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David John Birnie (16 February 1951 – 7 October 2005) was an Australian murderer from Perth, Western Australia. They murdered four women ranging in age from 15 to 31 at their home in 1986, and attempted to murder a fifth. These crimes were referred to in the press as the Moorhouse murders, after the Birnies' address at 3 Moorhouse Street in Willagee, a suburb of Perth.
David John Birnie was the oldest of five children. He grew up in the semi-rural suburb of Wattle Grove, Western Australia. School friends and parishioners from the Wattle Grove Baptist Church of the period remember the family as having been dysfunctional. Rumours abounded about the family's promiscuity, alcoholism and that they engaged in incest.
When Birnie's parents asked the local priest to conduct their wedding ceremony, he expressed concerns about them as individuals and as a potential couple, broadly stating that he felt theirs was a union that could never lead to any good; an unusual and seemingly unsuited pairing, the father was a man of very small stature and unattractive appearance, while the mother was known for her coarse manner, use of profanities and bad behaviour, often exchanging sexual favours with taxi drivers as payment for fares.
David Birnie's school friends also commented that the family home was unkempt and filthy, and that the family never had regular meals together. His parents did not cook meals for the children.
In the early 1960s, Birnie's parents decided to move the family to another Perth suburb, where David met Catherine Harrison through mutual friends. At 15, David left school to become an apprentice jockey for Eric Parnham at a nearby Ascot racecourse. During his time there, he physically harmed the horses and developed a habit of exhibitionism. One night, David broke into the room of an elderly lady where he was boarding. He was naked with stockings over his head and attempted to commit his first rape.
By the time he was an adolescent, he was convicted of several crimes and was in and out of prison for misdemeanors and felonies. As an adult, he became a sex and pornography addict, and paraphiliac. He married his first wife during his early 20s and the couple had a daughter, Tanya. Tanya was 10 years old at the time of his arrest. She has never married and had no children, stating "I don't wanna spawn another David Birnie". Her surname is unknown to the media.
In late 1986, David Birnie was employed at a local car wrecker's shop. For more than a year, David and Catherine had been practicing how to make their sexual fantasies of rape and murder come true, while he was weeks away from committing his first crime.