When 18-year-old Aaron Pajich walked through the gate at 22 Broughton Way, Orelia, on June 13 last year, he had no idea of the horror that lay ahead of him.
Perhaps the Elm Street sign on the gate could have been a clue but he had no reason to be alarmed — as far as he knew he was there to download computer software as a favour for one of his young friends.
But within minutes of arriving and while sitting drinking coffee, he was attacked. First from behind with a garotte, and then with a knife that severed his jugular vein and left a 10-12-centimetre-deep wound in his chest that damaged multiple organs.
His killers were 26-year-old Jemma Lilley — someone he had never met — and 43-year-old Trudi Lenon, a study colleague and the mother of a friend with whom he liked to play computer games.
In a trial in WA's Supreme Court that played out over the past five weeks, both women denied responsibility for Mr Pajich's death, mounting what's called a "cut-throat" defence and directly blaming each other for his murder.
The court heard Mr Pajich was probably not your usual 18-year-old.
Prosecutor James Mactaggart said while he lived a normal life he had been assessed as being on the autism spectrum, and that was something that made him more vulnerable to Lenon and Lilley's warped plan.
A hero-worship of serial killers
The two women had met through mutual friends about 18 months earlier. Three weeks before Mr Pajich's death, Lenon and two of her young sons had moved in to the Broughton Way house that Lilley had bought in December, 2015.
Lilley was a tattoo artist come night-fill manager at a suburban supermarket and had what she called "interests" in motorbikes, horror movies, knives and serial killers.
She hero-worshipped figures like the horror movie icon Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series, who she described as "a father figure", and the real-life serial murderer John Wayne Gacy, who looked identical to her late husband — a gay man she married partly to help get her permanent residency when she came to Australia from England in 2010.
Lilley had already written a fictional book called Play Zone, whose main character was a serial killer called SOS (an acronym for "Style or Smile"), the head of a murderous cult who had followers called "maggots".
Lenon, a mother of three boys, was 17 years older than Lilley and had studied with Mr Pajich at a local college.
Her 13-year-old son also knew him and, in an interview with police played to the trial, described him as "a really excellent friend".
He also described Lilley's house as "creepy", with its horror movie posters, Chucky and Freddy Krueger doll figurines, and computer hard drive full of horror movies that he and his brother were not allowed to touch.
A 'sinister friendship' that turned fatal
The court was told his mother, about six years earlier, had been into BDSM sexual practises and her experience as a submissive called "Corvina" may have shaped the "sinister friendship" she developed with Lilley that ultimately led to murder.
That relationship was laid bare in court with the revelation of dozens of Facebook messages the pair exchanged in the months before Mr Pajich's death — messages which Mr Mactaggart said spelled out the women's murderous intent. Lilley was "SOS", the serial killer who's "life's ambition was to murder" and Lenon was "Corvina", the "sycophantic submissive" to Lilley's dominant.
The first message read to the court was from Lenon:
"I will fear you but respect you … I would not challenge you. I would naturally submit to you. My fear would be because I am in awe of you, and because I respect what you are and I see you as my dominant."
"100% perfect. It would seem you truly understand my SOS role. Good message."
In other messages, the pair talked about "SOS's first kill", torture, and the "darkness" within them.
One of their last exchanges appeared to be just a few days before Aaron's death.
Lilley: "I feel as though I cannot rest until the blood of a fresh, screaming, pleading victim is gushing out and pooling on the floor, until all the roads and streets are stained red and abandoned and the fear in the back of everyone's mind and on the tongue of every human left standing, is SOS. I cannot shift this belief that the world has become not only ready, but it needs me to be ready.
Lenon: "It's definitely time. I am ready, you are ready."
A trap captured on CCTV
It appears their plan was put into practice on June 13, 2016, when, after dropping her sons at school, Lenon telephoned Mr Pajich and arranged to meet him at the Rockingham Shopping Centre on the pretext he was going to her house to download computer software for her 13-year-old son.
Lilley was there too and their meeting at the shopping centre was recorded on CCTV.
Their arrival at the house also, bizarrely, was captured by security cameras that had been installed by Lilley.
That footage was played to the trial and shows the teenager following Lilley and Lenon into the house. Moments later Lenon locks the gate, as Mr Mactaggart put it, "to stop anyone getting in and Aaron Pajich getting out".
About half an hour later, Lenon is recorded walking out of the back door carrying what was alleged to be a knife. The cameras are then switched off.
The next piece of evidence was a text message sent by Lilley to Lenon in the early hours of the next morning.
"I am seeing things I haven't seen before. I'm feeling things I haven't felt before. It's incredibly empowering. Thank you."
"You're welcome SOS."
A few days later Mr Pajich was reported missing by his family.
A house full of horrors
Police investigations revealed that Lenon was the person who had telephoned Mr Pajich on the morning of his disappearance. Eight days later detectives were led to the Broughton Way house.
There, in the backyard under a freshly laid cement slab covered in bright red tiles, they found the teenager's fully-clothed body wrapped in a white drop sheet and with cling film covering his face.
An autopsy found that as well as the fatal knife wounds, he had numerous cuts on his hands that forensic pathologist Jodi White testified were consistent with him trying to fight off his attackers.
Police also conducted a meticulous search of the house, uncovering a grisly and disturbing list of items:
- dozens of knives including a meat cleaver, butchers' knives, scalpels, a bone saw, a surgeon's knife, and military and machete style knives
- an alphabetical handwritten list of torture methods such as branding, force-feeding, foot roasting, genital mutilation and Chinese water torture
- diary notes that talk about fighting the urge to slaughter, to tear, to stab
- magazines and notes on serial killers including Martin Bryant and Eric Edgar Cooke
- a cut-out section of carpet in the lounge room that Lilley used as her bedroom
- 100 litres of hydrochloric acid
- a pot in the garage with what looked like meat that had been submerged in acid, and
- a "sealed, concealed" room, that had its walls covered in blue tarpaulins. Its only contents were a bright red tool box and a cut-down shopping trolley that had wooden boards on top and human hair caught in its wheels.
Prosecutors alleged that room was used to hide Mr Pajich's body immediately after his death, while they suggested the hydrochloric acid, which was bought by the women in the days before the murder, may have been designed to dissolve his body — something they both denied.
Lilley wanted a 'slaughterfest'
But there wasn't only physical evidence against the women — there were also friends and work colleagues of Jemma Lilley who, one after the other, testified about her incriminating statements to them.
A worker at a video shop which Lilley used to frequent said Lilley had told her she wanted to kill before she was 25.
Another testified Lilley had talked about going on a "slaughterfest", while a work colleague — who she had nicknamed "Dahmer" after American mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer — said Lilley had told him she wanted to be a serial killer and "make her mark."
By far the most damning was the testimony of Matthew Stray, a fellow supermarket employee who told the trial that, in the days when Mr Pajich was missing, Lilley had confessed to him at work that she had killed him, divulging details that at that stage could only be known by the killer.
When he reacted with horror to what he was being told and suggested he might have to go the police, Lilley claimed she was only telling a story. She also warned that if he told anyone, "I'd have to make the problem go away".
In video recordings of interviews with police, played to the court, Lilley denied any involvement in the teenager's death. She said that on the day he was alleged to have been murdered she was on a motorbike ride to Mundaring Weir where she had one of her favourite meals, a roast at the local tavern, which she recommended that the detectives try.
In the witness box she changed her story, admitting that Mr Pajich had been at her house on June 13, but while she was asleep in another room he "must have been" killed by Lenon, who she claimed had brought him home to be "trained up" in BDSM.
She also insinuated Lenon may have put something in her coffee to make her drowsy.
She had answers for all of the questions put to her, including testifying that:
- She didn't refer to herself as, or consider herself to be, the fictional killer SOS
- The messages between her and Lenon and handwritten lists of torture methods were fictitious and part of her work developing characters for the two further books she was planning to write about SOS
- The "sealed concealed" room was going to be a waiting room for her tattoo studio and it was covered in tarpaulins because she was going to paint a "fool jester" on the ceiling which was going to be the symbol of her business
- The hydrochloric acid was for renovations to her house
Lenon elected not to give evidence, and relied on the eight hours of interviews she had done with police to give her version of events.
She initially denied knowing anything about Mr Pajich's death, but over the hours her story changed.
Her final version of events was that while he was sitting drinking coffee, Lilley attacked him from behind with a garotte, but it broke.
Lenon said she walked out of the room and returned to see Lilley on top of the teenager with a knife. She claimed she again walked out before Lilley told her later, "he's dead". In fear of her co-accused, she said she helped clean up the scene.
According to Lenon's lawyer, Helen Prince, that made her client guilty of being a coward, not a murderer.
Lilley's lawyer, John Prior, said the trial was not a "popularity contest" and while he conceded some of his client's attributes and interests may not be endearing, that was not the point and she was not the killer.
The jury deliberated for only two and half hours before finding both women guilty of murder.
Justice Stephen Hall ordered psychiatric and psychological reports to be prepared ahead of their sentencing hearing next year.Let's