Katherine Mary Knight (born 24 October 1955) was the first Australian woman to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. She was convicted of the murder of her partner, John Charles Thomas Price (born 6 January 1955) in October 2001, and is currently detained in Mulawa Correctional Centre now known as Silverwater women's prison.
John "Pricey" Price was the father of three children when Knight had an affair with him. Reputably a "terrific bloke" liked by everyone who knew him, his own marriage had ended in 1988. While his two-year-old daughter had remained with his former wife, the two older children lived with him. Price was well aware of Knight's violent reputation and she moved into his house in 1995. His children liked her, he was making a lot of money working in the local mines and, apart from violent arguments, at first "life was a bunch of roses".
In 1998 they had a fight over Price’s refusal to marry her and in retaliation Knight videotaped items he had stolen from work and sent the tape to his boss. Although the items were out of date medical kits that had been scavenged from the company rubbish tip and considered rubbish, Price was fired from the job he had held for 17 years. That same day he kicked her out and she returned to her own home while news of what she had done spread through the town.
A few months later Price restarted the relationship although he now refused to allow her to move in with him. The fighting became even more frequent and most of his friends would no longer have anything to do with him while they remained together
In February 2000, a series of assaults on Price culminated with Knight stabbing Price in the chest. Finally fed up, he kicked her out of his house. On 29 February he stopped at the Scone Magistrate's Court on his way to work and took out an AVO to keep her away from both himself and his children. That afternoon Price told his co-workers that if he did not come to work the next day, it would be because Knight had killed him. They pleaded with him not to go home but he told them that he believed she would kill his children if he did not. Price arrived home finding that Knight had sent the children away for a sleep-over at a friend's house. He then spent the evening with his neighbors before going to bed at 11pm. Knight arrived at the house while he was sleeping and sat watching TV for a few minutes before having a shower. She then woke Price and they had sex after which he fell asleep.
At 6am the next morning the neighbor became concerned that Price's car was still in the driveway and when Price did not arrive at work, his employer sent a worker to see what was wrong. Both the neighbor and worker tried knocking on Price's bedroom window to wake him but after noticing blood on the front door alerted the police who arrived at 8am. Breaking down the back door police found his body with Knight comatose from taking a large number of pills. She had stabbed Price with a butcher's knife while he was sleeping. According to the blood evidence, he awoke and tried to turn the light on before attempting to escape while Knight chased him through the house, he managed to open the front door and get outside but either stumbled back inside or was dragged back into the hallway where he finally died after bleeding out. Later, Knight went into Aberdeen and withdrew $1,000 from Price's ATM account. Price's autopsy revealed that he had been stabbed at least 37 times, in both the front and back of his body with many of the wounds extending into vital organs. Several hours after Price had died, Knight skinned him and hung the skin from a meat hook on the architrave of a door to the lounge room. She then decapitated him and cooked parts of his body, serving up the meat with baked potato, pumpkin, zucchini, cabbage, yellow squash and gravy in two settings at the dinner table, along with notes beside each plate, each having the name of one of Price's children on it; she was preparing to serve his body parts to his children. A third meal was thrown on the back lawn for unknown reasons and it is speculated Knight had attempted to eat it but could not and this has been put forward in support of her claim that she has no memory of the crime. Price's head was found in a pot with vegetables. The pot was still warm, estimated to be at between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius, indicating that the cooking had taken place in the early morning. Sometime later Knight arranged the body with the left arm draped over an empty 1.25 litre soft drink bottle with the legs crossed. This was claimed in court to be an act of defilement demonstrating Knight’s contempt for Price. Knight had left a hand written note on top of a photograph of Price. Blood stained and covered with small pieces of flesh the note read:
Time got you back Johathon for rapping my douter. You to Beck (Price's daughter) for Ross — for Little John (his son). Now play with little Johns Dick John Price. (sic)
The accusations in the note were groundless.
Knight's initial offer to plead guilty to manslaughter was rejected and she was arraigned on 2 February 2001 on the charge of murdering Price, to which she entered a plea of not guilty. Her trial was initially fixed for 23 July 2001 but was adjourned due to her counsel's illness and it was re-fixed for 15 October 2001.
When the trial commenced, Justice O'Keefe offered the 60 jury prospects the option of being excused due to the nature of the photographic evidence which five accepted. When the witness list was read out to the prospects several more also dropped out after which the jury was empanelled. Knight's attorneys then spoke to the judge who adjourned to the following day; the next morning, Knight changed her plea to guilty, and the jury was dismissed. It was now made public that Justice O'Keefe had been advised of the plea change the day before. He had adjourned the trial and then ordered a psychiatric assessment overnight to determine if Knight understood the consequences of a guilty plea and was fit to make such a plea. Knight's legal team had planned to defend Knight by claiming amnesia and dissociation, a claim supported by most psychiatrists although they did consider her sane.
No reason has ever been given for the guilty plea, and despite giving it, Knight still refused to accept responsibility for her actions. At the sentencing hearing, Knights lawyers requested that Knight be excused to avoid hearing some of the facts, but the application was refused. When Dr Tim Lyons took the stand and described the skinning and decapitation, Knight became hysterical and had to be sedated.
On 8 November, Justice O'Keefe pointed out that the nature of the crime and Knight's lack of remorse required a severe penalty; he sentenced her to life imprisonment, refused to fix a non-parole period and ordered that her papers be marked "never to be released", the first time that this had been imposed on a woman in Australian history.
In June 2006, Knight appealed the life sentence, claiming that a penalty of life in jail without possibility of parole was too severe for the killing. Justices Peter McClellan, Michael Adams and Megan Latham dismissed the appeal in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal in September, with Justice McClellan writing in his judgement "This was an appalling crime, almost beyond contemplation in a civilised society."