Depraved killer’s shocking prison persona
Thrown into a high-security jail with some of the worst female criminals of our time, white-collar crim Victoria Schembri's prison experience was the stuff of nightmares.
But there was one unlikely friendship that helped her through - killer Katherine Knight taught her to crochet, they played cards most days and the woman who on February 29, 2000, killed, beheaded and skinned her boyfriend "was very nurturing, was very caring".
Hear Victoria talk about her relationship with the woman inmates called Nanna in the video above, and read an extract from James Phelps' book Green is the New Black below to learn about their first meeting and Knight's horrific crime.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
AUSTRALIA'S most infamous female killer did not get the reaction she was expecting. Maybe even hoping for?
"Did you hear what I said?" she asked firmly, her face full of surprise.
"I said my name is Katherine Knight."
Victoria Schembri's expression did not change.
"Umm, OK," she said, her hand still extended, waiting for the woman to return the greeting.
Knight raised her eyebrows, shrugged her shoulders.
"Mmm," she murmured. "That name doesn't ring a bell?"
What's this chick on? Does she think she's famous? Is she famous?
"No, I don't think I've heard of you," she said. "Sorry."
MORE FROM JAMES PHELPS: MEET GOLDIE, THE MAN THEY DARED NOT FIGHT
"Seriously, you've never heard of me?" Knight asked again. "Katherine Knight?"
Schembri shrugged and shook her head.
"Geez," Knight drawled. "Have you been living under a rock?"
Knight finally extended her hand, and they shook.
"I like you," Knight said. "I think we're going to be friends."
And she was right. Australia's most infamous female inmate and the first-time offender, in for fraud, became friends. Best friends.
"I was very close to Katherine Knight," Schembri said.
"She was in complete shock when I didn't react to her name. She thought I was having her on.
"But, honestly, I had no idea who she was. She was obviously used to a reaction, but she didn't get one from me."
Knight let go of Schembri's hand following the short, soft shake.
"Seriously?" Knight took a step back, her eyebrows still raised. "You don't know me. Don't you watch TV? Have you read a newspaper in the last five years?"
Schembri, comfortable despite her identity ignorance, shook her head again.
"Good," she said. "According to the papers, I'm the worst woman to have walked the Earth. I'm a monster. I'm the only woman never to be released."
Schembri considered her next move. What do they say in prison movies? Are you supposed to ask what they did? Or not? Shit, I forget.
Oh well, bombs away …
"Umm," Schembri mumbled, her eyes looking at the floor.
"Well, so what did you do? What are you in for?"
Let's find out …
Knight pulled the tray from the oven. Not bad. About 30 minutes to go. The vegetables, carefully seasoned and oiled, had softened in the 180-degree heat.
She placed the sizzling tray back on the shelf and shut the oven door.
Time for the meat …
Knight delicately sprinkled the freshly butchered cuts of meat, first with salt and then pepper.
The finely sliced slivers were white and tender, and she drizzled them with a thin layer of olive oil. Knight placed the meat on a pre-warmed, lightly greased roasting tray, one-by-one peeling the fresh cuts from the heavily scarred wooden chopping block and arranging them on the surface of the tray. Soon the meat was in the oven, slowly roasting. Twenty minutes?
Knight wasn't sure. She had never cooked human before. The slivers of meat, expertly taken from her own lover's bum cheeks with a paring knife, looked like a serving of chicken breast from the grocery story.
How long does chicken take? Twenty-five minutes? Yeah, that's about right.
The meat and vegetables were sorted, or would be when the oven timer went ding, but Katherine Knight was far from done.
This was to be a banquet ...
The 45-year-old mother-of-four grabbed her favourite stirring spoon and sank it into the simmering stew.
She dug through the vegetables and stock before prodding at the prize: John Charles Thomas Price's head.
Satisfied with how the feast was coming along, she walked into the lounge room to look at where her dead partner, or at least the parts of him that weren't roasting, boiling or hanging from the meat hook attached to the living room door, sat.
She had placed the headless - and skinless - carcass on the father-of-three's favourite single-seat recliner.
She looked at the butchered corpse. She wasn't satisfied. Mmm. Not quite right. She crossed his lifeless legs and placed a drink bottle in his stone-cold, stiffening hand. Perfect.
Soon it was time to set the table - just two places. They were reserved for Price's two children. Along with the usual knives and forks, salt and pepper, she placed two notes on the table, one for each of the children.
What did she write? Well, we will never know.
The details of the handwritten letters were suppressed in court.
This is an edited extract from Green Is The New Black by James Phelps.
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
© Penguin Random House 2017
Available now in bookstores and online.
- This is an edited version of a story first published in July 2017.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.