Helen Hartup and two other women were fast asleep at the Sydney boarding school where they worked as supervisors when a man holding a bloodied knife startled them awake.
“I’ve already killed tonight,” Samuel Leonard Boyd warned as he ordered her, Patricia Volcic and Olive Short to undress.
After the teenage girls in the dormitory next door, Boyd asked the women if there were 16-18-year-olds among them so he could “have sex with them”.
All three were “absolute heroes” in stopping him, says Mrs Hartup’s niece, Margaret Lees.
“He knew the layout, he knew where the girls were and how to get to them.
“There was no way they were going to let him … and I’m not sure that is so well known given everything else that happened that night.”
It’s been almost 40 years since her 57-year-old aunt was murdered but Margaret can still smell her Innoxa powdered aroma whenever she walks past a department store counter.
“I have to do a double-take,” she says. “I sort of hang around and put a little on my hand.”
Helen, a child of nine was “the favourite aunt” and Margaret fondly remembers visiting her at Morpeth, in the NSW Hunter Valley.
“She wore lovely clothes. I remember touching her sleeves, they were always really soft, and if I came near her she would put her arms around me.
“She was always really warm and so kind. She always laughed and she made the most incredible sponge cake.
“She didn’t deserve what she got.”
Helen’s younger sister Patty found her a job at Glenfield Park Special School, in Sydney’s southwest, where she was a registered nurse.
Some of the children were placed there by the court, others had been abused by family members and many were under state care.
Boyd immigrated from Scotland to Australia as a child and was soon known to police. His mother also worked at Glenfield school in the 1970s where Boyd frequently visited and met Helen.
His first victim in 1982 was Rhonda Celea. Detectives found the mother of two at her Busby home naked in the hallway, a bloodstained child’s dress over her face and a gaping laceration to her throat.
Seven months later he was drinking with Gregory Wiles at Arch Bar Hotel in Liverpool before heading to the Scaramouche Disco in the early hours of April 22, 1983.
The pair shared a joint in Glenfield and Boyd claims his next memory is wondering about, covered in blood.
Mr Wiles body was later found beside a road with severe head injuries from Boyd’s claw hammer dropped at the school nearby.
That evening Margaret, heavily pregnant with her second child, was in the kitchen bathing her baby when the radio caught her attention.
“I’ll never forget it, reports of something terrible happening at Glenfield Park School pricked up my ears. No further details available at this stage.”
She called her mother straight away and asked what was going on.
“She said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’ but somebody was trying to call her so we hung up.”
Hours later Margaret phoned back and asked if Helen was one of the victims.
“She paused for a bit and she said yes. All I remember is dropping the phone.”
Margaret would later feel shocked when told by the detective leading Boyd’s prosecution: “I have never seen that much blood in my entire life and the area that it covered.”
As the attack unfolded, Olive Short had woken to a scream and man’s voice.
She peered outside her room and saw Helen, who Boyd had called by her first name, and Ms Volcic cowering.
Knowing the teenage girls were in danger she made sure the solid door to their sleeping quarters was locked and hid the keys.
Boyd made each of the women undress and gathered them onto one bed where he terrorised and brutalised them for hours.
At one stage Ms Short ran for the alarm in the hallway but Boyd got there first, punched and stabbed her in the neck and knocked her back onto the bed.
After being stabbed “a lot of times,” she pretended to be dead and Boyd eventually turned the lights off and left.
The day staff eventually found her and she was taken to hospital. Her eye-witness testimony would play an integral role in the jury’s conviction.
Margaret read in the coroner’s report that one of the reasons Ms Short survived was because she was the last attacked and the knife was already covered in so much blood it clotted the wound in her neck.
Boyd was found that morning at a Lansvale caravan park, disorientated, dishevelled and covered in blood.
He maintained his last recollection was buying a packet of cigarette papers at a Casula service station with Mr Wiles.
The following day Margaret went into labour.
Her brother Malcolm was taken to the mortuary to ID Helen behind a glass screen.
“It was absolutely seared onto his memory and from that moment forward, he was not the same person.”
Margaret’s mother was advised not to attend the committal hearings, where the photographic evidence would be admitted. But she was in court every day from the first trial that was aborted and highly distressing for all.
“Knowing was somehow better than the stories going around in your head,” Margaret says.
Since his conviction Boyd has tried twice to secure a non-parole period. The last time, in 2017, Margaret had by then moved to Cairns from Darwin and her contact wasn’t updated on the registry.
While upset none of Helen’s family were in court, she was relieved both Justice Ken Carruthers in 1994, and Justice Peter Johnson in 2017 grasped the gravity of what Boyd had done in refusing to determine his sentence.
“That was the one chance I had to stand up in court in front of that bloke and tell him exactly what I thought of him and exactly what he did to our family,” she says.
“In the time he’s been in jail and had time to think, I wonder if he has any idea how terrible the consequences are not just on that night but for the 40 years since.
“He took from us the most compassionate, easy-going, useful, beautiful person that god ever put on this planet.”
Mostly Margaret wants the children and grandchildren of the three women to know what they sacrificed, to understand their bravery.
“I don’t think their children would know who their mother was, what they did. Those three women gave up their lives for those kids.”