Australia

Victim's daughter speaks out on killer who kept body parts in fridge

Leonard was convicted of killing his first victim at Deep Creek Reserve in 1994.

Leonard was convicted of killing his first victim at Deep Creek Reserve in 1994.  (Google Street View)

Denise Shipley was 19 years old when her boyfriend Richard Leonard told her about the body he had put in the refrigerator.

The couple was at his home in Sydney’s northern beaches and the man in the refrigerator had last been seen alive just a short drive away at Deep Creek reserve, in North Narrabeen.

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What Shipley was to do, or rather her inaction, would change the world of a girl she didn’t know, 14-year-old Diane Barrera.

And as Barrera told Channel 9’s "Murder Calls" this week, Shipley had the power to prevent a second body turning up but she did nothing and so another man died.

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Shipley and Leonard, who were madly in love, had met as teenagers at the Mona Vale Christian Life Center and harbored secret crushes on each other.

When they met up again, Shipley had turned 18 and Leonard was a secret devil worshipper who had a fascination with knives and bows and arrows.

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The couple started spending time together and taking drugs, in particular amphetamines and LSD.

On August 2, 1994, Leonard fatally shot Stephen Dempsey with a high-powered compound bow at Deep Creek Reserve.

Initially, he had put Dempsey’s body in creek waters by the reserve, but he returned and dismembered it.

He ferried the body parts back to his Warriewood unit on the back of his motorbike and put them in the refrigerator.

When he told Shipley “there’s a man in the refrigerator”, her response was not to say much.

But she didn’t disbelieve him.

In a secretly recorded conversation later in jail, Leonard would tell a cellmate about how during the four months he kept Mr Dempsey’s remains in the freezer he would take them out to play.

“You know sometimes when I got, when I got bored ... I’d bring him out and roll his head across the floor and bring his arms out and try to stick his arms and play jigsaws,” Leonard said. “Denise sort of sat there. She was completely freaked out. Jesus, she couldn’t cope. She couldn’t cope, she just freaked.”

It was November 18, 1994, and Shipley and Leonard again bought drugs. In the afternoon, the couple took a taxi to Collaroy Plateau, 4 miles from Leonard’s flat.

Migrant father of six Ezzedine Bahmad was the taxi driver and when Leonard took to him with his sharpened meat knife, 42-year-old Bahmad valiantly fought for his life.

Leonard stabbed Bahmad 37 times and slashed his throat.

Leonard received two life sentences for his crimes, but Shipley was acquitted of Bahmad’s murder and pleaded guilty to two charges of accessory to murder.

Bahmad’s family was outraged by the shortness of her sentence — eight years, and she served only three-and-a-half years.

Bahmad’s daughter Diane Barrera described how her father’s murder had torn a hole in her life, and her family’s lives.

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