VIKKI PETRAITIS IN CONVERSATION Casual chats with Peninsula people by Yazmine Lomax

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Former Seaford resident Vikki Petraitis is the author of over a dozen true-crime stories, including The Frankston Murders. More than two decades after the release of her debut novel, she’s still as passionate as ever about tales of justice and human perseverance.

Where did your interest in crime writing begin?

It came from being in Year 7 and finding Agatha Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide, plucking that off the shelf and then reading every single Agatha Christie book. When I was 18 or 19 I bought a book called Inside The Mind Of A Murderess, about Myra Hindley, and once you read true crime the ‘body in the library with the 12 suspects’ just doesn’t cut it. The heart of it is that it’s about real people.

What do you love about being a crime writer?

I get to meet the most amazing people. I’ve spent 25 years talking to people who have been changed by adversity and that helps me in my life; I think being a crime writer has given me an insight into the world that I would not have if I didn’t do what I do. On occasion I’ve had nightmares but I guess that’s my brain processing the stories.

August was the 25th anniversary of the Frankston Murders. How do you feel this event still affects the community today?

When I did the talk for the 20th anniversary, I had an hour-long book signing line where everyone who came forward had a story and a connection to it. About 150 people showed up to the memorial this year and all of them had a story. Everyone was so moved to see Baby Jake there — he was 12 days old when his mother was murdered — and everyone just hugged him. When you take three women out of a close-knit community, years and years later so many people are still going to feel that connection.

What’s your writing process like?

For The Frankston Murders I did 50 interviews with family members, cops, SES … everybody. I also had a 900-page homicide brief and all of Denyer’s confessional videos and transcripts so I processed the whole thing like a big jigsaw puzzle 

Why do you love this area and how does it inspire your work?

I lived in Seaford when the Frankston Murders happened and there’s a connection that will never be broken. If anything shows the strength of this community it’s the way they’ve embraced Baby Jake and turned up to give Brian and Carmel Russel a hug. As a writer, that’s what you want to connect with.