How a peephole helped ‘Miss Australia killer’ walk free


The reigning Miss Australia, Gloria Krope, was the only member of her immediate family not at home when her father was shot 27 times in the doorway of the dining room.

The first shot hit Frederick Krope in the neck. The gunman then stood at the feet of the slumped man and fired a further nine shots into his body.

Stepping over the peppered body, he entered a bedroom to reload his rifle. Standing at the doorway, the gunman pumped 10 more bullets into the body, reloaded again and shot seven more times at close range, each of these final bullets entering his head or shoulders.

"The reason I shot him with the extra bullets," the killer later explained, "was because he was still moving after the first lot and I didn't want to take any chances.

"After everything had happened, I put the rifle on the buffet and then tried to contact the police.

"My mother actually rang the police, trying to cover up for me."

William Krope, 20, had finally ended years of torment by killing his own father.

William Krope and his mother Josephine Krope after the acquittal. Picture: Supplied
William Krope and his mother Josephine Krope after the acquittal. Picture: Supplied


Frederick and Josephine Krope had migrated to Australia from Yugoslavia, settling in Melbourne in 1954. They raised three children, Rosemary, Gloria and William, in a chaotic, violent household.

Frederick was a fitter and turner but squandered his wages at the track, often taking out his losses on his wife and children.

He forced his son William to help him steal sheet metal from the manufacturing company he worked at in order to make various items to sell to cake shops around Melbourne. While his father would spend the weekends gambling, young William was expected to fill these orders, working diligently in his father's shed, with materials stolen from Frederick's place of work. This was the least of it.

"From an early age I have heard my father calling my mother a b**ch and a sl*t and yelling at her," William Krope recalled in court. "He used to terrify us with stories of how he killed people during the war, and at times he had us in tears of fright."

This was just the psychological aspect of the abuse. He regularly attacked Josephine, once knocking his wife to the ground and kicking her in the back so brutally she was forced to wear a steel brace for six months. On one occasion, he threw a plate at her in front of the children, hitting her in the face.

He chased William around the yard with a stick - one of his earliest memories - and, when he was 10, once hit him with a machine belt across the legs so hard he couldn't bend his legs for weeks without searing pain. "Once, when I ran to my mum, he kicked me and started to hit her because she was trying to protect me," he recounted.

Frederick would watch his two daughters shower through a peephole he had drilled into the bathroom wall, a fact his wife suspected but could never prove until after his death.

He also carried numerous weapons: a half-metre club that he kept in his car, a switchblade in his bag and a rifle in his garage.

Gloria Krope, Miss Australia 1978. Picture: Supplied
Gloria Krope, Miss Australia 1978. Picture: Supplied

"I thought he was the sort of person who would easily kill us in our sleep," William later testified, "and that he could easily kill himself".

Frederick's three brothers had all died by suicide.

Gloria Krope had left home five years earlier, aged just 16, to escape the violence. Eldest daughter Rosemary had stayed behind.

William had left briefly the year before after his father drove him out. This was the first time he seriously considered killing his father. Instead, he left and moved into a flat.

"I thought that if I got away from him, it would be right," William told police. "But it wasn't."

The stress of what was going on at home led him to try to attempt suicide.

Miss Australia 1978 Gloria Krope. Picture: Supplied
Miss Australia 1978 Gloria Krope. Picture: Supplied

In the past year, Frederick had become "madder and crueller", according to his wife.

Two weeks before the murder, William bought a rifle for $146 and stashed it in his room. "I bought it with the intention of protecting my family against my father because he is very unpredictable," he told police.

On December 21, 1977, Frederick was in what William describes as "one of the worst moods I had ever seen".

Josephine was asking for extra money for Christmas in the hopes a nice and peaceful Christmas may lure Gloria home for the day. "Not for you bloody bastards" and "not one cent" was Frederick's reply.

"I heard him telling my mother she was a stupid b**ch and if she wanted money to get out and work for it," William testified.

That evening, Frederick's mood had worsened still. "He was going on about how useless we all were to him and saying things like as far as we were all concerned, we were finished."

He came into the kitchen, where Josephine was cooking and William was attempting to comfort her and said, chillingly, "I'll figure something out for you."

William's thoughts turned to his father's gun in the garage. "I was sure he was going to do something to us that night," he said.

William pulled the flyscreen off his bedroom window, the plan being to sneak into the garage, remove the rifle and bring it back in through this window and hide it in his room. While in the garage, William quietly removed the rifle from a trunk and noticed his father coming with a torch.

William Krope and his mother Josephine were tormented by Frederick Krope. Picture: Supplied
William Krope and his mother Josephine were tormented by Frederick Krope. Picture: Supplied

He froze. Dropping the gun, William walked out of the garage and ran into the house. "I knew once he had seen me with his gun, that would be it. I would be finished."

Thinking quickly, William went into his room, grabbed the rifle he had bought two weeks earlier and jumped out the window. "When I got out the back I saw him through the window, in the garage where the rifle had been and I thought he was getting it."

Terrified, William ran back into the lounge room and hid, holding his own rifle. The lounge room was lit only by the television, and he heard his father leaving the garage.

"All the fear I had of him over the past times took control of me and I was just certain that he was going to kill me - Mum and me and Rosemary. I believed he had the gun, and I thought I had to kill him first."

"He's coming in with a gun," William yelled to his mother, who froze in the kitchen. After the first shot rang out, she came into the room, expecting to see William dead and her husband with the gun.

"I was prepared to die," she later testified, "but it was Will (William) shooting and he was in a state I have never see him in before"

She rang the police and initially tried to take the blame before William, still trembling, talked her out of it.

"When I first shot him I just let all the fear and tenseness out," William told police half an hour later.


The following June, two months before the trial was due to begin in August, Josephine Krope appeared on a current affairs program and spoke in defence of her son.

The murder had sparked the public interest due to Gloria's standing as Miss Australia.

Josephine conducted the television interview in a misguided attempt to sway the public sentiment. She painted her husband as a monster, and, as she had initially tried to do with the police, she shouldered some of the blame for her son's actions.

She was sufficiently convincing, too; after the interview aired, police decided that she was the instigator, charging her with conspiracy to murder and inciting to murder.

Krope would now take the stand alongside her son.

Shortly afterwards, eldest daughter Rosemary attempted to take her own life. Thankfully, she wasn't successful, but the family was deeply distressed going into the trial.



The family lived in fear. Picture: Supplied
The family lived in fear. Picture: Supplied

William and Josephine Krope's lawyer Frank Galbally was a celebrity in his own right.

Widely considered the best criminal lawyer in the country, Galbally was involved in numerous famous murder cases, worked alongside former prime minister Malcolm Fraser to establish the SBS and even played AFL for Collingwood in his youth.

Tall and commanding, with the flair of a showman, he was described by The Age in his 2005 obituary as "the silver-haired, silver-tongued barrister who could mesmerise a jury with his oratory and his flair for the theatrica".

He certainly showcased this side of his personally, according to the recollections of John Walker, QC, who appeared alongside Galbally in the case.

"He was incredibly dramatic in that trial," Walker recalled. "It was a packed court, people were standing, all the sitting seats were taken. He had this dramatic way, it wasn't conscious, he was just a natural advocate. He rose to his feet and his opening words to the jury dealt with a cross in Jerusalem and a man hanging with two others - he was talking about the crucifixion of Christ. All eyes were on him. Then he moved into all sorts of other areas of the miserable life these people have led."

Galbally relied upon an unusually sympathetic approach throughout the entire trial, stepping the jury through the horrors inflicted upon the family by their father.

Galbally took the entire jury around to the Krope house to show them the peephole Frederick had made in the bathroom wall. Knowing how to generate the right types of headlines, at one point he called a "surprise" witness to the stand. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I now call … Miss Australia."

Gloria Krope (left) left home to escape her ‘cruel’ father. Picture: Supplied
Gloria Krope (left) left home to escape her ‘cruel’ father. Picture: Supplied

Gloria Krope then detailed to the court how she had left home to escape her father, and how the family feared further violence if they dared to go to the police.

She referred to him as "very cruel, very threatening", explaining how "most of the time that I lived under the (same) roof I lived in fear".

It was an emotional trial. The major problem in proving self-defence, however, was that William had reloaded the rifle twice, even leaving the room to grab more ammunition. These are hardly the actions of someone operating purely in self-defence.

The prosecutor, Len Flanagan, played up this angle, explaining how William "stalked his father around the backyard" and pointed blame at Josephine.

"The victim has been described as a man who was cruel, sadistic, and hard on his family, but his conduct did not justify the son killing his father, nor his wife egging on her son to do the killing," he said, adding the murder was "initiated by his wife's words and actions. She knew her son resented his father and had recently bought a .22 rifle."

Walker explained how Galbally countered this by explaining to the jury how "no one can say what killed the man, so you have to proceed on the assumption that the first bullets killed him and the rest was just this enormous sense of pent-up rage, not a conscious act."

William's telling of the shoot in court suggests this pent-up rage. "I've no clear memory of how often I did it. I was so panicky.

"I'd often thought over the years that if he attacked me or Mum I would have to kill him. This is the sort of thing that had been going through my mind for years because of his threats and cruelty towards us."

It took seven hours for the jury to find Josephine and William not guilty on all charges, allowing them to walk free for the first time in their lives.

"No one could believe what we've been through and what sort of a man he was," William explained of the family's ordeal.

"If you had lived in that house with us and him for even a week you would have known what fear was - and how it was with us all the time.

"I believe that he was truly mad."

Nathan Jolly is a freelance writer | @nathanjolly