Katherine Knight: One of Australia’s most disturbed criminals

True crime stories have become a popular topic in the public eye due to the violent nature of their subjects and the heinous acts they commit. Perhaps due to the nature of the extreme violence these subjects usually commit, people are morbidly intrigued with understanding how people can commit such horrid acts.

Katherine Knight is a prime example. The violence throughout her life left everyone she loved injured in some way, to the point that even leaving her was sometimes not enough. 

Katherine Knight headshot

A Disturbed Childhood

Katherine Knight was born in a small town in New South Wales, Australia in 1955. Her birth was a local scandal, as she was born out of an affair.

Her mother, Barbara Roughan, was married and had four children with her husband Jack Roughan when she began having an affair with Ken Knight. Jack had introduced Ken to Barbara.

The members of their small, conservative community were shocked at this behavior, and Barbara fled the town with Ken. The pair would have four children of their own, including Katherine. 

Knight was exposed to intense violence from an early age. Her father would sexually assault her mother multiple times a day. She would share the gruesome details with her children.

Katherine herself was consistently subject to sexual assault from other members of her family. This twisted her perception of sex and intimacy and ensuring a violent and detached personality.

This became evident when Katherine became a bully at school. She attacked teachers and students alike, although her grades remained high.

By 15 though she left school, never having learned to read or write. She got a job at a clothing factory for a year before starting what she called her dream job: butchering meat at a slaughterhouse.

She hung the set of butcher knives she received at work beside her bed for the rest of her life, claiming she wanted them in reach in case she ever needed them. Little did she know that someday they would be used darkly. 

A Series of Tumultuous Relationships

Knight’s adult life would be as tumultuous as the relationship that her parents had together. She went through a series of romantic partners and had several children.

First Marriage to David Kellett

She first got married in 1974 to David Kellett, a coworker she met at the slaughterhouse. Kellett was an alcoholic like Knight’s father and would get into fights around town. Knight was there to back him up whenever someone swung at Kellett.

She was an angry and defensive woman who was ready to fight at any given moment. It was a match made in heaven, but the warning signs of the collapse of the marriage came as early as the first night.

Knight’s mother warned Kellett at the ceremony to never cheat on her, otherwise, she would kill him. Her own mother insisted that Knight had “a screw loose somewhere.”

This became quickly evident as after consummating their marriage, Knight tried to strangle Kellett. She later shared that she was mad that Kellett would not have sex with her for a fourth time.

She continued to abuse Kellett. She even beat him with a frying pan for being late one day from a game of darts, then convincing him not to press charges with her charm. 

Eventually, though, her charm wore off and Kellett left Knight for another woman and fled the area. This pushed Knight over the edge, spiraling her into a destructive behavior pattern.

The Erratic Behaviors Escalate

Shortly after the birth of her first child, she was found pushing her down the street in a stroller, shaking it back and forth dangerously. She was apprehended and diagnosed with postnatal depression.

After a period of recovery was released back into the world and caused more chaos. She took her now two-month-old child and laid her on the railroad tracks before stealing an axe and threatening to kill people.

A homeless man rescued the child before the train arrived, and Knight was once again admitted for psychiatric care. 

After she signed herself out the next day, Knight used her knives to injure and threaten a woman to take her to Kellett. The woman managed to escape when Knight stopped at a gas station to threaten a mechanic who had fixed Kellett’s car, blaming him for allowing Kellett to leave.

Upon hearing the news of Knight’s descent into madness, Kellett and his mother moved back to assist her. This decision may have been driven by fear of what she may do to them otherwise. Or perhaps they truly wanted to help a struggling woman. 

The couple had another child in 1980, but that was not enough to save their relationship. Knight decided to leave Kellett in 1984.

During the same period, she also was subject to a back injury and was unable to continue her work at the slaughterhouse. She lived on a disability pension, continuing to hang her set of knives next to her bed every night.

What followed over the next decade and a half was a series of similarly abusive relationships where Knight tortured the men she was with. 

The Next Relationship: David Saunders

Her first relationship after Kellett was with David Saunders. He was a miner who maintained a separate apartment even after moving in with Knight.

When the couple would fight, Saunders would retreat to his apartment, after which Knight would follow and beg him to come home. The most heinous example of her behavior towards Saunders was when she slit the throat of his two-month-old puppy to prove to Saunders what would happen if he ever cheated on her.

At other points Knight also beat Saunders over the head with a frying pan, knocking him out, and stabbed him with a pair of scissors. After Saunders went into hiding to flee from Knight and no one would share his location with her, she once again played innocent.

She went to the police and told them she was afraid of Saunders, and they offered her a restraining order. 

Katherine Knight with partner, David Saunders

Murdering John Price

Her next relationship began in 1991, with a man named John Chillingworth. She stayed with him for three years and had yet another child, before leaving him for John Price.

The couple got along well, as Price was well loved by many and his children liked Knight. They got along well for many years until Knight asked Price to marry her in 1998 and he refused.

In retaliation for his rejection, Knight sent a video to his boss of items that he had taken from the company waste bin, claiming that he had stolen the items. When Price was fired for this supposed offense, he cut off ties with Knight.

A few months later though, he restarted the relationship. It remained rocky for its short remaining time though, and Price would pay for returning to Knight.

Katherine Mary Knight and John Price. Random House

By February of 2000, Price was becoming aware that his relationship was dangerous for himself and his family. After Knight stabbed him in the chest, Price threw her out and took out a restraining order, even going as far as to tell his coworkers that if anything were to happen to him, it was Knight’s fault.

He was not incorrect. Knight would return to Price’s house that night and seduce him before ultimately killing him.

Price’s Body is Found

When Price did not show up at work the next day, police were dispatched to his home where they found a grisly scene. Knight had killed Price, stabbing him at least 37 times while he attempted to flee from her anger.

Using her skills from the slaughterhouse, she had strung Price up, skinned and decapitated him, and cooked parts of his body using the knives she had hung by her bed. Two plates were laid out with the names of Price’s children, hinting that she was going to feed their father to them. 

Knight insists that she does not remember the night of the murder, perhaps because of the large number of pills she took before falling asleep. Despite this, she pleaded guilty in her trial and was found to be sane, although she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

She became the first woman in Australia to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for her lack of remorse. When she appealed the sentence, it was unanimously declined. 

It is unclear what drove Knight’s violence throughout her life. It may have been the trauma of a childhood riddled with sexual abuse and violence that she continued to emulate.

Or perhaps it was undiagnosed borderline personality disorder that kept her from forming meaningful relationships and fearing abandonment. Whatever the cause, her violence against the men she claimed to love was nearly unprecedented and severe enough to make her a landmark case in Australian criminality. 


Mr. O. “Skinning and Decapitation in Aberdeen – The Gruesome Case of Katherine Knight.” Medium, November 2, 2023. https://medium.com/@mromysteries/skinning-and-decapitation-in-aberdeen-the-gruesome-case-of-katherine-knight-true-crime-c6ca1fc628fc

Wakatama, Giselle. “Remembering Katherine Mary Knight, Australia’s ‘female Hannibal Lecter’, 20 years on.” ABC News, February 29, 2020. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-29/katherine-mary-knights-john-price-murder-remembered-20-years-on/12006996

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