At 1pm on Saturday August 17, 1991 33 year-old Wade Frankum stands alone on the platform of North Strathfield Station. He is wearing jeans, a grey beanie covering his crew cut, and a denim jacket. In his hand is an army surplus duffle bag. Unbeknownst to the other commuters on the train platform, Frankum was on a mission.
Casually, Frankum walked over to the ticket booth and bought a ticket to Strathfield. He nodded in recognizance to the man inside the ticket office. The two men knew each other, Frankum often chatted to the rail worker. But today he just turned to the man and gave him a warning
"You'd better go home", said Frankum to the man sternly. Frankum then walked away again. He stood alone again as though he was waiting for someone. He watched train and after train go by before finally catching the 1.48 train to Strathfield.
At Strathfield Station, the man on a mission alighted the train and headed towards Strathfield Plaza. The Plaza was a typical Sydney shopping mall. It had all the necessary stores and a few cafes. Frankum wandered towards a cafe called the "Coffee Pot". He sat down at one of the booths and ordered the first of many coffees. The caffeine added to the man's already highly disturbed demeanour. Yet Frankum hid his feelings well. Iin the next booth to Frankum were 15 year old Bo Armstrong and her friend. The two girls thought the man was "spaced out". He appeared to stare blankly at them talking. He made no sound nor any indication of the havoc he would soon wreak. The two girls turned back to their own conversation and made comments to each other about the strange blank man, little did they know that in a few minutes, one of the girls would be dead, the other horrifically injured.
The Coffee Pot had quite a few customers, it was a busy Saturday - as most Saturdays are in shopping centres. After shopping during the morning, many shoppers liked to stop and have a coffee or a light snack before continuing home or to other shops they had planned to visit. Yet the decision to sit in the Coffee Pot would prove fatal for many customers. However others in the mall were also unlucky.
In the both booth behind the girls sat Carole Dickinson, her daughter Belinda and Carole's niece Rachelle Milburn. The two girls were a similar age and enjoyed the shopping trip with Carole. Rachelle had come for a visit from Newcastle it was a short break before the beginning her her HSC final exams and the three of them decided a coffee was a great way to sit and chat before returning to their shopping. Behind Frankum was another booth, it had several generations one family. 61 year old Joyce Nixon was grandmother to 14 year old Kevin and Nathan who was only 8. The boys mother was also with them. 37 year old Patricia Rowe was with her mother and her sons had just arrived at the Plaza after a trip to see Joyce's husband at the near by hospital. Joyce enjoyed the company of her daughter and grandsons and watched the two boys change from laughter to squabbling and back, a typical way the boys acted.
The time was now 3.30pm and Frankum asked for the bill for the numerous coffees he had sat and drunk over the past hour and a half.
The other customers were still sitting in their seats, enjoying the various items they had ordered.
Frankum reached for his change, then reached for his bag, he rocked his body to get out of the booth seat but the action was not to just stand up but to begin the assault. The blank expression of the past hour had gone. Frankum was ready.
As Frankum stood, he grabbed the large knife from his bag and turned to Bo Armstrong. He grabbed the girl's shoulder and forced the sharp end of his knife into her back. The act made Frankum laugh. He had prepared for this and began "laughing like a madman" - the irony being he was a madman.
Bo had no time to react. She was scared and bleeding and frozen in the spot as Frankum continued to stab the young woman. The other customers just stood there, it was such an unexpected attack that many people could not believe what they were seeing. This is something that does not happen in Strathfield. It took the other customers several moments before they themselves could move. Bo began screaming, the blood was flooding her lungs as she screamed. And seconds became hours. As Bo died, Frankum stopped stabbing her, leaving the knife embedded in the woman's back.
Frankum turned back to his bag and continued his assault. He grabbed the semi-automatic rifle and armed it.
Frankum decided the next to die was the family in front of him. Joyce and Patricia had grabbed the boys as the attack began and was cowering at their table when Frankum turned to them. Patricia screamed "Get down" and jumped on top of little 8 year old Kevin. Patricia tried to shield the boy as Joyce threw the table between the boys and the gunman. Both of the women died shielding the boys from Frankum's volley of bullets.
With the deafening sound of gunfire the Coffee Pot's owner, George Mavis came out to the counter from the kitchen. Frankum swiftly turned to George and killed him with several bullets.
Following George from the kitchen was George's brother James. As George fell, James also dropped to the floor. He tried to stem the bleeding from his brother's wounds, but it was too late.
So far only one minute had gone by, but it seemed to have lasted hours. People were so shocked they did not move nor run for cover, many people were frozen on the spot looking at the injured and dead.
Beyond the stabbed body of Bo was Rachelle with her aunt and cousin. She was Frankum's next target. Rachelle had little time to move before Frankum had shot her in the head, she collapse in a crumpled heap as the killer then turned the gun to Carole. Carole was shot in the stomach and later died from the wounds. Belinda ran from the cafe screaming about the man persuing her. Frankum was only a step or two behind her. The gunman raised the gun and shot the terrified young woman as she ran. She fell from the shots but would survive.
Frankum was now loose in the main area of the Plaza and had many more targets to choose from. People were now running for their lives and the mayhem confused the killer for a moment. He pointed the gun at the ceiling and fired another volley of shots. Many people instinctively dropped to the floor, thinking they would be the next victim of the crazed psychopath with the rifle.
53 year old accountant Robertson Kan Hock Joon was lost in a set of photos he had just gotten developed when he was confronted by the killer. Robertson looked up from the photos just in time to see the rifle leveled at his face. He was killed instantly by the close range shots. His photos scattered around him.
Frankum knew someone would have called the police by now and decided to try and escape the Plaza before it was surrounded. The killer headed towards the exit ramp from the mall towards the carpark. The killer continued to shoot at people as he took each step.
41 year old Greg Read had been in the position before. He had survived ambushes in Vietnam and was watching the attack with interest. He quickly saw that Frankum was only killing people who ran away. He did not kill anyone who had dropped to the ground. The quick thinking man ran in front of the killer out into the carpark telling people to get down and they will live. He tried to warn as many people as he could. A woman screamed back at Greg. "It's too late... he's already behind you". Greg swung around to find Frankum aiming the gun at him. Greg had just saved many people and had to keep his quick thinking going, As Frankum fired the gun, the man jumped behind two cars. Bullets richoched around him, but he was only hit in his feet. He was alive.
Frankum was now close to freedom, he was on the top floor of the carpark and would now try to escape. He was still firing his gun when a car came around towards him. Unbeknownst to Catherine Noyce, the man staring at her had just killed several people. He now wanted her to drive him out of the carpark. Frankum got into the car and showed the confused woman his rifle. He barked the orders that she was to drive him to Enfield, a suburb of Sydney, near by. Catherine almost forgot how to drive during those terrifying seconds with Frankum in the car. She looked at him and saw his demeanour change. Outside police sirens were beginning to echo and Frankum knew the rampage was over.
He said, "I'm sorry" to Catherine and got out of the car. Catherine drove away quickly, only glancing into the rear vision mirror to see Frankum raise the gun to his own head and pull the trigger.
The time now was only 3.40pm. The attack had taken only ten minutes. The death toll was 6 dead plus Frankum's suicide. But the toll became 7 when Carole died later than evening in hospital. Only 50 shots had been fired and six people with gun shot wounds would live to retell the horror of August 17, 1991.
People remained where they fell or had hidden until police came inside to see the carnage. One of the first police officers on the scene had quickly made his way to the carpark where he had heard the final shot. He found the gunman dead from a self-inflicted gun shot wound and knew the attack was over.
So now it was time to find out who was the killer, Wade Frankum. At Frankum's apartment police found dozens of violent books and magazines. The killer's taste was the for blood and gore, his video collection also painted this picture. His was also a compulsive letter writer. He was leaving himself notes everywhere - a preview of the killers disorganised mind.
Frankum had grown up as a lonely and depressed young child. His parents were extremely strict and showed little love to the growing boy and his little sister. Frankum had always been overweight and it was a cause of much hardship at school. By the time he reached high school at Newington College at Stanmore the nickname "piggy" was always used instead of his name. The shyness mean that Frankum endured the taunts, he would never stand up for himself, preferring to avoid the bullies. He would go and hide in the library and read books or just not go to school at all. By the age of 16 he was expelled from school due to his poor attendance record. He was enrolled at Homebush Boys High School for the remainder of his schooling but left soon after. With leaving school his also left home.
Frankum got a job at a clothing store. He enjoyed the responsibility of his work and it really suited him. Life was finally a happier place for the young man.
We should remember the comment made by Coroner Waller when conducting the inquiry into the Wade Frankum massacre at Strathfield, NSW: "Guns and porn make a lethal mix".
In 1991, the horror of mass murder struck an outer suburban Sydney shopping centre. On August 17, Wade Frankum, a 33-year-old taxi driver, set out for Strathfield Plaza with an imported 7.62mm SKS self-loading assault rifle in his bag and a machete concealed under his jacket. After downing four coffees in an hour at the Coffee Pot cafe, he stabbed a 15-year-old girl, leaving the machete in her body, then shot at diners around him before moving through the centre firing indiscriminately until the murder tally reached seven. "He was just calmly standing," said one witness. "Fired the first round, another two or three rounds, and then just turned around calmly and pointed the gun into the kitchen -- bang -- and then continued." Police found 50 cartridges after the assault. He flagged down a motorist in the the car park, then asked to be let out of the car. He uttered his last words -- "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry" -- then shot himself, sobbing.
Frankum's father had died some years earlier and his mother had gassed herself 12 months before in the family car, which he continued to drive. Frankum's neighbours described him as "just a kind regular guy, friendly but quiet", a loner. "He would spend the whole day in the house and never go out apart from down to the local shop to buy milk and cigarettes, and then he would go out at night to drive his taxi," said one.
A particularly striking example of this in Australia was the mass murder perpetrated by Wade Frankum in Strathfield, Sydney, about nine years ago. Frankum stabbed a 15 year old girl, then shot seven people at random before killing himself. His final words were a line taken from a well-thumbed book police discovered on his bedside table, American Psycho, a novel describing, in nauseating detail, graphic horror.
There is strong evidence that the potent images in American Psycho were lodged in Wade Frankum's unbalanced mind -- where highly disturbed sexuality and murderous impulses dwelt -- in the days before he set out on his final journey. The copy of the book was, according to Milton, "well-thumbed." Even more revealingly, when Frankum arrived at Strathfield railway station on Aug. 17, he obliquely warned the stationmaster of the impending horror. "You had better go home, Clive," he said. These are almost the same words as those spoken by the hero of American Psycho to a woman he is about to murder.
SIR: Wade Frankum reads American Psycho. Wade Frankum becomes a mass murderer. Kevin Waller (Herald, March 9) puts the case for the new censorship in no uncertain terms: "I find it impossible to justify their [the Strathfield massacre victims'] suffering in terms of an individual's right to read books and watch films and videos of gross cruelty." I share Mr Waller's concern, but did he notice the other book found in Wade Frankum's bedroom? Newspaper reports at the time stated that Frankum had also been reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Is it possible that this great work of literature could have helped Frankum along the path to murder?
Wade Frankum (Strathfield massacre) had been released from a mental institution, had been prescribed psychiatric drugs, notably Prozac (with known rage-state side affects) and was a user of prostitution businesses, (having spent in excess of $5,000 the week before the massacre) pornography and violent video consumer. We note that he knifed his first victim, a young girl, to death. It is also interesting that the Coroner said in his summing-up, that there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that Frankum's viewing of pornography was a contributing factor to the massacre.
http://www.newsweekly.com.au/articles/2001feb24_film.html FILM: "Hannibal" raises issue of film violence by Peter Westmore Printed in Issue:February 24, 2001
http://www.southcom.com.au/~geniac/pa/murder.htm Murder and Mayhem from page 12 of The Australian, April 29, 1996
http://www.zip.com.au/~kylaw/TabulaRasa/Issue2/AmericanPsychoFiles.html The American Psycho Files
http://www.ssaa.org.au/acttv.html Toxic TV TV and Video Violence and its effects on Viewers