Dan Andrews’ Covid lockdowns led Katie Perinovic to kill her three children in Tullamarine Melbourne
A mum who stabbed to death her three young children inside their home lost her mind during Victoria’s hard lockdowns.
Katica ‘Katie’ Perinovic, 42, murdered her children Claire, 7, Anna, 5, and Matthew, 3 one by one before taking her own life inside their Tullamarine home, north-west of Melbourne, on January 14, 2021.
Their father Tom Perinovic, who had been out buying his family a new television set when the atrocity happened, has revealed how Dan Andrews’ lockdowns turned his happy and healthy wife into a monster.
Katie Perinovic, 42, murdered her children while their father was out on a shopping trip
Tom Perinovic had been texting his wife asking her for an opinion on television sets he was looking to buy for the family
Detectives arrive at the crime scene on January 14, 2021. The carnage inside was described as ‘gruesome’
‘There was a huge negative impact during the Covid lockdown on our family and particularly Katie. We were unable like others in Victoria to see our family and friends for so many months,’ a gutted Mr Perinovic told Victorian Coroner Audrey Jamieson on Tuesday.
Until Victorians were locked down in what would become the longest in human history, Katie had been a successful physiotherapist.
Trapped within the four walls of her Tullamarine house, Mr Perinovic pinpointed the lockdown as the event that drove his wife to madness.
‘Katie had stopped working in March 2020 and was looking after her three children and trying to home school Claire at the same time,’ Mr Perinovic said.
‘It was incredibly stressful and hard on both of us, particularly Katie.’
Victorians spent a whopping 262 days under hard lockdown between March that year and the end of 2021.
Mr Perinovic told the coroner that by the time Mr Andrews eased restrictions, the damage appeared to have already been done.
‘When restrictions eased, Katie had started withdrawing from friends, she would say “we can’t meet”. She kept reading media articles and listening to the news over and over,’ he said.
‘She started feeling worried and fear. Every day we would alternate going for walks, to get some fresh air and exercise. Just to get out of the house.’
A view of the backyard where the Perinovic family was killed.
People continued to leave flowers outside the Tullamarine property for weeks on end
Father Tomislav Perinovic (left), the children and Ms Perinovic. Mr Perinovic has been left devastated by the tragedy
Isolated from her family and friends, Katie’s mental health rapidly declined.
‘Katie’s family members wanted to come over to visit, but due to the travel 5km permitted radius, this meant they couldn’t come. We all abided by the law. Therefore, we didn’t see her family for an extended amount of time,’ Mr Perinovic said.
‘It was many months. Katie’s memory started to decline during the lockdown, and she even forgot the pin number on her mobile phone. She had to send it away to get it unlocked.’
While Katie found the strength to return to her beloved job in October 2020, she resigned just weeks later under a cloud of mystery.
She had worked at the very same clinic for the previous 16 years.
‘A few days after she resigned, I got a phone call from her boss, saying “your wife needs help. Go see a doctor. I can’t tell you what she’s done.” And that was it,’ Mr Perinovic told the coroner.
‘He said, ‘you haven’t been looking after your wife.” I asked in what way? He was saying she needed mental help. I have no idea what happened at her work, and I have no idea what her boss was talking about.’
It would be a suggestion of responsibility for the crime Mr Perinovic would continue to carry until this very day.
Concerned over her own mental decline, Katie went to see her local doctor.
By then she had been feeling paranoid, exhausted and anxious.
She had earlier told her husband she believed she was being covertly watched by CCTV cameras within their own home.
The doctor prescribed her sleeping pills and sent her home, prompting Mr Perinovic to return with her the very next day in the hope of having her treated properly.
Curtains at the property can be seen closed. Tom Perinovic suspected all was not well inside. He was right
With her husband by her side, Katie was referred to the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s mental health department, NorthWestern Mental Health.
But her mental health continued to spiral out of control as the lockdowns continued.
‘Ultimately, Covid restrictions meant I was unable to come into most appointments with Katie and I would have to wait in the car or not attend. I was unaware of what was happening in Katie’s appointments or her treatment plan, unless Katie told me what was happening,’ Mr Perinovic told the coroner.
When Mr Perinovic eventually worked his way inside a consultation with his wife, she asked him to leave in what he would later learn had been the midst of a ‘psychotic episode’.
Placed on medications after her second appointment, Katie asked her husband for some time apart, which he granted.
The separation was short lived and the family were back living under the same roof again in no time.
With less than a month before her murderous rampage, Katie overdosed on her medications.
She refused to go to hospital, telling her doctor the following day she had simply wanted to sleep.
‘He was in an angry mood with us. I didn’t know why. He said, “I want you to hide the medication, and give it to her every day.” It was his idea for me to manage the medication. I listened, and I hid it in garage and locked it,’ Mr Perinovic said.
Katie’s mental health practitioner would only learn of the suicide attempt after she had already killed her family.
‘There was no discussion, or anything mentioned explicitly about the kids being at risk of harm,’ Mr Perinovic said.
‘(Katie) was a great mum and a very good physiotherapist. She helped and treated many patients over her career and it’s a huge shame that she was not provided with the same level of care she deserved in her most time of need.’
Police said there was no history of family violence involving the family. Pictured: Katie and Tomislav Perinovic with their daughter
Officers who were called to the scene in Tullamarine stand with police tape outside the home on January 14
Counsel assisting the coroner Nicholas Ngai told the court Katie had no known history of mental illness or suicidality over the previous 42 years prior to her rampage apart from being known as a ‘worrier, anxious, abrupt and impulsive at times’.
What happened inside the family home on January 14 is the stuff of nightmares.
One by one, Katie stabbed her children to death.
When Mr Perinovic arrived home he found his bloody son in the front lounge with injuries to his head and arm.
Unaware the remainder of his family lay dead in another room, he called triple 0.
While paramedics worked on Matthew, Mr Perinovic went into the rear living room and saw what his wife had done.
‘They’re all dead,’ he told paramedics.
When Victoria Police detectives arrived at the scene they instinctively believed Mr Perinovic was the killer.
A distraught Mr Perinovic was handcuffed in front of his neighbours and immediately grilled by police at the scene while a paramedic tried to treat him for his shock.
‘When the police came there were so many people, and I was in a state of shock that I couldn’t speak,’ Mr Perinovic told the coroner.
‘I was just lost for words, and it was incomprehensible to me what I had just seen in my home. The police treated me unfairly … There were so many faces and detectives questioning me outside on the nature strip in front of everyone in the street.
‘I even recall one policewoman yelling at me during this traumatic experience. I was taken to the police station for further questioning when what I really needed was to be treated for shock and have my family with me.’
When detectives were finally satisfied he probably was telling the truth they bundled him into a police car and dumped him at his parents’ house.
‘I was not offered any medical help while I was at the police station or when they took me home to my parents’ house,’ Mr Perinovic said.
‘The next day police did apologise for the way I was treated. I would like a formal written apology from the police department, and I hope they never treat any other person like this again.’
Claire, 7, Anna, 5, and Matthew, 3 were all slain by their own mother inside their home
Years later, Mr Perinovic has still not been handed over his wife’s mobile phone, which contained priceless photographs she had taken of his children.
‘Katie’s phone was seized by police for them to examine. It hasn’t been returned to me, it has many of the photos of my wife and children on it,’ Mr Perinovic told the coroner.
‘I do not have copies. I am very upset that it hasn’t been returned. I would like it to be given back to me so that I may have these memories.’
Victoria Police refused to comment if an apology was offered to Mr Perinovic and initially refused to say whether his wife’s phone would be returned.
After pressure from Daily Mail Australia, police on Friday committed to hand back the phone to Mr Perinovic.
Mr Perinovic’s sister Maria painted a similar portrait of the way Victoria Police handled her brother’s arrest.
‘Police wouldn’t let me see Tom, and they wouldn’t tell me anything. They gave me the impression he did it,’ Maria informed the coroner.
‘I asked who rang the ambulance – they said “does it matter?” I said yes I have to know.’
Maria, who wished for her surname to remain anonymous, said police refused to assist them with ‘lights and sirens’ to get to her parents’ house so that they could be informed of what had happened before the media did.
‘Media was not told immediately that he didn’t do it, it was 24 hours later,’ Maria said.
‘This was not good enough. Everyone thought he was a guilty man, who murdered his family. His image was all over the media.’
Maria said her brother was dropped off by police without being offered any counselling.
‘No social worker, or support worker was provided to us. Tom was in total shock crying, shaking, hunched back, lying down in the foetal position,’ she said.
‘He went out to buy a TV and came home to find them all dead. I didn’t know what to do, he needed medical help. There was none provided.’
Katie Perinovic (pictured with husband Tom) had never had a reported issue of mental health problems until she was locked down under Premier Dan Andrews’ desire to maintain zero coverage of the Covid-19 spread.
A woman drops to her knees and cries outside the home where Katie Perinovic murdered her family
Left to fend for themselves, a victims of crime group provided the family with telephone numbers of counsellors they could call.
‘My husband had to do the unfortunate thing of explaining what had happened over and over again to each place he called to get some help for Tom and all of us.
‘He shouldn’t have had to do this. Someone else should have helped us and make the calls,’ Maria said.
The family was told only three sessions would be covered and then they would have to pay for the rest out of their own pockets.
Maria said she worried people still judged her brother for the atrocities his wife committed.
‘For men there is always a stigma about how he treated his family which is unfair. Tom was a loving, supportive, kind, loyal and hardworking father and husband,’ she said.
‘It has been extremely difficult for me to watch my brother go through all of this and see his sadness which is ongoing, and it will be for the rest of his life.’
The coroner published her findings into the tragedy in a 34-page report on Wednesday.
In it, Judge Jamieson makes just one mention each of the words ‘Covid’ and ‘lockdown’.
The references are made in relation to the delays in the RMH’s mental health doctors returning to face-to-face meetings upon Covid restrictions being eased in November 2020.
Katie had simply been made to phone-in for her mental health treatments, despite her becoming increasingly paranoid that her calls were being monitored.
‘This resulted in 1) limited exploration and questioning of Katica about her mental state, 2) limited information regarding her appearance and behaviours which may have indicated the presence of symptoms and 3) Katica possibly not disclosing information freely, due to her concerns that her phone calls were being monitored,’ the coroner stated.
‘It is likely that the brevity of reviews from 8 December 2020 onwards and lack of face-to-face or telehealth reviews contributed to psychoeducation not being provided, and this may have also contributed to her non-compliance.’
Tom and Katie Perinovic and daughters Claire, 7, and Anna, 5, and son Matthew
On January 4, Katie’s doctors finally recognised it might be a good idea to see her in person after more than a month of phone calls.
‘However no attempts were made over the following 10 days (until the day of the fatal incident) to contact Katica’s husband or GP,’ Judge Jamieson stated.
Judge Jamieson suggested better communication between Katie’s GP and Mr Perinovic may have set off alarm bells with her mental health carers.
‘It is likely that the lack of collateral information from Katica’s family, particularly her husband, contributed to an underappreciation of the severity of her symptoms and therefore an underappreciation of her level of risk,’ she stated.
‘Statements provided by Tomislav indicated that he was aware Katica’s mental state was declining approaching the fatal incident. Had active attempts been made to obtain collateral information, the mental state assessments and risk assessments completed by NorthWestern Mental Health would have been more reliable.’
In a report into the tragedy by NorthWestern Mental Health, the hospital claimed to have made a swag of changes, including the obvious observation that face-to-face assessments should be prioritised.
Home assessments should also be an essential part of the management of new consumers wherever possible, it stated.
The coroner’s report made no mention of how those plans might change in the event of another lockdown.
The coroner noted a thorough review of the available material found no evidence to suggest that Katie was a victim of family violence prior to her death.
In coming to her conclusions, Judge Jamieson stated she was unable to say ‘with any degree of certainty’ that Katie’s death was preventable.
‘I do however find that the mental health treatment that was provided to Katica Perinovic to be suboptimal in the circumstances,’ she stated.
‘I acknowledge and accept appropriate restorative and preventatives measures have been taken by NorthWestern Mental Health since the fatal incident.’
Judge Jamieson made no findings on what impacts Victoria’s lockdowns had in contributing to the sudden mental illness suffered by Katie, or those tasked with helping her.
‘I find that there were missed opportunities to intervene in the course of events preceding and leading to Katica Perinovic’s death,’ she stated.
THREE LITTLE LIVES BRUTALLY TAKEN BY THEIR OWN MOTHER
Claire, 7, and Anna, 5.
Claire Perinovic was born on July 31, 2013.
Her father described her as a ‘beautiful kind soul, friendly, thoughtful, happy and smart, who loved life’.
‘She loved playing with her friends. She loved everyone and was the best big sister and cousin,’ Mr Perinovic said.
‘Claire loved to dance. She was always with her sister Anna. Together they loved doing swimming and dancing lessons, it was their favourite activities each week.’
Anna Perinovic came along two years later on May 10, 2015.
Matthew Perinovic with his dad Tom
‘Anna had a big smile, she was adventurous, happy, and loved to play with her baby toys,’ Mr Perinovic said.
‘Most of all she loved playing with Claire and Matthew every day. Anna in her last year of kindergarten was learning really well to read and write. She was so excited to start school with her big sister Claire.’
Matthew Perinovic was born on June 6, 2017.
‘He was a very tall, clever and strong boy. Who loved daddy a lot and was always around me in whatever I was doing, he was my little helper,’ Mr Perinovic said.
‘He loved playing with cars, his big sisters and cousins. Claire, Anna and Matthew all loved swimming, dancing together. Going to the park and just having fun with other kids.’
- For confidential support please call LIFELINE: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au, Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or 1800RESPECT