The Athelstone Murders is the name given to a series of murders which took place from 1865 to 1985 in the Athelstone suburb of South Australia. The series of killings were notable as they all took place at the same property every 30 years, were committed by the father of the residing family, and the victim’s bodies all being disposed of in similar circumstances.
The suburb of Athelstone was settled by European migrant farmers as early as 1838, beginning with the building of a mill and farmhouse. The name Athelstone was bestowed by John Coulls, a land owner from Helston, Cornwall, who bought the mill in 1845 and named the buildings ‘At Helstone’ in honour of his hometown. Coulls was largely feared in the local community due to persistent rumours of his involvement in Satanic rituals. It was said he had been sent to the Australian colony to shield his wealthy relatives from controversy.
Helston was actually a corruption of 'Hel Stone', changed after the area was settled by Christian missionaries in the early 18th century. The name Hel Stone referred to a large rock formation in Cornwall originally worshiped by pagans. Unusual symbols and writings were carved deep into the rock - unnaturally so for tools available at the time - and was often featured prominently in local devil worship ceremonies. It was said the foundation of the Athelstone mill contained a piece of the original Hel Stone.
The First Murder Edit
Coulls took on a protege in the late 1850’s; a market gardener named William Carrington who, along with his wife Penelope Carrington and children Jacob and Meredith, resided in a cottage near what is now Thorndon Park.
William Carrington was only in his early 20’s but had amassed sizeable wealth since he began working for Coulls. This fact made Carrington a target of envy and scorn from his neighbours, many who were market gardeners themselves and had suffered several years of low crop yields. Conversely, Carrington’s plantations were constantly thriving. Due to Carrington’s close association with Coulls, locals accused Carrington of cursing the other farmers’s crops with black magic. After Coulls’s death in 1862, Carrington’s fortunes changed swiftly, and by the beginning of 1865 he was nearly bankrupt, an alcoholic and his family shunned by the community.
On October 31st 1865, Penelope Carrington and her two children were slain in their home. Their bodies were discovered a few hours after William Carrington had been found wandering naked and covered in blood near the local post office. One police officer reported Carrington had used the blood to trace strange designs and phrases on himself. An official statement from police denied this claim.
Carrington was originally unresponsive when he was arrested by police but he finally spoke during questioning, repeating only the phrase, “He demanded their lives." This led police to investigate the Carrington residence and discover the slain family. Police alleged William had flown into a drunken rage and used a hatchet to dismember the family members, before draining their blood. The local doctor, called to dispose of the gruesome remains, recorded a phrase was written on the bathroom wall in blood. However, he never specified what the writing said. The doctor committed suicide just 3 days later, stabbing himself in the eyes.
William Carrington was tried and convicted of the murder, never uttering a word during the trial. After being sentenced to life in prison, Carrington disappeared from his jail cell less than a week after the trial. He was never found.
The Following Murders Edit
Following the Carrington murder, the house was demolished and the Athelstone area was redeveloped into residences. Thirty years to the day, on October 31st 1895 the Freidkin family was found dismembered in their home. Husband and Orthodox priest Father Waldorf Freidkin, was found wandering the streets naked and covered in blood. Freidkin was tried and convicted of murdering his family, however he denied any knowledge of the event. He claimed he had felt an unholy presence in the house before losing consciousness, and awoke only when police arrested him.
Similar killings occurred every 30 years at the property. On October 31st 1925, the Ulhmann family was found dismembered, the father Roger Uhlmann unconscious, naked and covered in blood on the front lawn.
On the same night 1955, Eugene Stevens was convicted of murdering his family and bathing in their blood. Crime Scene Investigators alleged a hatchet or axe had been used to dismember the victim’s bodies. Eugene denied ever owning one, and none was ever located at the house.
Although the house built by the Freidkins had been demolished and a new one built on the same land, the violent killing continued. In 1985, Christopher Vergil Lester was convicted of murdering his family and another family - Michael Irving, his wife Jennifer and their son Gerald - who the Lesters were entertaining at their home that night. Christopher was found in his parked car at the corner of Stradbroke and Montacute Roads, naked and covered in the blood of his victims.
All convicted murderers denied any knowledge or involvement in the killings. Several claimed the house was haunted, reporting strange noises coming from the bathroom late at night and regular feelings of uneasiness. The house was regularly attended by police on reports of intruders, although no signs of forced entry were ever noted. Both Roger Uhlmann and Christopher Lester told police a man wearing "rustic clothing” had broken in on several occasions. The intruder spoke in a language neither man recognised before disappearing. Investigations never proceeded, as both men would be arrested for murder just days later.
It is currently unknown who resides in the residence at 265 Gorge Road.