Sixty-six-year-old Simms, known for many years as “The Bondi Beast”, “The Centennial Park Rapist” and “The Tracksuit Rapist”, took his secrets to the grave. The father-of-three who had been living under the facade of a devoted family man died of kidney disease in February this year, seven months before police cracked the case.
A few weeks after that breakthrough, Strike Force detectives called Doreen Jennifer, now in her 60s, with three words she’d spent half her life waiting to hear: “We found him.”
“I burst into tears, it was just so emotional,” Jennifer recalled of the phone call. “And then [police] said he was dead. I said to them, ‘I hope he died in pain’. Because he really deserved it.”
Like Jennifer, Linda had wondered for decades if the police would ever catch the predator that attacked her in 1994 in Coogee. But when a detective called her out of the blue in October, she felt she was about to get some answers.
“I was at work and there was a message on my phone from a detective that I hadn’t spoken to before and I just knew it was about this case,” Linda says in an interview.
“So… I called her and she told me they had identified him and I just told her, ‘I knew you were going to tell me that’.
“And from that moment on it was a bit of a roller coaster, because my first reaction was: yes, he is finally being convicted. Then she told me he had passed away, and I was devastated. And half an hour later, on reflection, I was relieved that I didn’t have to go to court.”
Linda was 24 when she was attacked on her way home from a night out at the Coogee Bay Hotel.
“He ran over to me, he put the knife to my face and he basically said ‘you’re going to do what I tell you to do’.
“So I said okay, I would. He told me to sit down, so I sat down. He still had the knife in front of my face at that point. So I tried to stop him. I tried to ask him what he was doing and if he had been following me – a whole bunch of questions, just to try and stop him, to give myself that little bit of time to see if I could get out of the situation. But he was very aggressive and that made him angry. So I got to the point where I realized my only option was to try and survive this onslaught any way I could.
An opportunistic offender, Simms targeted women who exercised in public places, including Centennial Park and the scenic coastal road from Bondi to Coogee. On other occasions, women were violated while sleeping at home.
The victims ranged in age from 13 to 55 and did not fit a consistent profile. However, Detective Acting Inspector Shelley Johns of Strike Force Doreen said there were striking similarities between all 31 reported incidents.
“There were many similarities. There were the crimes committed in people’s homes in the middle of the night. And in almost all cases where a home has been broken into, it was under the same circumstances,” she says.
“And on the other hand, there were the women who were out and about going about their normal daily business; jogging, walking, exercising, and suddenly they were grabbed from behind by this man, dragged into a bush or a remote area and sexually assaulted.”
Linda paid close attention to the eyes behind the balaclava and when it was all over she ran to a nearby hotel where she called the police to report the attack. But the next few hours would only add to her grief.
“I was traumatized, I felt sick, I was tired, I hadn’t slept all night. And by the time it was all over, I had to get detectives to the location where it happened. By this time it was 10am the next morning. Little things like a fresh change of clothes would have been great. I had to wear a hospital gown and then have no shoes for hours. And that just made me feel humiliated.”
Nearly three decades after the attack, Linda still finds it hard to share the disturbing details of the worst 24 hours of her life, but she hopes this forensic breakthrough gives other sexual assault survivors the strength to come forward to law enforcement .
“I understand how hard it is for someone to talk about this kind of offense because you feel so humiliated… , I can see where it leads. But then I can also understand why people are so hesitant to do it .”
While the extraordinary breakthrough has provided some relief to victims and satisfied detectives, Simms’s death has left countless questions unanswered: Why did he do it? And how has this father of three and husband of 44 managed to keep up his double life for so long?
At his funeral, held at St Andrew’s Catholic Church in Malabar on 4 March, Simms was described as a kind hearted ‘hero’ and a father figure who loved playing football, partying and supporting the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Linda says she has “all the sympathy in the world” for Simms’ family, who are believed to be in a state of turmoil.
However, she’s determined to make sure he pays a price for the pain he’s inflicted on her and dozens of others.
“He kind of lived a double existence where he was one person to some people, but to a lot of other people he terrorized them and he didn’t regret it,” she says.
“This is his legacy: he is just a rapist. That’s how he is and that’s how he will be remembered. So I feel like there’s some justice in that, he deserves to be mentioned and he deserves people to remember that’s what he was.
Watch 60 Minutes on Sunday, November 27 for Sylvia Jeffreys’ full story Behind Strike Force Doreen.
NSW Sexual Assault Helpline 1800 385 578
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