Safe as Houses: 15 Deanswood Road, Forest Hill
Houses for many represent more than a dwelling. They’re a lifestyle, a statement and a symbol of status. For some, though, that status can prove so alluring they’re willing to kill for it.
- WARNING: The following articles contain descriptions of violent crimes some may find disturbing
Paul and Carmel Higgins’ home at 15 Deanswood Road in the Melbourne suburb of Forest Hill was certainly a statement. The five-bedroom, two-story mansion was breathtaking even by the already-high standards of its exclusive neighbourhood. In the garage, well-respected motoring writer Paul kept what a Herald Sun article described as $500,000 worth of sports cars.
It was this status that first drew the eye of Edwin Lewis, whose envy of the couple’s lavish lifestyle would grow into murderous intent.
New Zealand-born Edwin Lewis had tastes far beyond his means. The Herald Sun describes Lewis as a boastful sweet talker who splashed out on expensive clothes and exotic travel. In order to finance his high-flying lifestyle, Lewis relied on his confidence and swagger to talk people out of their money, and he found himself more than $60,000 in debt.
Lewis saw an escape from his problems - and a potential meal ticket - in the Higgins family. He met the family when he became Carmel’s personal trainer, and quickly latched onto them by striking up a relationship with Paul and Carmel’s 25-year-old daughter, Amanda.
The Herald Sun describes how Lewis would brag to friends about his rich girlfriend, and the money he was certain to come into as a result of their relationship. But, as was the pattern in his life, Lewis’ get-rich-quick scheme quickly began to fall apart.
The quiet Deanswood Road, Forest Hill in 2015.
His first hurdle was Amanda’s own personal demons. She struggled with addiction, and had at times turned to crime and prostitution to finance her habit, driving a wedge between her and her family. Marrying into money wouldn’t be as straightforward as Lewis had hoped.
Perhaps a bigger hurdle was the fact that Paul took an immediate dislike to Lewis, seeing through his facade of charm. Paul had enough insight to deduce Lewis’ motives, and didn’t approve of his and Amanda’s relationship.
As the relationship turned south and his grasp on the family’s money became more and more tenuous, Lewis appeared to become desperate. On 21 April 1995, he went to Paul and Carmel’s house at 15 Deanswood Road with the intention of stealing their Porsche 911 and making a run for Queensland. Unexpectedly finding Paul at home, Lewis managed to talk his way into the house.
The conversation quickly turned to Lewis’ relationship with Amanda and Paul’s disapproval, and as the argument between the two men escalated, Lewis attacked Paul with a diving knife. According to the Herald Sun, Paul managed during the attack to plead with Lewis, asking him why.
“Because you are a tight old bastard,” Lewis reportedly answered, laughing.
The deed done, Lewis hid Paul’s body in the bathroom. When Carmel returned home, he did everything he could to draw her away from discovering her husband’s body, but faced with the knowledge that she would eventually be witness to what he had done, Lewis attacked and killed her as well.
He returned to 15 Deanswood Road sometime later with a tarpaulin, a spade and some tape, and buried the couple’s bodies in their backyard. Finally, Lewis followed through on his original plan and made off with the Porsche, along with credit cards and cash.
It was only six days later that police apprehended Lewis at a Gold Coast motel, after he and a friend spent nearly a week of hard partying with the spoils of his crime.
In spite of his use of the couple’s credit card and having still been in possession of their sportscar at the time of his arrest, Lewis’ conviction wasn’t cut and dry. It would take five trials and three years to eventually see the charismatic con man sentenced to 26 years in prison.
The house at 15 Deanswood Road is as luxurious and impressive now as it was in 1995, which was also the last time sales data for the property was recorded. At the time, it sold for a mere $310,000. CoreLogic has no estimated current value for the property, but the suburb’s median value for a three-bedroom home is a surprisingly affordable $900,000. Whether the home’s opulence and size would impact its value more than its grim history is up for debate. Where the house once served as a symbol of wealth and success, it now serves as a monument to murderous envy.
Each week, Safe as Houses looks at some of Australia's most notorious murders, and the effect those killings had on real estate values.