This week in Take 5…

The instant I laid eyes on Leslie Camilleri I was smitten.
Jane Bogers, 42 Traralgon, VIC.
I was 16 and had just left school.
Les, 21, was tall, solid, with short wavy brown hair and a cheeky smile that made me weak at the knees.
We met at a friend’s house.
“Him and his mates steal cars,” someone whispered to me. It gave me a thrill to think of him doing something wild like that.
That night we ended up together.
We became a couple, at least in my mind. Every fortnight I’d leave home in Moe, Victoria, and travel up to Liverpool, NSW, to see him for a few days.
I was a silly teen going through a bad boy phase and head over heels.
“If you ever go with someone else I’ll kill you,” he said menacingly.
I thought it showed how much he loved me.
We’d been together a year when I fell pregnant. That’s when a mutual friend told me Les was living with a girl in Yass, NSW, and she was pregnant too.
Turned out there was even a third girl expecting his child.
Broken-hearted, I didn’t confront him, just moved on. But when our daughter Makaela was born, I took her to see Les.
As he held her I realised I still loved him, but he made it clear we had no future.
“I can only ever be an uncle to Makaela,” he said.
He wasn’t even that.
We stayed in touch, but I only saw him once over the next few years.
I met a guy, Daniel and we had two kids, Trisdan and Nathaniel, then married.
Daniel was Makaela’s daddy.
She was almost four when two schoolgirls, Lauren Barry, 14, and Nichole Collins, 16, were abducted in Bega, NSW.
Like any mum, I shuddered at the news.
Police arrested two men from Yass.
I was driving when the news came on the radio saying they’d been charged with murder.
One was a New Zealander, Lindsay Beckett. The second name sent a shiver down my spine.
Leslie Camilleri.
“Oh my God!” I screamed, almost crashing the car. I was devastated for the girls, their parents and for Makaela. But I couldn’t believe the Les I knew was involved.
Yes, he’d been a bad boy, but he’d always treated me well.
Beckett led police to the girls decomposing remains at Fiddler’s Green Creek, in Victoria.
Les’ family told me he denied killing the girls. I had to know the truth from him, for Makaela’s sake.
“I’ll support whatever you need to do,” Daniel said.
So I went to visit Les in prison with our little girl. As he cooed over her the thought of him being a killer seemed ridiculous.
“I need to know what happened,” I said, feeling foolish for asking.
He said he’d been depressed.
“I felt suicidal and asked Lindsay to inject me with drugs to kill me,” he said. “He did it in the car. We were driving and I vaguely remember two girls. But I was out of it. Next thing I remember is coming round in the car somewhere in the bush and Lindsay being there, covered in blood.”
The story was so unlikely I thought it had to be true. Why would he make up such a ridiculous lie?
Seeing him again, I felt that old rush of attraction. I just couldn’t see him as a monster and decided to keep visiting.
Beckett admitted kidnap, rape and murder and was jailed for life with a non-parole period of 35 years.
Then it was Les’ trial.
“I owe it to Makaela to go and watch,” I told Daniel. “So I can tell her the truth one day.”
Les pleaded not guilty.
I sat there every day, willing him to be let free, but then all the gory details started to come out and they were horrific.
Beckett gave evidence, saying he and Les repeatedly raped the girls before driving to Fidler’s Creek.
There, Les made the girls strip and wash to remove evidence. They gagged, tied and separated them and then Beckett said Les told him to drown the girls.
When he told Les it was unfair he had to kill them both he said Les threatened to stab him if he didn’t. Scared, Beckett admitted drowning Lauren Barry and stabbing her in the neck.
Nichole was tied to a tree nearby.
“You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?” she said.
Beckett stabbed her in the chest and cut her throat.
I sobbed for those poor girls. What happened to them was pure evil. So evil I still couldn’t believe my Les was involved.
But Les was found guilty of kidnap, rape and murder and jailed for life.
I felt crushed. I didn’t want to believe it he’d done it. He was the father of my child.
I proclaimed his innocence to my family afterwards.
“You’re crazy,” my sister Joanne scoffed.
I continued visiting, believing it was a terrible miscarriage of justice.
My obsession drove Daniel and I apart and we split up.
Les appealed and lost.
Meanwhile, I met Bob and we had a daughter together, Liarna. He told me he didn’t want me to have anything to do with Les.
I’d already lost one relationship over him, so I stopped visiting.
Makaela knew her father was in prison, but not what for.
One day, when she was ten, she came to me with some newspaper clippings I kept hidden away.
They were about the Bega schoolgirl murders.
“Mum, did he do it?” she asked, her eyes filled with tears.
I tried to explain he’d been found guilty, but that I had doubts, but she stormed off angrily.
Makaela was never the same afterwards.
She started playing up at school and went off the rails in her teens.
“You don’t know what it’s like having him as a father!” she yelled when she was the same age as the Bega girls.
“He’s not a murderer,” I replied but she refused to listen.
In my mind, Becket was the murderer.
I couldn’t believe that Les was that evil. I still held a candle for him all these years later.
Seven years went by, Rob passed away, then two homicide detectives came to see me.
“We’re tracing Les’ movements when you were together,” they said, but wouldn’t say why at first.
I told them everything I remembered.
Eventually, they explained they were investigating the disappearance of Prue Bird.
The 13-year-old had been abducted from her Glenroy home in February 1992, six months before I’d fallen pregnant with Makaela.
My head spun.
Thinking back to that time there’d been a couple of days when Les had been really paranoid and looking over his shoulder all the time.
I felt sick as the scales finally fell from my eyes.
I knew in my gut right then that I’d been kidding myself for years.
Les was everything people said he was. And worse.
“I’ll do anything I can to help,” I told the detectives. “I’ll visit him, wear a wire, anything.”
They said I could visit him, but didn’t need to wear a wire.
I wrote to Les, asking to see him.
He wrote back.
“I know that it has been hard for you,” he said and thanked Daniel for having raised Makaela as his own.
“Daniel is a far greater man than I could ever be or hope to be. I know that Makaela has had love and the best protection a good family could give her. Hopefully both of you can forgive me,” he added.
Now when I visited Les, I was scared.
I knew I was sitting opposite a serial killer.
We caught up, a bit awkwardly, then I broached the subject.
“What happened to Prue, Les?” I asked.
He sighed, shrugged…

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