Tonya Whitwell with her father Robert Whitwell. Her daughter, Britney Dwyer killed Mr Whitwell.
Tonya Whitwell with her father Robert Whitwell. Her daughter, Britney Dwyer killed Mr Whitwell.

'Dark things' set teen on a path to kill her grandfather

AN obsession with graveyards and "dark things" set a teenager on a macabre path which led her to murder her grandfather, an elderly pensioner who had treasured her as a child.

Brittney Dwyer calmly washed dishes only feet away from where her grandfather, 81-year-old Robert Whitwell, slowly bled to death at his Adelaide home in early August, 2016.

Outside in a car, its engine still warm from the long drive from Ipswich, Dwyer's accomplice Bernadette Burns sat, applying makeup and sending text messages prompting Dwyer to "harden up" and commit murder.

Dwyer's mother, daughter of Mr Whitwell, Tonya Dwyer, told Channel 7's Sunday Night that she had watched as her daughter grew from a bubbly child to a sullen teenager who self harmed and was obsessed with violence and death.

Alongside best friend Shelby Lee Holmes, Dwyer began a fascination with knives and violence which culminated in the stabbing murder of Mr Whitwell.

"I think they are little bit dark, as in they would do things in cemeteries and go to cemetery tours and dark things," Ms Dwyer said.

"There were some things with blood and knives. I think they had a bit of an obsession with some dark stuff."

 

Shelby Lee Angie Holmes, who gave evidence at court, with Brittney Dwyer.
Shelby Lee Angie Holmes, who gave evidence at court, with Brittney Dwyer.

Holmes, also speaking to Sunday Night, denied the interest was any more than a typical teenage behaviour.

"It was just what any other normal teenager would be interested in, like horror movies and things like that," Holmes said. "Nothing alarming."

Ms Dwyer said she was still "furious" with her daughter for making accusations Mr Whitwell had sexually abused her as a child as a cover for a failed plot to steal his money which ended in murder.

"I was furious and that's the reason why I would still slap her in the face," Ms Dwyer said. "All that anger that is inside."

Bernadette Burns also pleaded guilty over the murder of Robert Whitwell.
Bernadette Burns also pleaded guilty over the murder of Robert Whitwell.

Holmes had accompanied Dwyer on the long drive from Ipswich to Adelaide in April 2016 in an attempt to steal more than $100,000 Mr Whitwell had hidden in his garden shed.

The attempt failed with pair escaping empty-handed but not before Dwyer warned that her grandfather "might have to die" if they were to get the money.

Four months later Dwyer was back on the road to Adelaide, this time with 22-year-old Burns of Redbank Plains who was in a self destructive cycle after losing custody of her young daughter.

Wearing gloves and concealing a knife Dwyer knocked on Mr Whitwell's door.

They spent some time together before Dwyer stabbed him several times to the neck as they were heading to the front door.

He bled to death, despite a token band aid Dwyer applied before going to the sink to do the dishes.

Shelby Lee Angie Holmes, who gave evidence at court, with Brittney Dwyer.
Shelby Lee Angie Holmes, who gave evidence at court, with Brittney Dwyer.

 

Bernadette Burns was arrested with Brittney Jade Dwyer over the death of Robert Whitwell.
Bernadette Burns was arrested with Brittney Jade Dwyer over the death of Robert Whitwell.

Dwyer and Burns left Adelaide with a little over a thousand dollars in cash after having once again failed to find the life savings.

Dwyer drove straight from Adelaide to her mother's house in Brisbane where she had only just learnt of the fate of her father.

"Little did I know she was still driving back from Adelaide," Ms Dwyer said.

"I told her the police have just rung and Poppa has just passed away. She just burst into tears, hysterically burst into tears.

"I said I need to you come with me and fly down to Adelaide."

Shelby Lee Angie Holmes, who gave evidence at court, with Brittney Dwyer.
Shelby Lee Angie Holmes, who gave evidence at court, with Brittney Dwyer.

In the days that followed Dwyer grieved alongside the family of the man she had murdered with her mother only thinking that her chain-smoking during that time was out of character.

An anonymous tip off would lead police to arrest Dwyer and Burns and it was not long before both pleaded guilty to the crime.

"I've lost two people, I've lost my dad and I've lost my daughter," Ms Dwyer said.

"I am not sure I will ever understand what happened."

Dwyer and Burns will be sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday.

Tonya Whitwell with her father Robert Whitwell. Her daughter, Britney Dwyer killed Mr Whitwell.
Tonya Whitwell with her father Robert Whitwell. Her daughter, Britney Dwyer killed Mr Whitwell.
Shelby Holmes with Brittney Dwyer.
Shelby Holmes with Brittney Dwyer.

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