Crime

Murder & Cannibalism: The Katherine Knight Story

Learn about Australia’s most infamous female “cannibal” killer, Katherine Knight.

With dozens of true crime shows, podcasts, movies, and thought pieces, it’s obvious that the world is obsessed! We are fascinated by society’s worst criminals and attempt to understand the reasons behind their evil deeds. And no one quite captures the world’s imagination like Katherine Knight, a woman who undoubtedly tops the list of the worst Australian female murderers of all time.

Unlike the usual serial killers that intrigue us, Knight only murdered one person. But the gruesome nature of her crime (and her history of serial abuse) has immortalised Knight as one of the most famous Australian convicts in history. In this article, you’ll learn about Katherine’s childhood, her violent relationships, and the series of events that led up to one of the worst murders you’ll ever hear about.

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Who Is Katherine Knight?

Katherine Knight, born in October 1955, was a meat worker in the rural town of Aberdeen. But a violent childhood, unchecked personality disorders, and a history of escalating violent behaviour eventually culminated in her viciously attacking, killing, and skinning her partner, John Price, in 2000.

The murder made headlines around the country and the world for its macabre details. A year after the murder, Katherine Knight was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, the first and only time such a sentence was given to a female criminal in Australia. The crime scene was so horrific that several police officers actually quit, while some refused to eat meat for months.

Katherine Knight’s Backstory

What kind of home environment Katherine Knight must have had to commit one of the most brutal murders in Australian history? While a troubled childhood doesn’t always result in abusive behaviour and a vicious killing, it certainly did in Knight’s case.

Katherine and her three siblings were born into a horrific family dynamic. Her mother, Barbara Roughan, was in an adulterous relationship with her father, Ken Knight. Ken was an alcoholic who was openly violent and sexually abusive to Barbara, even in front of the kids. Katherine was sexually assaulted by different family members, and Barbara often complained about hating sex and men. As a result, Katherine grew up with a distrust and hatred of men.

Knight was illiterate, having dropped out of high school at 15. Like most people in Aberdeen, she eventually got a job in the meat working industry at a local slaughterhouse. She often referred to her work as her “dream job” and enjoyed watching the pigs get slaughtered. This is where she would get her own set of butcher’s knives, her most prized possession. 

Katherine’s violent behaviour wasn’t a surprise, especially not to her former lovers. She abused all three of her exes, including husband David Kellett, whose skull she once fractured after hitting him over the head with a frying pan. Knight also hit and stabbed ex-partner David Saunders, but he survived the attack.

Katherine Knight had many children to whom she was physically and emotionally abusive as well. Knight was institutionalised three times: once, after violently thrashing her newborn baby around in a public square after her first husband left her; another, less than two months later, after she left that same baby on the train tracks; and a third time after she took a whole family hostage in an attempt to get Kellett back.

Katherine Knight & John Price

John Price met Katherine Knight at a club and began dating shortly after. He himself was a divorcee and had two older children living with him from his first marriage. He was a successful miner and liked by the townspeople. Born and raised in Aberdeen, he was familiar with Knight’s reputation, but that didn’t stop him from allowing her to move in with him in 1995.

As with all of her previous partners, Katherine’s relationship with Price soon turned violent. Knight even tried to force Price into marrying her by stealing his money and buying her own engagement ring. When Price refused to marry her, she retaliated. John had been “stealing” expired first aid kits out of the trash at work, and Knight reported him – causing his 17-year career to crumble. 

He kicked her out but got back together with her in just a few months. During this time, they were still arguing a lot. Katherine was trying to wrestle control of the house (which Price owned) and got into conflict with Price’s kids, accusing them of molesting her own children. Knight had even told friends and co-workers that she wanted to kill Price. 

Eventually, an argument got out of hand, and Katherine stabbed John. He tried to get a restraining order against her on February 29, 2000 but was told the process could take a few weeks. That day, he told neighbours and co-workers that if he didn’t come to work the following day, Katherine had probably killed him. Almost fortuitously, John did not go to work in the morning because Knight had, in fact, killed him.

The John Price Murder

The following paragraphs contain very gruesome descriptions.

Trigger warnings for violence, murder, and cannibalism.

That same night in February, Katherine went to John Price’s house while he was sleeping. The two had sex, but he promptly fell asleep after. Katherine attacked him with one of her recently sharpened knives. Price tried to escape, running around the house, but Knight eventually overpowered him. Autopsy results show that Price was stabbed over 37 times.

But Knight didn’t stop there; otherwise, she wouldn’t be one of the most notorious killer women in Aussie history. After Price had died, Knight used her skills from the slaughterhouse to skin John completely. She then decapitated the body and dumped the head into a pot with vegetables in it. 

Katherine cooked up a few parts of his body and placed it on two plates, alongside a serving of baked potato, vegetables, and gravy. She put two name cards with the names of John’s children. Then, she positioned the rest of his body on John’s favourite chair, crossing his legs. 

Despite being labelled a cannibal, Katherine never ate John Price. Instead, in a suicide attempt, Katherine ingested numerous pills, but she merely passed out as a result. Police found her and Price’s body in the house after a tip from a neighbour who had noticed that Price’s car was still in the driveway. After knocking on his door to check in on him, the neighbour noticed blood on the doorknob – probably from Price’s escape attempt. 

Katherine Goes To Court

Katherine Knight was charged with murdering John Price in 2001, but she initially pleaded not guilty, claiming that she remembers nothing from that night. She later changed her plea (without giving a reason), and the jury was dismissed. Despite entering a guilty plea, Katherine has not admitted to the crime she committed.

Judge striking hammer while declaring a sentence
(Credit: Getty)

Because of Knight’s grotesque actions and lack of remorse, the judge sentenced Knight to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, making her the first and only woman in Australian history to receive that sentence.

Conclusion

Katherine Knight had a troubled childhood and a history of sexual abuse. But while that explains her violent behaviour, it doesn’t excuse it. Thankfully, she will spend the rest of her life behind bars for one of the most horrendous and spine-chilling murders Australia has ever seen.

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