In August 1978, John Ernest Cribb Cribb was on parole after having served six years of a nine-year sentence for armed robbery. He broke into the Connells’ Baulkham Hills home and when he came out at about 3pm, Valda Connell, 39, had just come home in her car with two of her six children, Sally, 10, and Damien, 4. Cribb kidnapped them and drove north. He later rang Valda’s husband, Paul, from a phonebox and said he had been having an affair with Valda, who had now run away with him to Queensland. Police originally believed Cribb’s story, despite its implausibility; the Connells were a strong church-going family, and said the rosary every night.
They heard nothing until they were on their way to church on Sunday morning; Paul Connell and his other children learned the bodies of Valda, Sally and Damien had been found in a car boot near Swansea. Cribb had raped Valda and then killed her children and her with a knife, later being arrested after a ten-hour siege.
After his arrest, Cribb was placed in a ward for the criminally insane at Morisset Hospital, from where he escaped with convicted armed robber William Munday, who was serving a 28-year sentence. Before they were recaptured, they had committed eight armed robberies, and had kidnapped two 17-year-old schoolgirls from outside the Hakoah Club in Bondi, taken them to a hotel, held them hostage, and repeatedly sexually assaulted them over a 35-hour period; Cribb later sent the girls Christmas cards from prison. Both men were sentenced to an additional 30 years for the crime spree, while Cribb was sentenced to a further 12 years for rape and three consecutive life terms for the murders.