The daughter of a double murderer found out the truth about his crimes when she was assigned a school project.
Renee McBryde, of Alice Springs, NT, grew up knowing her father, Michael Karl Caldwell, was in prison for killing two men. But her family led her to believe he’d acted in self-defence.
It was only when she was set homework to research a well-publicised Australian crime that she discovered those around her had been hiding a horrifying secret.
Her father was in fact responsible for the notorious ‘Kings Cross murders’ in 1981.
Peter Parkes, a schoolteacher and gay activist had been killed in Potts Point on October 20. A few weeks later, Constantine Giannaris, the Greek Consul General to Australia, was murdered in Darling Point.
‘When Dad was on weekend release, I asked him what had happened and he said he couldn’t remember,’ Renee said. ‘It was becoming increasingly difficult to believe that my father was a moral crusader caught up in the heat of the moment. I just wanted to know the truth.’
Not long after, Caldwell was a free man.
‘His release made the television news,’ Renee recalls. ‘So when I was given a school project to research a well-publicised Australian crime, I chose Dad’s. I thought I’d finally get some answers.’
At the State Library in Sydney, she searched newspaper archives for his name.
‘Headlines exploded with all the details,’ Renee said. ‘Quarter-page drawings showed the layouts of the victims’ apartments, pointed out exactly where their lifeless bodies lay slumped when police arrived, and detailed the murder weapon – a 20cm black-handled carving knife. It felt like the library walls were closing in on me.
'The newspaper reported the judge as saying Dad had shown himself to be a vicious and cold-blooded killer. The words haunted me. I had thought I could submit the assignment as if it was about some random murderer, but I couldn’t. What if someone guessed I had a connection to him? No-one would ever accept me or love me if they knew.’
After the revelation, Renee spent years feeling like she didn’t deserve happiness. But aged 20, she got a job with the housing association and met John, also 20.
They were best friends before becoming a couple two years later.
‘Despite my worst fears, when I told John all my secrets, he didn’t think any differently of me,’ Renee said.
She has now written a book about her journey.
‘I’m no longer in contact with either my mum or my dad,’ she explained. ‘It’s been hard for me to accept the lies I was told. But I also know that I am who I am today only because of everything that has happened in my past.
'Together, John and I have three cherished sons – Harry, Finn and Jack – whose lives began and continue through honesty and love. No more lies – only freedom.’
The House of Lies, by Renee McBryde, published by Hachette Australia is available in paperback and ebook from January 31.