Those involved in killing an Australian woman and her toddler then repeatedly called the victims’ family and duped them into believing the mother and daughter were still alive, Australian police revealed Wednesday.
Perpetrators or conspirators also accessed Karlie Pearce-Stevenson’s bank account for years after her death, withdrawing nearly $65,000, NT News reported.
“We know that from time to time the message bank on Karlie’s phone was accessed,” South Australia Police’s head of major crime, Detective Superintendent Des Bray said, according to NT News. “The offenders sent some replies to those text messages confirming that Karlie was alive and well and elsewhere.”
“On at least a couple of occasions,” Des Bray said, “a female represented herself to be Karlie in communication with either family or friends.”
Karlie and Khandalyce were killed at different times and at different locations in December 2008, but the mother’s remains were not discovered until 2010 in Belanglo forest in New South Wales. Her daughter’s body was found five years later and nearly 700 miles west inside a suitcase left on the side of the road around 80 miles southeast of Adelaide. Forensic testing only confirmed their identities on Oct. 21, according to NT News.
The proof-of-life messages sent to family members delayed investigation into the pair’s disappearances. Pearce-Stevenson’s family withdrew a September 2009 missing-persons report after receiving messages that she was alive.
The chilling deception continued for years as the perpetrators “retained her phone” until mid-2011, Des Bray said. Whoever handled the phone also tricked Pearce-Stevenson’s mother to deposit money into Karlie’s account on top of accruing welfare payments. In the end, more than $65,000 was deposited and withdrawn in hundreds of transactions from four different states and territories up until March 2012.
Police believe at least three people — one man and two women — were involved in the financial fraud though do not know the extent of their involvement in the murders. Officers have “good suspects” and expect to identify the fraudsters soon, Des Bray said.