The murders of Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson and Khandalyce Pearce

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SHE was known as a “pocket rocket” with a beautiful, headstrong personality. Her demeanour meant sometimes she’d clash with her family and the people who knew her.

But when Karlie Pearce-Stevenson left behind her family for a better life and some adventure, no-one could have predicted the grim fate that would befall her.

Police are beginning to slowly piece together the events that led to Karlie’s death, from family friction to her movements and relationships.

  • Karlie Pearce-Stevenson was 20 when she died.

    Karlie Pearce-Stevenson was 20 when she died.

  • Khandalyce Pearce.

    Khandalyce Pearce.

  • Murder accused Daniel Holdom.

    Murder accused Daniel Holdom.

  • Hazel Passmore at a park in Adelaide talking to her lawyers.

    Hazel Passmore at a park in Adelaide talking to her lawyers.

  • Police have not charged anyone yet with the murder of Khandalyce.

    Police have not charged anyone yet with the murder of Khandalyce.

  • Khandalyce’s remains were found in this suitcase.

    Khandalyce’s remains were found in this suitcase.

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Karlie’s fight with her mother Colleen Povey the day she left town wasn’t the first time the duo had clashed. She had spent time away from the family home previously, after arguing over “silly stuff” like coming home late.

Except Karlie was more headstrong than most. Her friend Jennifer Adams said while Karlie had a “beautiful personality”, she could transform into a “pocket rocket” when she became upset.

“She was so lost. [She] always seemed to be struggling,” she told one reporter.

Yet, in many ways, Karlie’s upbringing seemed like that of any other teenage girl.

She played netball for her school and was coached by her mum.

Samantha Camwell Devlin, now 26, said Karlie was given the nickname ‘Mouse’: “because she was small and really quick”, she said.

“Her mum (Ms Povey) was our coach in under 17s, she was great.”

Over time, things changed. Karlie left Alice Springs in 2006, driving off into the dust in an old Commodore with her daughter Khandalyce. She wanted other things in life. She wanted work, happiness, adventure and freedom.

Her movements between 2006 and 2008 have been closely studied by police as part of an interstate double-murder investigation that has gripped Australia.

Karlie is thought to have travelled to Adelaide, Darwin and Canberra, with the last confirmed sightings in Charnwood, near Canberra. Before that she’d been stopped by police during a routine patrol near Coober Pedy.

What is also becoming clear that she spent some time with Daniel Holdom and his then-partner Hazel Passmore in 2008.

Khandalyce was pictured in a photo Ms Passmore posted in August of that year on Facebook. A month later her own two children were killed in a car crash that left her wheelchair-bound. Holdom was the driver.

Since news broke last week that Karlie’s was the body found in NSW’s infamous Belanglo State Forest and her daughter was identified as the body in a suitcase dumped off a remote South Australian highway, police investigators have been urging people to come forward with any information on the mother and daughter’s movements — up until to 2010 when Karlie’s bones were found.

It’s thought the killer may have chosen Belanglo — scene of the Ivan Milat killing spree — as a burial ground to confuse police.

Between 2008 and this year friends and family tried desperately to reach out to Karlie; to get her to come home. A missing-person report was filed, and then withdrawn after Ms Povey thought she spoke to her daughter, who convinced her all was fine and that she needed to stay away.

But by the time that communication occurred Karlie was already dead.

Someone was pretending to be her to convince her loved ones she was still alive.

That wasn’t all. Her phone was kept and text messages were sent,

Her bank accounts were also emptied by as many as three people, police suspect, visiting banks and credit unions, all in a desperate attempt to make everything seem normal. It couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“People who we believe may be the offenders and others have taken over Karlie’s identity, her telephone, her bank accounts and her Centrelink and family payments,” Detective Superintendent Des Bray said.

“It appears that those involved in her murder, and I say those only because we don’t know if there are one or more at this stage, they have retained her phone and it was used until mid-2011.”

Cruelly, they also convinced her mother, who was later diagnosed as dying of cancer, to deposit money into her account. Ms Povey, died in 2012, aged 44, still believing her daughter and granddaughter were safe and living interstate.

Before her death a friend posted on Facebook: “u really need to talk to your mum Karlie before its tooooo late. Whatever has happened let it slide! Call now and bloody hurry up! Please I am begging u xxx.”

This week police said they believed Karlie died in mid-December, with Khandalyce dying a short time after that.

The causes of their deaths haven’t been released other than a grim confirmation they were violent.

The Daily Telegraph reported Karlie’s injuries were consistent with heavy stomping.

Karlie was small for her age, making police wonder if she was younger when they found her skeletal remains. Karlie was 20 when she died but due to her petite size, police initially thought they had discovered the body of a teenage girl.

But her daughter Khandalyce’s injuries were of a different kind, police sources say. The little girl was two when she died.

By the time Karlie’s bank accounts were closed due to inactivity there had been 1200 transactions at fast food restaurants and petrol stations in South Australia and the ACT. No arrests have been made.

Detectives are aware of one instance where a woman in a wheelchair entered a credit union in June 2010 pretending to be Karlie and used her identity documents to access her accounts.

While the rest of the country has been stunned by the twists in the double killing which can hardly be believed, the family of Karlie and Khandalyce, who they lovingly called ‘candles’ are understandably devastated.

Karlie’s stepfather Scott Povey told Seven News: “(I) just miss them so much … some days I am just numb and other days I, dunno, just (feel) empty.

“We had a lot of Facebook pages and everything else … she just disappeared like she did not want to be found but I think we all knew that something wasn’t right.”

This week he, and Karlie’s stepbrother Luke, placed a tribute in a newspaper that provided a glimpse at what their last few years had been like.

“No more looking to see if that girl is you as we saw someone else in a crowd. No more waiting to hear. No more waiting to see you show up smiling again as usual.

“No more laughter giggles and pranks. No more late nights just talking with the music playing.”

On more than one occasion Detective Superintendent Mick Willing, NSW Homicide Squad Commander, has commented on the speed the complex inquiry was travelling at.

Every piece of new information has thrown up more questions. Why was Ms Pearce- Stevenson killed? And who killed Khandalyce?

Most puzzling of all was how her bones ended up 1200km away from where her mother was killed.

If Khandalyce died in late 2008, as police believe, how did they come to be in a tattered suitcase dumped near the almost unheard town Wynarka? And who was the well-dressed elderly man seen in the town carrying a similar suitcase?

Then there are other members of a group who carried out fraud after Karlie was killed — who are they and what did they know?

Only one thing is really known for certain. There is more of this horror story yet to be told.

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