook's parents, Donald and Phyllis, now in their 80s and living in Adelaide, have never talked
publicly about their son's murder, Archer said.
"(Mr Brook) has made a plea requesting the case is opened up again and charges laid," Archer said. "And
I think that's highly likely."
In 2005, prior to the new witness emerging, the NSW coroner recommended Percy should be charged with Simon
Brook's murder but this was rejected by the NSW DPP. "At the moment, he's only in custody at the Governor's leisure," he said.
In 2010, a court found Percy did not suffer from any identifiable psychiatric disorder, which could make it easier for him to seek parole.
Mr Brook said: "And we believe it's most important that he should be convicted."
Percy admitted to the 1969 murder of 12-year-old Yvonne Tuohy, in Warneet, Victoria, but was found not guilty after a plea of "insanity".
So many questions about what happened to Simon
A fiend murdered Simon Brook. Whether the killer was insane, what happened should have been beyond human countenance.
But it wasn't.
Who would kill a three-year-old, a total stranger? For what reason, other than deviate satisfaction? Why mutilate the
body with a razor blade?
These are just some of the questions detectives want to ask Derek Percy, whom a Victorian court considered to be insane
but who is sane enough to stay silent, refusing at a coronial inquest to answer questions about Simon's death.
Despite this, the then NSW chief coroner, John Abernethy, came to the opinion in December 2005 that the evidence was
sufficient to warrant the Director of Public Prosecutions laying charges against Percy. The DPP did not agree.
Today, as police seek to reopen their investigation, it is sobering to realise that Simon was killed 39 years ago. Percy,
59, is serving a life sentence in relation to the murder of a 12-year-old girl in Victoria a year later, but a death
sentence was passed on Simon in Sydney on the morning of May 18, 1968.
It was a cold and windy Saturday in early winter. Simon was last seen in the front yard of his home in Alexandra Lane,
Glebe, at 11.30am by his father, Donald, a doctor of philosophy and senior lecturer in arts at Sydney University.
An hour later, Professor Brook found the front gate open and Simon gone. He looked but could not find him. Later,
police found witnesses who had seen Simon in nearby Jubilee Park, wearing a blue tartan jacket, orange trousers and
red shoes. He was watching children in a playground but had not joined them.
A police search throughout the day and night was unsuccessful. As the search resumed the following day, a labourer
arrived at a nearby construction site in Glebe Point Road about 7am. He found Simon's body in grass and scrub at
the rear the building site.
"Holy Mother of God, I was frightened," he told an inquest. "I reeled back and I was sick. Such a dreadful, horrible
sight. Only a raving maniac would have inflicted such cuts."
Simon had been suffocated by having two wads of paper thrust down his throat. Then the killer used a razor blade to
cut his throat, stripping off his trousers to mutilate his lower body. The razor blade and its wrapper were found nearby.
Percy later told a detective who had known him at school that he remember driving past the Glebe murder scene on the
day Simon was killed. Asked if he remembered killing Simon, Percy replied: "I wish I could. I might have. I don't remember."
'Known Person' Killed Sydney Toddler
The case of a Sydney toddler who was brutally murdered almost
40 years ago has been referred to the Director of Public
Prosecutions by the NSW coroner.
Three-year-old Simon Brook disappeared from his home on
May 18, 1968.
His badly mutilated body was found the next day in bushes
near his home at Glebe, in Sydney's inner-west.
The child had been suffocated with balls of rolled-up
newspaper which were forced down his throat.
NSW Coroner John Abernethy today terminated an inquest
into Simon's death after just one day, and referred
the case to the DPP.
Mr Abernethy said he believed there was a "reasonable
prospect ... that a jury would convict a known person
in relation to the offence".
Notorious child killer
Derek Percy, who is serving an
indefinite jail term in Victoria for the 1969 murder
of a 12-year-old Victorian girl, appeared before the
inquest at the coroner's order.
The 57-year-old, one of Victoria's longest-serving
prisoners, was found not guilty of the girl's murder
on the grounds of mental illness, but was jailed at
the governor's pleasure.
A Victoria Police cold case unit recently re-examined
Percy's suspected crimes and NSW investigators now
believe Percy – who was living in Sydney at the time – killed Simon.
Counsel assisting the coroner Peter Zahra, SC, said
there were "striking similarities" between the cases.
Mr Abernethy agreed, calling the two
killings "substantially and relevantly similar".
"The circumstances in which they occurred are,
again, substantially similar," he said.
Detective Sergeant Adam Barwick, who is in charge
of the investigation into Simon's slaying, today
said: "It's my opinion that Derek Ernest Percy is
responsible for the murder of Simon Brook."
But defence counsel Nathan Steel said there was "no
direct evidence at all linking Mr Percy with the murder".
"There's also no physical forensic evidence linking
him to the crime scene," Mr Steel said.
Outside the court, Simon's father Donald Brook said
he was grateful to the police and the judicial
system for pursuing Simon's killer.
"If it is possible to find out who did this and
make quite sure it's not possible for this
person to do the same thing again ... then
that will be very much in the public interest," Professor
He said the fact the coroner was referring the matter
to the DPP should give people "confidence in the system".
Killer On Stand
Victoria's longest serving prisoner is expected
to give evidence today at an inquiry into the 1968 murder of a NSW toddler.
Child killer Derek Percy,57, was flown
to Sydney last Friday for the inquest into murder victim, Simon Brooks,3.
Percy is serving an indefinite jail term in Victoria over the
murder of Yvonne Tuohy, 12, at Western Port Beach in 1969.
He was jailed after been found not guilty on the grounds on insanity.
A year earlier, Simon Brook was found suffocated
and mutilated near his family's home in Glebe in Sydney's inner west.
An investigation by the Victorian Police cold
case unit led to Percy being ordered to appear
before Sydney's Glebe Coroner's Court for the Brook inquest.
He has been investigated by Police three jurisdictions
over a total of eight child killings and disappearances,
including the vanishing of the three Beaumont
children fron an Adelaide beach in 1966.
Police believe Percy was in each of the cities when the children were killed.
A spokesman for Victoria's Correctional Services
Commisioner Kelvin Anderson said he could not
comment on the security and travel
arrangments for Percy's trip north.
Herald Sun (13-12-2005)
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