True Crime

Australia’s most wanted ‘head and fingers’ killer is still at large

The search is on for the master of disguise.
Supplied

Smartening up for a night on the town, Graham Gene Potter was, by all counts, a success.

At 23, he had a job as a coal miner and a devoted fiancée, Sheree Jones. Heading to a local nightclub in Wollongong, NSW, Potter was out to celebrate his bucks’ party with his younger brother.

It was meant to be a night the siblings would never forget. And after the death of an innocent girl, it became a night Australia would remember forever. When Potter ran into Kim Barry, 19, who he knew from a dance class, the pair caught up over a bottle of wine.

kim barry
Innocent Kim Barry was just 19.

Not knowing that Potter had a fiancée, Kim headed to the dance floor with him. Then Potter lured her back to his flat, where it’s believed he made advances. But when she rejected him, he became angry.

Using incredible force, police said he struck Kim over the head with a spanner, killing her almost instantly, before leaving her battered body in the spare bedroom of his home. Then, as if nothing had ever happened, he calmly returned to the club, telling his brother and friends he’d changed his mind about sleeping with Kim and she’d gone home. Later, after everyone was partied out, Potter and his brother returned to his home where Kim lay lifeless and out of sight.

potter with wife
Potter married his fiancee while he was in jail.

Once he was sure his brother was asleep, Potter moved the girl to the bath and used a hacksaw to cut off her head and fingers. Wrapping her body parts in spare sheets, he bagged her purse and clothing separately. Dumping her torso on the side of a mountain in Jamberoo, it was two days before someone stumbled upon her.

Once police had been alerted, they released photographs of Kim’s bloodstained clothing.It was then that her mother, Beverly, recognised her missing daughter’s belongings.Her beautiful Kim, who’d always wanted to be a nurse and volunteered helping disabled people, had been brutally murdered. Three weeks later, the rest of her remains were found one kilometre away concealed in a plastic garbage bag. Potter’s sheets and dressing gown were also inside. Dubbed the ‘head and fingers killer’, Potter went on the run. But after 36 days, he went to his parents’ house and his father alerted police.

When arrested, Potter came prepared with a story claiming two men broke into his flat and murdered Kim, then forced him to dispose of her body. Police weren’t having any of it. In 1982, Potter was found guilty of the murder of Kim Barry and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Despite his heinous crime, Potter and Sheree married in prison soon after. In 1990, after escaping from jail along with another inmate, he was found and recaptured the following day. Potter was eventually released in 1996. In 2002, he and Sheree moved to Tasmania. But as the years passed, he proved that a leopard never truly changes its spots. This time, he was wanted for his alleged involvement in trafficking more than $440 million worth of cocaine and ecstasy into the country.

Arrested by the Australian Federal Police in 2008, Potter was extradited to Victoria to face charges but was granted bail.Then in 2009, he was charged with plotting to kill two men at the wedding of the son of notorious underworld figure Mick Gatto. Again, he was given bail. But on February 1, 2010, he failed to appear in court. On the run once more, Potter became the ultimate criminal mastermind. Last sighted by Queensland police in 2010, he ran from a vehicle during a routine police intercept.

When police searched his abandoned car, they found a collection of disguises. ‘It was quite sophisticated. It was a padded suit to make him look bigger than he actually was,’ said Detective Superintendent Gerry Ryan. Using disguises, he remained at large and, in 2011, a $100,000 reward was announced for information leading to his capture.

wanted man
Potter in one of his many disguises.

In 2013, there were several tip-offs that Potter was working on a farm in southern NSW, although none were confirmed.‘He is an intelligent man who is not to be underestimated,’ said Superintendent Ryan.

During an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2015, Potter’s mum, who declined to be identified, said her son ran when his life was in danger after he turned police informant. She said a return to prison is as good as a death sentence for him.‘I just hope he’s safe,’ she said. The last sighting of her son was in Griffith, NSW, earlier this year.

Over the years, he’s had a long list of aliases and has been known to frequent regional towns. But despite numerous reported sightings, Potter still remains Australia’s most wanted man.

For more, pick up this week’s copy of that’s life! – on sale now.

cover
(Credit: that’s life!)

Related stories