One of the strangest of Sydney’s murderers was successful comic artist Lennie Lawson, creator of The Lone Avenger and the Hooded Rider. Lawson also ran a photographic studio, and in 1954 was hired to photograph five models at Terrey Hills. Once in the bush he produced a gun, stripped the girls and tied them up. Then he raped two of them.
He was sentenced to death but this was commuted and he became a popular prisoner, embracing Catholicism and painting murals of Biblical scenes in the chapel at Goulburn jail. He was released after seven years.
Finding work as a commercial artist, he settled at Collaroy and befriended a neighbour named Mrs Bower, who (knowing nothing of his past) allowed him to paint her 16-year-old daughter. During a private sitting in his flat in 1961, Lawson raped and murdered the girl.
Lawson fled in his car to the Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School (SCEGGS) in Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands. He’d been there a few weeks’ earlier, claiming to be a novelist researching a book set in a girls’ school. This time he produced a gun and told the teachers and pupils he was going to hold them hostage. The headmistress struggled with Lawson and the gun went off, killing a 15-year-old pupil.
This time they didn’t let Lawson out of jail, but he still managed to charm his guards. In 1972 as chairman of the inmates’ arts and crafts society, he helped host a concert group visiting the prison. He attacked a female member of the group, holding a knife to her throat before she was rescued by other inmates. The poor woman was reportedly so traumatised by the assault that she committed suicide a few years later.
There’s a good Facebook page devoted to Lawson: https://www.facebook.com/lenlawson1927/
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