Sharon Fulton’s husband blamed notorious serial killers David and Catherine Birnie for wife’s 1986 disappearance, inquest told



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A man suspected of involvement in the disappearance of his wife in Perth once told his new partner she had been murdered by serial killers David and Catherine Birnie.

Sharon Fulton was 39 years old when she vanished more than three decades ago on March 18, 1986.

The last person who claimed to see her alive was her husband Robert who, after reporting her missing three days later, told police he had dropped her off with an overnight bag, at the East Perth train station.

Now an inquest into her disappearance has heard police suspected she was the victim of “an unlawful killing” and that Robert Fulton was involved.

Robert Fulton was “evil”, “deceitful”

Today the woman who started a relationship with Mr Fulton six months later, Pamela Burnett, gave evidence via video link from Queensland, describing him as “evil”, “extremely dishonest” and “very deceitful”.

She said one of the many lies he told her was at the beginning of their relationship when he said Sharon “had been murdered by the Birnies” but that WA police had “stopped” them from talking about it.

Catherine Birnie and her husband David murdered four young women in Perth in 1986.(ABC News)

Ms Burnett said Mr Fulton later told her that he had dropped Sharon off at the train station because she just wanted to get away and was fed up with him being in the Air Force.

The inquest has heard in 1988 Mr Fulton was convicted of fraud over the forging of Sharon Fulton’s signature for a loan.

Today Ms Burnett said she was the one who signed Mrs Fulton’s name after being requested to do so by Robert.

“I was very very reluctant, but he got angry and said it would be all my fault if the children couldn’t get a home.”

“I said I can’t do it, but he was screaming at me.

“I said, ‘well it’s for the children I’m doing this’.”

Lies and violent outbursts alleged

When asked if Mr Fulton was ever violent to her, Ms Burnett replied “not as in hitting or physical but extremely violent in anger.”

She said he would go for days not speaking to her and would say things in front of the children that were untrue.

“[He was] putting you down all the time to weaken you, Fortunately, I was strong enough to fight back and say ‘that’s not true’,” she testified.

Ms Burnett described Mr Fulton as “extremely dishonest” and “very deceitful”.

“It’s just the whole situation … how he swindled me, persecuted me, sold my property off.

“I believe he is evil and so concentrated on money.”

Ms Burnett said the last time she saw him was at a funeral in 2017 but she did not speak to him.

“I was scared of him, I was scared he would find out where I live and get me.”

Birnie murder theory ruled out

Deputy state coroner Sarah Linton asked Ms Burnett if she believed Mr Fulton was capable of harming someone. She replied: “Absolutely”.

The police officers involved in a cold case review of in 2017 also testified, telling the inquest that Ms Fulton had been ruled out as a possible victim of the Birnies because she did not fit their “victimology”.

Detective Sergeant Matthew Atkinson said the Birnies’ victims were aged between 17 and 31, and their five-week murderous crime spree did not start until seven months after Mrs Fulton vanished.

WA serial killer David Birnie
Notorious serial killer David Birnie and his wife Catherine lured young women into their car and house before murdering them.(ABC TV)

In 2017 Sergeant Atkinson travelled to Queensland to interview Mr Fulton, but he said as soon as he was approached, he started to suggest he had Alzheimer’s disease and couldn’t remember his own name.

However, Sergeant Atkinson said officers had been observing Fulton beforehand when he had been out gambling, and he had appeared “totally aware”.

“It was quite deceitful and dishonest,” Sergeant Atkinson said.

The inquest was also told telephone intercepts of his conversations had recorded him discussing with his partner what she needed to say to support his claim of having health issues.

In his evidence, Senior Constable Jason Filgate said it was his view that Mrs Fulton was deceased, and that Mr Fulton was involved.

He said it was out of character for Mrs Fulton not to have contacted her children and there was no indication she was alive.

Mother’s Day chocolates left in fridge

Matthew Griffin was 10 years old when his mother vanished.

He said on the day of her disappearance, he remembered being told that “mum’s just gone away for a bit.”

He told the inquest he believed she would not be coming back until about May, when at school as a project, his class had chocolates for a Mother’s Day present.

Mr Griffin said he put them in the fridge for his mother, but one of his siblings ate them a couple of weeks later.

He was upset but said when he went to complain to his father, he told him to “stop crying.”

“That’s when I knew, with his tone, his demeanour, she was gone. That’s when I accepted it,” Mr Griffin said.

A child cowers in a corner
Matthew Griffin said his father was intimidating and unapproachable.(ABC News: Dane Meale)

Mr Griffin described his father as very intimidating, saying he used to “interrogate” the children if he suspected they had done something.

“There were times he was good father … sometimes he just stepped up and did things for us kids,” he said.

“He was just a parent I couldn’t rely on when I needed emotional support. He was very distant, very unapproachable.”

Mr Fulton is listed to give evidence as the last witness tomorrow.

However, Ms Linton said while a summons had been issued, the court was not expecting to hear from him.

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