Her father believes she’s innocent. But a jury took just three hours to confict Jemma Lilley of murder. Is she innocent, or a foiled serial killer? Picture: Sunday Night / Seven
Her father believes she’s innocent. But a jury took just three hours to confict Jemma Lilley of murder. Is she innocent, or a foiled serial killer? Picture: Sunday Night / Seven

Inside the mind of Perth’s ‘thrill killer’

JEMMA Lilley was obsessed with serial killers. As a child, she dressed like them. As an adult, she almost became one.

She was always the odd one out, Seven's Sunday Night was told.

From as far back as those who knew her can remember, she was fascinated by murder and torture.

Little did they know that, inside Jemma's mind, the desire to enact her fascinations was getting stronger.

Then, one day, she did.

Jemma Lilley and Trudi Lennon’s taste for the macabre is shown in this exhibit photograph from the Aaron Pajich murder trial.
Jemma Lilley and Trudi Lennon’s taste for the macabre is shown in this exhibit photograph from the Aaron Pajich murder trial.

 

A TASTE FOR MURDER

Her father, Richard Lilley has been struggling to come to grips with how his happy, proud, truthful and caring Jemma turned into a monster.

He says he feels it all began when the family was living in Stamford, England. His wife - Jemma's mother - suffered a mental breakdown and joined an extreme religious cult.

"It's where you give up all your possessions and give all your money to these cult leaders, which Jemma's mother did," Mr Lilley told Sunday Night. "And if you said anything against it, then you got reprisals. I was attacked. The children were attacked.

"They've been beaten, locked in a bedroom for days. They've had to soil themselves in the bedroom. Nothing to eat. I tried for two years to try and combat it, so we ended up separated."

Shortly after, Jemma's fascination with extreme violence ballooned.

She was 15 when she began writing a graphic murder story called Playzone. It was about a serial killer who called himself 'SOS'. He tortured and killed his victims.

Mr Lilley encouraged her writing. He says he saw it as the creative writings of an active imagination.

"I've read some of it, and it's not for me. It's not for a lot of people," he said.

Jemma went on to have SOS tattooed on her body. She used SOS as her own signature.

When she was angry, she'd warn: "SOS is coming out".

But Mr Lilley says he did not recognise the warning signs, rejecting suggestions he had been in denial.

"No, because if Jemma had admitted it to me, then I would have supported her through whatever she wanted. And if she needed help mentally, or psychologically, I would help her get it."

 

Jemma Lilley. Picture: Sunday Night / Seven
Jemma Lilley. Picture: Sunday Night / Seven

 

ARRIVAL: AUSTRALIA

In 2009, Mr Lilley uprooted the family and moved to Perth, Australia, in search of a new life.

Jemma, 18, got a job at a local supermarket.

"I liked her. She was quick-witted and she was funny and she was very likeable," says co-worker BobbieLeigh McGregor. They soon became acquaintances.

Jemma gave Ms McGregor a look at her book.

"She told me that she was just writing a book, and I read it, and it was about a serial killer who had a cult following, and who liked to torture their victims to death," she told Sunday Night. "And I just thought that, you know, she was imaginative and living in a fantasy world, I guess, and had a creative imagination."

 

 

 

 

Then Jemma showed Ms McGregor her collection of butcher's knives: "(Jemma said) 'Look how sharp it is'. And she was actually really quite fascinated at how sharp this knife was. Just, yep, shaved her arm hairs off with the knife."

Her local video store manager, Angela McKibbin, also got to know her quite well: "I thought she was a bit of an emo because she always wore black. She had lots of tattoos. She rode a motorbike. She was a bit weird, really. She was not a girlie girl at all."

Jemma only ever rented movies about killers, she said.

 

DARK TIMES

Jemma decided she wanted to stay in Australia. To do that, she needed permanent residency. And a sham marriage to friend Gordon Galbraith would give her that.

Her father, Richard, flew out for the ceremony. He dressed as Freddy Krueger.

Jemma dressed as TV serial killer Dexter.

Gorden was dubbed 'Gacy', after the US serial killer John Wayne Gacy. They shared a certain resemblance, she said.

Then Gordon died in a car accident.

But, even before the accident, Jemma - now 24 - had begun to change. Her dark side was beginning to assert itself.

"She told me that she wanted to kill someone, and that the feeling that she had was getting stronger," a friend told Sunday Night. " She didn't know if she could control it for much longer, and that she wanted to kill someone before she was 25. And I said, 'Well, it's pretty hard to kill somebody'. She said, 'Oh, no, that's not hard to do'."

 

Murder victim Aaron Pajich-Sweetman. Picture: Sunday Night / Seven
Murder victim Aaron Pajich-Sweetman. Picture: Sunday Night / Seven

 

 

THE PERFECT PLOT

Forensic psychologist Brad Jones says Jemma was driven by a desire to be infamous, and in control: "She needed to see the blood. She needed to see someone die. That she (had) the ultimate power to end somebody's life."

But, in the movies, every criminal mastermind needs a sidekick.

So she recruited mother-of-three Trudi Lenon.

Trudi was entranced by Jemma's dark side, and invited her to move in. She was desperate to please. So she helped plan a murder. She even had a contender: one of her son's friends - 18-year-old Aaron Pajich-Sweetman.

He had aspergers. He could not perceive people's moods or motivations. He was bullied. He had difficulty making friends. He was gifted with the ability to thoroughly understand computers.

He had lived on the same street as Trudi and her family for eight years.

Jemma's sense of urgency was increasing.

"I feel as though I cannot rest until the blood or flesh of a screaming victim is gushing out and pooling on the floor. Until all the roads and streets are stained with red, " she texted Trudi in June 1016.

Trudi replied: "It is definitely time. I am ready. You are already."

They were convinced it was the perfect crime.

They had knives and a bone saw. They had bleach. Everything necessary to dissolve a body had been bought from a local hardware store: in the backyard was a barrel and 100 litres of hydrochloric acid.

They tested its effectiveness with pieces of store-bought meat.

Then, Trudi phoned Aaron: she invited him over under the pretence of helping install new software on her computer.

Aaron knew Trudi. He trusted her. He got into his killer's car willingly.

 

Jemma Lilley at a shopping centre in this exhibit photograph from the Aaron Pajich murder trial.
Jemma Lilley at a shopping centre in this exhibit photograph from the Aaron Pajich murder trial.

 

 

THINGS FALL APART

Many of Jemma's and Trudi's preparations had been caught on security camera. They were recorded making their purchases at the hardware store. They were recorded at the supermarket where Aaron was picked up.

A residential security camera caught Trudi pulling a knife after she locked a gate to prevent Aaron's escape.

According to police testimony, Aaron was oblivious as he sat at Trudi's computer as one of them crept up behind him with a wire garrotte.

But, as it pulled tight around his neck, he fought back.

Aaron's schoolteacher Megan Aiasa told Sunday Night: "He would not have known he was in danger until the second she put that thing around his neck. Until physically she imposed herself on him, he wouldn't have sensed that danger. He tried to bite her off, and then at some point, the garrotte has broken."

It wasn't enough to escape.

 

He was stabbed three times in the neck and chest.

"I thought, 'That poor bugger'," says Ms Wiasa. "This wasn't a quick death. He tried to fight off. He tried to bite her. That … that broke my heart."

His body was dragged into a room specifically tiled to make it clean up after his body had been disposed of.

But, again, the perfect crime went awry.

The idea of dissolving Aaron's body in acid was abandoned. Instead, they decided to hastily bury him in a shallow grave beneath tiles and concrete.

Jemma was ecstatic: "I'm seeing things I haven't seen before and feeling things I haven't felt before" she texted.

Trudi replied, "You're welcome."

 

The concrete and tiles that were used to cover the body of Aaron Pajich, from an exhibit to the murder trial.
The concrete and tiles that were used to cover the body of Aaron Pajich, from an exhibit to the murder trial.

 

UNDONE

Aaron's family were worried. He was late. His phone was off.

That never happened.

Police were contacted. A search was initiated and a public appeal for help made.

Jemma, meanwhile, was delirious.

Workplace acquaintance BobbieLeigh McGregor says Jemma openly bragged to one of her male co-workers at the supermarket that she had "finally done it".

"He said to her, 'What do you mean, you'd done what?' She said that she'd killed somebody. She told him that she had come up from behind and put a garrotte around his throat, but their plans didn't go the way that they'd planned it, so she had to get Trudi to hold Aaron down while she stabbed him."

He called the police.

 

Police checked Aaron's phone records, which showed his last call had been from Trudi Lenon.

So they doorknocked at Trudi and Jemma's house.

Jemma, so confident in her 'perfect' crime, denied all knowledge even while pointing out to the officers her latest handiwork - the roughly tiled patch in the backyard.

Psychologist Brad Jones says: "showing the police where the wet cement was simply, in her mind, part of her confidence of tricking the police and being that much more confident and that much more intelligent than what she believed the police were."

She was wrong.

The next day police returned - with a forensic team.

They quickly found Aaron's body.

 

Aaron’s father Keith Sweetman and stepmother Veronica Desmond attend the trial. Picture: Colin Murty The Australian
Aaron’s father Keith Sweetman and stepmother Veronica Desmond attend the trial. Picture: Colin Murty The Australian

 

CONVICTION

The evidence against Jemma and Trudi was overwhelming. The body was found in their backyard. Blood was found in the house. There were the weapons, and the remnants of their extensive preparations.

Jemma insisted she was completely innocent.

Trudi said it was all Jemma's idea.

Jemma told police she had gone to sleep in another room, leaving Aaron and Trudy behind her. When she got up the next day, Aaron's bag was still there - but there was no Aaron.

Later, Jemma confessed to helping bury the body.

Jemma's father believes her: "She hasn't got a bad bone in her body."

 

He asked her if she did it: "She said 'no'. '100 per cent, I did not.' And with the emotion in her eyes, I believe her. I said, 'whatever happened, we'll get through this," and if you've played any part, 'bring it out now and deal with it'. And she swore to me that she did not play any part. She said, 'You will not find any evidence against me'."

The jury disagreed after a five-week trial. They took just three hours to reach their decision.

Psychologist Brad Jones says he believes police successfully stopped a budding serial killer: "Jemma was the dominant partner of the two. She was the leader, or the director, if that makes sense, and Trudi was the submissive who would do … what was required of her."

Jemma continues to insist she is innocent. She is appealing her murder conviction.

Her dad believes her: "I looked in her eyes, and she seemed to think telling the truth would see her all right. In my eyes, it's a set-up from start to finish."

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