Leonard Keith Lawson, a convicted rapist and murderer, died on Nov. 29 in his cell at the Grafton Correctional Centre in New South Wales. Authorities say he probably suffered a heart attack. He was 76.
Lawson worked as a successful commercial artist and photographer before he became a violent criminal. In 1954, he kidnapped five models, took them into the Terrey Hills bush in north Sydney and raped two of them at gunpoint; he also sexually assaulted the others. Originally sentenced to be executed, Lawson received a 14-year prison sentence after the death penalty was commuted. When he was released, Lawson used his artistic background to lure new victims.
On Nov. 7, 1962, while painting a portrait of 16-year-old Jane Bower, Lawson tied her up, sexually assaulted her then stabbed her to death. The next day, he carried a gun into the Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School and took several students hostage. Fifteen-year-old Wendy Sue Luscombe, who was sitting in the chapel pews, was shot and killed during the siege. This time, Lawson received a life sentence.
Imprisonment didn’t curb Lawson’s violent tendencies. Ten years into his second incarceration, a group of dancers gave a concert for the inmates at his prison. At the end of the performance, Lawson jumped on stage and threatened to kill one of the dancers, Sharon Hamilton, with a knife. Although Hamilton was released unharmed, she committed suicide six years after the attack.
One of the oldest prisoners in Australia, Lawson spent 48 years in prison, and has been behind bars continuously since 1962. Several of his paintings currently hang at the prison where he died.