Granny killer: ‘She was the closest thing to a psychopath’
Former prison officer, South Australia
Ten years working in South Australian prisons has forever changed Jennifer Kaschau. By the time she retired in 2016, she had met some of the nation's most evil women and built rapport with high-profile murderers. She suffered PTSD after a savage inmate attack but is proud she never went to pieces on the job.
Convicted killer Angelika Gavare was holding court at Adelaide Women's Prison.
It was the middle of the night and a group of female inmates had snuck out of their beds and were gathered around Gavare, feverishly hanging on her every word.
Gavare was grinning as she recounted the murder of her elderly neighbour, Vonne McGlynn.
"She was describing how good it felt and looked to see this old lady's blood being splashed up along the bathroom walls," seasoned corrections officer, Jennifer Kaschau who was told the nature of the conversation later by an inmate, tells On Guard.
"She said (Gavare) was smiling when she was describing the blood splashing up on the bathroom walls and that (police) will never be able to convict her for because they'll never find (McGlynn's) head or her hands."
Indeed, police have never been able to locate McGlynn's head or hands but Gavare was wrong about getting away with it.
Overwhelming evidence tied the single mother of Christie Downs, Adelaide, to the pensioner's murder and in 2011 she was jailed for a minimum of 32 years.
"She was the closest thing to a psychopath I've met," Kaschau, 50, said.
In a career spanning more than a decade in corrections, Kaschau has worked at Adelaide Women's Prison, Yatala Labour Prison and the Adelaide Remand Centre.
She's met all sorts of criminals and built rapport with murderers - including infamous 'Black widow' Michelle Burgess who ordered the contract killings of her husband, Darren, and Carolyn Matthews, wife to Kevin Matthews - whom she was having an affair with.
After procuring a hit man by asking other mothers for recommendations during school pick-up, Burgess and hit man David Key confronted Matthews in her kitchen, stabbing her to death.
Matthews' three children then returned to find their mother dead on the bloodied floor.
It was a shockingly callous crime, yet to Kaschau, Burgess was "lovely".
"Very friendly. Very easy to get along with," she said, recalling Burgess had been saddened to hear Kaschau's cat had died.
When a litter of kittens was found soon after on prison property, Burgess asked to handraise a kitten as a gift for Kaschau - a cat that still lives with Kaschau today.
It was a sign of warmth and human compassion that Kaschau found chillingly absent from Gavare.
"She made the hair on the back of my neck - and other staff's necks - stand up.
"She was dead behind the eyes. You know when you look at a person, you see something behind their eyes. She was a dead fish. She was one that everybody felt sick around. You were just very careful around her because she had no remorse," Kaschau said.
While Gavare's young kids slept, she broke into McGlynn's house through the roof, carefully removing tiles to make an opening, before lowering herself into the old lady's home, ready to attack.
The court heard Gavare then bludgeoned the 83-year-old to death, dumping her body in her backyard shed.
Gavare used a hacksaw to butcher McGlynn before placing the dismembered body parts into her daughter's pram, disposing of them in the creek bed outside her home.
A paper-trail confirmed Gavare intended to take possession of McGlynn's assets, but despite detectives confronting her with an overwhelming body of evidence pinning her to the crime, she never showed the slightest indication she was flustered or admitted guilt.
"You would think that she'd have a level of compassion. I just thought, 'how do you do that and then go and change your kids' nappies and feed them?'
"It's just the strangest thing … she was one that I would keep my contact with to a bare minimum. I did not want her thinking that she could manipulate me - she could manipulate other prisoners in there through fear. They were terrified of her."
Gavare set the tone from the day she was brought into prison.
"She went into the exercise yard to use the telephone, which is in a caged area and there were some prisoners out in the yard on evening exercise," Kaschau recounted.
"They knew who she was because of TV - so she was high notoriety to begin with - and as soon as she went out there they called her every name under the sun.
"They hated what she'd done, they were disgusted with her. And she was hanging onto the wire and yelling, 'I'll f**king kill the lot of you, f**king sl**s! I'll f**ing kill the lot of
That stint was enough to earn Gavare a place in 'protection' - a separate area of a prison for inmates likely to be attacked or killed if left in mainstream prison.
Most of the time, however, Gavare, was the picture of composure.
"She never cried, never grieved for her kids … never gave anything away. I never saw her lose her temper, never heard her argue with staff. Very calm, very measured, very calculating, very unnerving," Kaschau said.
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Instead, Gavare relied on tactics of subtle manipulation.
The unit Gavare was initially placed in was dormitory style, with prisoners allocated their own rooms. Room swaps weren't permitted without approval from staff, so prison officers could keep a handle on any "stand-over" or intimidation tactics that may be at play.
According to Kaschau, staff were never able to prove what Gavare was doing to manipulate other inmates but it was clear she ruled the roost.
"She had her own way in that unit - she got whatever she wanted. She always got whatever room she wanted but we could never read what was going on. She'd never give anything away," Kaschau said.
"She's not someone that you would ever approach by yourself. You would have someone right next to you. Just in case, because we just did not trust what she was capable of."
Originally published as Granny killer: 'She was the closest thing to a psychopath'