Safe as Houses: 14 Pindari Avenue, Mosman

Adam Smith 16 February 2017 NEWS

Safe as houses 14 Pindari Ave mosman feature image

A luxurious home’s owner becomes the last victim of a Sydney serial killer.

  • WARNING: The following articles contain descriptions of violent crimes some may find disturbing

By the time police finally forced their way into 14 Pindari Avenue in Mosman, it was far too late. They had been watching the house all day, having followed John Wayne Glover to the address as part of the tightening net descending on the 58-year-old pie salesman. But until the lights in the house failed to go on after dark, police had no reason to believe Glover would hurt the house’s owner, Joan Sinclair. At 60 years of age, she was far too young to fit his M.O.

For the previous 13 months, authorities had seen a pattern emerging in the upscale Sydney North Shore suburb. At first, the violent deaths of elderly women in the suburb seemed to be muggings gone wrong. It didn’t take long, though, for police to determine they were dealing with the work of a serial killer.

  • UPDATE: The house at 14 Pindari Avenue, Mosman, was demolished in June 2017.

The first inkling that someone was preying upon elderly women in the neighbourhood was on 11 January of 1989, when 84-year-old Margaret Todhunter was attacked and robbed as she was walking down a residential street. A man punched Todhunter in the face and stole a little more than $200 from her purse before fleeing.

14 pindari ave mosman

Source: Google Maps Jun 2013

The first homicide of what became a string of killings came just over two months later, on 9 May when Gwendoline Mitchell was killed in the entry foyer of her apartment building on Military Road. The killer struck Mitchell on the back of the head with a hammer, then savagely beat her before stealing her handbag and approximately $100.

A pattern began to emerge, though, with the murder of Lady Winfreda Ashton, the widow of artist Will Ashton. Lady Ashton was again attacked with a hammer and then brutally beaten, but she was also strangled with her own stockings, and her body carefully arranged with her legs crossed and arms placed by her sides. While money was missing from her handbag, her diamond ring was left on her finger. It was then that police began to suspect the work of a serial killer.

It would take three more killings, though, before police would begin to link John Glover’s movements to the serial murderer the media had dubbed “The Granny Killer”. Eighty-five-year old Margaret Pahud, 81-year-old Olive Cleveland and 93-year-old Muriel Falconer would all fall victim to the killer.

In addition to the killings, a rash of indecent assaults had been taking place at area nursing homes. During one, a nurse was able to chase the perpetrator to the carpark and note down his car’s number plate. Now, John Glover was on law enforcement’s radar.

Glover himself seemed an unlikely killer. The affable sales rep for the Four’N Twenty meat pie company was well-known and liked in the community. He even volunteered at a local senior centre. But when police tried to interview Glover about the nursing home assaults, he attempted suicide, leaving a note on which he had scrawled the words “no more grannies”.

Police had begun to suspect that Glover might be guilty of more than indecent assault, and he became a prime suspect in the Mosman killings. They placed Glover under constant surveillance.

14 Pindari Ave Mosman from the air

The leafy neighbourhood of Pindari Ave. Source: Google Maps, 2017.

It was this surveillance that led police to Joan Sinclair’s home at 14 Pindari Avenue on 19 March 1990. They followed Glover to Sinclair’s house at around 10AM, but didn’t suspect anything was amiss. Glover and Sinclair had developed a close friendship over the previous 18 months, and Sinclair welcomed him into her sprawling, six-bedroom home.

By 6PM, when there had been no movement in the house and the lights failed to come on after sunset, police finally forced their way into the house. They found a blood-soaked hammer, and then the body of Joan Sinclair, her head wrapped in blood-soaked towels. In an upstairs bathroom, the found Glover unconscious in a bathtub, having again attempted suicide.

Glover’s efforts to take his own life finally came to fruition when he hanged himself in 2005 in his prison cell at Lithgow jail, where he was serving six life sentences - one for each of his victims.

The house at 14 Pindari Avenue sold not long after Sinclair’s murder, in spite of its notoriety. It sold again just last year, fetching $3.8 million. Just as it was during the Granny Killer’s reign of terror, Mosman remains one of Sydney’s premier neighbourhoods. Now, though, with the demise of John Glover, the elderly can breathe a little easier.

Each week, Safe as Houses looks at some of Australia's most notorious murders, and the effect those killings had on real estate values.

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