The Mutilator: ‘Severed head in bag’
WARNING: Disturbingly graphic details
On a Spring day in early September 2001, two NSW Police officers investigating a possible murder knocked on a door at the Northcott apartment block in the inner city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.
They were at A Block, one of four grimy red brick high rises known as "Suicide Towers" after several residents jumped from one of the 14 storeys to their death.
Police were familiar with the infamous address for its drug dealing, vandalism and fights among 1200 people housed in 436 flats.
Eleven years earlier, an afternoon massacre at the towers left five dead when Paul Anthony Evers went on a shooting rampage with a 12-gauge shotgun after a neighbour called him a "dole bludger".
The day in 2001 on which the two Sydney cops were knocking was actually September 11.
Hours later it would go down in history when planes hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists struck the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.
But the officers at Northcott on that day would remember it for the chilling and macabre discovery they made while investigating another case.
They were probing the possible murder of Tereaupii "Andrei'' Akai, 50, a Northcott resident who had vanished from sight months earlier.
The Northcott flats, which shared the neighbourhood with million-dollar terrace houses, were considered a "dumping ground'' for psychiatric patients, chronic alcoholics, prison parolees and cash poor HIV sufferers.
Andrei Akai was one of the latter, and his condition had advanced to full-blown AIDS.
Akai had not been seen since about January or February around the ninth-floor flat he shared in Northcott's B block, and he had left behind his beloved Alsatian, Rajah.
Police had not learned about his possible disappearance until August 29, 2001, after a conversation with neighbour Jillian Nash who related her concerns about Akai's whereabouts.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for Akai's flat, which they found had been ransacked.
Around the flat were blood stains and smears, and an external window frame was shattered. Forensic officers spent eight hours taking samples, including a square of carpet and residue from the toilet.
They questioned other residents, who said they hadn't seen Akai for some time.
One described Akai as bad-tempered and jealous, and another Northcott resident had taken out a restraining order against the missing man.
Akai's disability pension was still active, and a check on his St George Bank account revealed six withdrawals totalling $1650 had been made between June and August.
Detectives studied video footage of the ATMs where the withdrawals were made and were able to identify a man.
On August 30, police took 32-year-old Damien Anthony Peters in for questioning.
Peters was an unemployed drug addict, around six foot (182cm) tall, fit looking with large muscular arms from his massive use of steroids, about which police were aware.
He had a minor record, starting with a fine for cannabis possession in 1988.
Four years later, he was convicted of four offences of break, enter and steal, one of steal from a dwelling house and one of carry a cutting weapon.
In 1995, he was convicted of stealing by finding, and in 1998 of stealing from a dwelling and breach of bail.
It was only in that year he received his first prison sentence - of four months - for breaking into a pharmacy and stealing Rohypnol tablets.
In December 1998, he was fined $1000 for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
He had been released from prison to Odyssey House Drug Rehabilitation Centre and had met Akai at the Langton Clinic Half Way House.
They had been in a relationship for around three years.
He admitted withdrawing the money, but said Akai had given him his bank card under a "gentlemen's agreement" he look after the flat, their dog, and pay the rent and electricity.
Peters told police the agreement had been made six months earlier, when Akai said he was going away to get a break from life in the Northcott flats.
He said he had turned Akai's flat upside down because he was upset, "tearing my hair out" at Akai's extended absence, and had cut his hand breaking the window.
The blood in the flat, he said, was his blood.
He blamed Akai for infecting him with HIV, which he had not admitted having until he was seriously ill and had to be nursed by Peters, who complained he got no thanks for doing so.
During the police interview, Peters revealed he was now living in another Northcott flat with his "best friend", Bevan.
Police charged Peters with obtaining money by deception and he was released on bail.
Between September 5 and 7, a listening device installed on the phone in Jillian Nash's apartment recorded conversations between her and Peters.
While suspicious as to what led to his being interviewed by police, Peters thanked Ms Nash for "sticking up" for him.
At one point, he admitted to having killed Akai and expressed concerned the police would arrest and charge him.
On September 7, detectives knocked on the door of Unit 3 in A block rented by Bevan James Frost.
Frost refused to let them in.
They returned on September 11, and were admitted by Damien Peters into the flat, which appeared to have been ransacked.
What the officers didn't realise was the man standing in front of them was on a massive, potentially lethal cocktail of drugs.
Apart from smoking cannabis, taking amphetamines, cocaine, heroin and methadone, Peters had also been prescribed Prozac and testosterone.
He was taking anxiety drugs Ducene, Oxazepam and Paroxetine, an antibacterial, dicloxacillin, Xanax, Dilantin, Valium and Mogadon.
He was self-administering intramuscular injections of the steroids Sustanon, Nandrolone and Durabolin, and two days earlier had injected 250 milligrams of crystal methamphetamine.
Police told Peters he was under arrest for the murder of Tereaupii Akai, and began to search the ransacked premises.
Blood was smeared on the carpet and walls of the bedroom.
A pattern of blood on the mattress formed the outline of the upper torso of a body.
In the bathroom, the officers found a decapitated and eviscerated body in the bathtub.
Inside a bag in the bath was a severed head.
The police did not think the body could be Akai's.
A dazed and agitated Peters admitted to police the dismembered body was that of Bevan Frost, who he had killed two days earlier after "a fight".
Peters pointed them to the carpet near the entrance door, where the officers found a 32cm bloodstained carving knife.
The officers arrested Peters and took him to Surry Hills Police Station, a short drive away.
In an interview there, Peters admitted he had killed Akai eight months previously.
He claimed Akai had conned him into sleeping with him, and infected him with HIV.
Peters claimed Akai was violent, moody, abusive and belittling and one day in January or February had called him "stupid".
Peters admitted he was "revved up".
A pharmacology professor later estimated Peters had been on a daily dose of 100mg of methadone, a weekly steroid injection. He had been smoking cannabis for days and had shot up half a gram of the drug ice over two days.
Peters said he went into the kitchen and got a knife.
He stabbed Akai twice in the neck while he was sitting on the lounge.
Then he placed Akai's body on the floor of the bathroom, where he had disembowelled it, which took six hours.
He had flushed the liver and other internal organs down the toilet.
He had knocked out the teeth and also flushed them so as to prevent identification.
For the same reason, he had burnt off the hair with peroxide and chemicals, and removed the hands which he cut across through the palms and fingerprints.
Over successive days, he had cut up the body with a hacksaw.
Peters had snapped the pelvis and leg bones in order to get them into the bag.
He had then disposed of the various parts, concealed in plastic bags or suitcases, and placed into garbage bins over several weeks.
Peters had then begun collecting Akai's pension using his bank card until it was reported stolen, in August.
He had then taken his neighbour Ms Nash into his confidence, telling her he had killed Akai and why, and asking her to go to the bank on his behalf.
He wanted her to take a letter with his name on it, saying that she had been asked to collect the rest of the money because the card had been lost and cancelled.
Detectives moved on to the discovery of Bevan Frost's body.
Bevan Frost, 57, was frail and no match for the muscular Peters but the younger man claimed Frost was armed with a switchblade and a hammer.
Peters said after killing Akai, he had not slept for nine days and had decided to kill himself.
He sold the stereo and television, bought more drugs and sat around in a daze.
As he continued to dispose of Akai's body parts, he cleaned the bloodied carpets of the flat with bleach.
Although bitter about Akai having given him HIV, as well as gonorrhoea, he had "loved" Akai and was shocked at what he had done, when finally coming to his senses.
For the next six months, he had just "existed", and claimed to have several nervous collapses, during which he had "trashed" the flat.
When police questioned and charged him over withdrawing Akai's pension money, he had returned to Northcott to find the locks changed on Akai's flat.
This forced him to move in with Frost, who he had known for several years.
In return, Peters had submitted himself to sex with Frost, who he claimed was "very rough", had subdued him with muscle relaxant Dilantin and violated him.
Peters told police he had been extremely drugged, depressed and lost his reasoning when he stabbed Frost, who was lying on his stomach expecting a massage.
Peters told them he had taken 60 Dilantin tablets, and then stabbed Frost in the back, chin and neck.
Over the next two days, he had partially disembowelled Frost's body, flushing the internal organs down the toilet, leaving the torso and head.
And then police had knocked on the door.
Peter appeared before Central Local Court on September 12, 2001, and later pleaded guilty to the murders.
He claimed the equivalent of so-called "battered wife syndrome" and said he was "not a violent man".
His barrister Kate Traill (who has since become a District Court judge) said he should not be given a life sentence for the murders, because he already had a reduced lifespan with HIV.
Peters said he tried to leave Mr Akai several times but was always manipulated into staying at their unit.
Tereaupii Akai's remains were never fully recovered and Peters later claimed he needed "the forgiveness" of Akai's family in order "to be able to move on".
It was subsequently determined that at the time he was murdered, Akai's mood swings were likely a development of an AIDS dementia complex.
A forensic pharmacologist also estimated that if Peters had taken 60 Dilantin tablets he would have experienced "very serious life threatening symptoms".
This was on top of his colossal and diverse drug habits.
A professor said this would have caused "anxiety, paranoid ideation, irritability, emotional lability and violence, and impaired mental functioning".
Three psychiatrists assessed Peters prior to his sentencing.
One suggested he had a dysfunctional childhood as the fourth child to his high achieving father, a pharmacist who had "dealt with him harshly when he failed to live up to … expectations".
Peters had difficulties at school and attention deficit disorder; his adult relationships had been with controlling men.
But Justice James Wood of the NSW Supreme Court accepted pleas of guilty to murder rather than manslaughter.
He ruled that Peters had dismembered the victims' bodies in a "deliberate and cold-blooded way".
Peters' actions attempting to clean Akai's flat, destroying dental or fingerprint remains, accessing Akai's pension money and carrying on a charade were "very callous".
They were the actions of a man "cerebrating relatively clearly … despite his continuing abuse of drugs".
"They also speak of a man lacking, at that time, in much, if anything, in the way of remorse or insight into what he had done," Justice James concluded.
"However, I accept (Peters) was provoked to a degree by … (a) pattern of physical and mental abuse and … by sexual manipulation or abuse."
He sentenced Peters to a maximum 21 years prison, dating from September 11, 2001, with non-parole period of 13 years, expiring in 2014.
Peters was released from jail in November 2016, with six years on parole until the expiration of his head sentence in September 2022.
One of his parole conditions was to wear a satellite tracking anklet.
Last Sunday, while attending Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, which does have a secure prison hospital wing, Peters cut off his anklet and fled, around 4.15pm.
Fairfax News reported that Peters visited the Stonewall Hotel, a popular gay pub, on Sydney's Oxford Street last Saturday night, April 6, when he would have still been wearing his anklet.
A club manager asked the 50-year-old to leave due to excessive intoxication.
He was there again on Sunday night, and asked to leave just before midnight for the same reason.
At that point, Peters was no longer wearing his anklet and the manager was utterly unaware of his criminal history.
One psychiatrist who examined Peters back in 2001 said that if he could maintain abstinence from drugs and avoid abusive relationships, his potential for reoffending would be greatly reduced.
On Sunday at 10.23pm, NSW Police released a description and photograph of Peters and urged people not to approach him, but to alert police or Crimestoppers.
Just before 5pm on Monday, detectives spotted Peters walking along King Street in Petersham.
Police from the Surry Hills and Redfern Region Enforcement Squads, Operation Odin and the dog unit moved in and arrested him, without incident.
Peters, still a heavily muscled man in middle age, was taken to Newtown Police Station.
He was returned to Corrective Services custody and is back in prison serving all or part of the remainder of his sentence for breaching parole.