The Birnie house is up for rent, but how do you live with the horror of the past?

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But what about those houses which have seen their fair share of tragedy? Or which have been home to people as utterly evil as David and Catherine Birnie?

I went to high school two blocks from the house where the Birnies held, raped, and tortured five women; the house where they murdered two.

The pair’s horrific rampage, centred in the Willagee house, made them arguably the worst serial murders in Australian history.

On my first day at Melville Senior High School in 1987, we talked about the Birnies, who had been captured a few months before. We knew exactly where the house was, and what had happened there.

We didn’t feel unsafe because of what they did, but we were certainly ill at ease when we heard about it on the news. I remember being sickened when the details of their crimes emerged.

I remember watching the face of Catherine Birnie leaving court and thinking I was seeing pure evil for the first time in my life.

The Birnie German Shepherd at the back of their Willagee home after their arrest.

The Birnie German Shepherd at the back of their Willagee home after their arrest.Credit:File

I’d heard about it, but here it was only a short walk from where I went to school.

All these years later, when I read that the owners of the Birnie house are looking for a tenant, many memories of those times were dredged up.

We couldn’t even walk past the house; it was too awful even for ghoulish, inquisitive children who you would think would be interested at least.

Even though we had seen our fair share of murders on the television, we knew the reality of this horror was too much. We could imagine how bad it must have been for those girls and young women.

David and Catherine Birnie's former home in Willagee, in Perth's southern suburbs.

David and Catherine Birnie’s former home in Willagee, in Perth’s southern suburbs.

So how could anyone sleep in that same bedroom which was the scene of such horrific murders? The same bedroom where 15-year-old Susannah Candy was strangled to death? Where 31-year-old Noelene Patterson was killed because Catherine Birnie was jealous of the attachment David Birnie had formed to her?

Where we know three other women were handcuffed to the bed then tortured and raped.

It was hard enough sitting in our maths classes, which overlooked Willagee, knowing the house was just there.

But to live in it, and pay $390 a week for the privilege?

Which begs the question, what should happen to houses like the one the Birnies occupied in 1986?

Some neighbours say the house should be demolished. There is certainly evidence a high profile murder can adversely affect property prices. But who pays? Who compensates the owner?

And should a house be demolished just because many of us have a bad feeling about it?

In the 30 years since the Birnie murders, there have been people living in the Moorhouse Street house.

Police supervise excavations on a block of land in Harrison Street, Willagee, in their search for further bodies following the arrest of David and Catherine Birnie.

Police supervise excavations on a block of land in Harrison Street, Willagee, in their search for further bodies following the arrest of David and Catherine Birnie.Credit:File

One thing is certain: an owner or real estate agent is required to tell a prospective buyer there has been a murder in a house that is up for sale.

Such houses are called “stigmatised homes”. It means they sell for less, because some people avoid them like the plague.

I do feel for the owners of the Birnie house — which will be known as that for as long as it stands — but they bought it knowing its history and paid less because of it.

I can’t help but think of the women who were died, or were imprisoned and tortured. And their families.

It might be superstitious, but there is no way I would be able to shake the feeling of the crimes that were perpetrated inside that house.

Catherine Birnie.

Catherine Birnie.Credit:Archive

All these years later it still gives me the chills and all that happened to me was that I read the news.

Let’s hope the next occupant can put aside their knowledge of what went on in there.

Nathan is WAtoday’s political reporter.

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