Days after Ciara Glennon became the third woman to vanish off the streets of Claremont in the mid-90s, her father Denis struggled through a press conference appealing for help.
“The way she’s been brought up, she will fight,” he said.
More than two decades later, during the trial of her accused murderer, prosecutors claimed the 27-year-old lawyer did just that – she fought – and in doing so “took a piece of her attacker with her”, his DNA embedded underneath her fingernails after she scratched him.
The trace DNA, described as “one fifth of one billionth of a gram”, became the most crucial piece of evidence that would lead to the arrest of alleged Claremont serial killer Bradley Edwards in 2016.
However his lawyer, Paul Yovich, said the state had the wrong man, and Mr Edwards’ DNA must have contaminated one of Ms Glennon’s nail samples in a lab, although he could not explain how or when that happened.
Ms Glennon disappeared around midnight on March 14, 1997, after she was last seen walking alone on Stirling Highway looking for a taxi following a night out with friends at the Continental Hotel.
Her case is the strongest against Mr Edwards. It includes DNA evidence, 61 fibres recovered from her body, witness sightings and a missing alibi for her accused.
About a dozen people saw a woman who looked like Ms Glennon walking along the street, some telling police they were paying closer attention to her because of the two women who had recently gone missing from the area in similar circumstances.
Two of those witnesses were friends Troy Bond and Brandon Gray, who were sitting at a bus stop eating burgers when they noticed a “newer model” Holden Commodore VS station wagon pull up alongside a woman.
Mr Bond said he saw the woman talking to the driver through the window, but did not continue watching to see if she got in.
The car described by the men matched the description of the Telstra-issued 1996 Holden Commodore VS Series 1 station wagon Mr Edwards drove at the time.
Less than three weeks later, Ms Glennon’s body was discovered in remote bushland in Eglinton, 40 kilometres north of Perth, by a man looking for cannabis.
The crime scene revealed her attacker had cut her throat and tried to conceal her body with branches from nearby trees.
It would be another 11 years before the biggest breakthrough in her case was made.
In 2008, a clipping from Ms Glennon’s torn left thumbnail was tested for DNA in combination with her left middle fingernail.
The low copy number testing took place in a UK lab with more advanced capabilities than WA and returned an unknown male profile that matched the profile of the perpetrator of an unsolved 1995 rape at Karrakatta cemetery.
The man’s profile was in the PathWest database as ‘unknown male 4’.
Despite the new lead, the trail to catch a killer eventually ran cold again. Investigators believed they had the Claremont serial killer’s DNA, but they didn’t know who he was.
Another eight years would pass before an evidence box relating to a 1988 sex assault in Huntingdale would be sent to PathWest as part of a routine cold case review to see if any of the historical items could be tested for DNA.
A semen-stained silk kimono left at the scene was tested and returned a DNA profile that matched the mystery Claremont profile.
The case was reopened – and solved within weeks.
Mr Edwards was arrested in December 2016 and charged with the murders, the Karrakatta cemetery rape, and the Huntingdale sex attack.
After originally denying the Karrakatta rape and Huntingdale sex attack, Mr Edwards confessed to the crimes on the eve of his triple-murder trial amid overwhelming DNA evidence.
However, he denied the murders.
The change in plea allowed Mr Yovich to argue the DNA found under Ms Glennon’s nails could have got there through contamination.
He said Mr Edwards’ DNA was in the PathWest lab from February 1995, when he raped a 17-year-old girl he abducted from Claremont one year before his alleged murder spree began.
Mr Yovich argued while there was no documentation to support his theory, DNA from the rape exhibits somehow contaminated Ms Glennon’s fingernail container.
The closest timeframe the exhibits were tested to each other was 14 months.
International fibre expert Jonathan Whitaker described the likelihood of lab contamination as “very low”, while he said the odds Ms Glennon scratched
Mr Edwards were “moderately high to high”.
Fibres recovered from Ms Glennon’s hair and T-shirt also allegedly linked Mr Edwards to her murder through his Telstra uniform and the work car he drove.
The evidence suggested Ms Glennon had been sitting in a 1996 Holden Commodore VS Series 1 or 2 station wagon before she was bundled into its foot well.
Blue polyester fibres also recovered allegedly came from custom-made Telstra trousers from the mid-90s.
Uniform records showed Mr Edwards, a Telstra technician, owned pairs of the trousers.
He was unable to provide an alibi for the night Ms Glennon vanished; his former friends Murray and Brigita Cook recalled Mr Edwards was meant to arrive at their Dawesville holiday home about one hour’s drive south of Perth on Friday evening, but did not arrive until the following day.
The couple testified Mr Edwards told them he was late as he was trying to reconcile with his wife, but by March 1997 she had moved on with another man and had a newborn baby.
Mr Yovich tried to argue Mr Edwards had said he was reconciling with his girlfriend, however when called to give evidence, the former partner testified the pair were still together until April of that year.
His friends were certain Mr Edwards had said “wife”.
As Mr Edwards arrived at the holiday home mid-morning, Ms Glennon’s mother Una was frantically trying to locate her daughter after discovering she was not asleep in her bed.
When she learnt she had visited Claremont the night before, she immediately called police.
In a book she wrote in 2010, Una described the grief of losing a child.
“Days that are meant to be days of celebration are now days tinged with sadness,” she said.
“There is always someone missing, a conspicuous absence, an empty chair … we do not speak about her but our silence speaks louder than words. We miss her acutely.”
Mr Glennon has attended nearly every day of Mr Edwards’ seven-month trial.
Justice Stephen Hall, the judge presiding, retired on Thursday to reach his verdict.
Heather McNeill is the crime and courts editor at WAtoday.