"A child molester and a child killer will be released among us this week. It's not over and we can see the inadequacies of the justice system very clearly today. And he will reoffend and when he does, those people who enabled this will be held accountable."
- Lisa Giles (Lisa was abused by Michael Guider as a child)
It was the 19th of August 1986. A Tuesday. Nine year old Samantha Knight left the home she shared with her mother, Tess Knight, to make her way to school. They lived in an apartment together in a block of apartments at Imperial Avenue in Bondi, Australia. Tess waved goodbye to her daughter as she made her way down Bondi Street.
Samantha got home that afternoon from school around 4.15pm. She was home before Tess. Samantha changed into a pink skirt, navy blue track suit top and blue, open toed sandals. She had something small to eat and went out again. When Tess returned home after work, she knew Samantha wasn't in the apartment as it was eerily quiet. She wasn't immediately concerned as Samantha would often go back out after school to call into a few friends who lived in the same complex. Tess knew she had been home after school as there was a half eaten snack on the kitchen bench.
Normally if Samantha went out before Tess was home from work, Samantha would be back just after Tess got home. But there was no sign of her that day so Tess asked a few of the neighbors if they knew where Samantha was. They all said that they didn't see her that afternoon so Tess contacted other friends and her family to see if they had seen or heard from Samantha. They hadn't.
Tess was worried. They had only lived in the apartment for three months and only really knew people who lived in the complex so if Samantha wasn't there, she didn't know of any other places where she could be. She didn't know where else to look.
Tess reported Samantha missing to the police around 8pm that night and a search began almost immediately. Police established that there had been multiple sightings of Samantha between 4.30pm and 6.45 pm. All of the sightings had been of Samantha around Bondi Road bounded by Imperial Avenue and Wellington Street.
Police began to create a timeline. They were aware that at 4.30pm , Samantha went to the Bondi shopping centre and bought a pencil and lollies from the Bondi Road newsagency. Samantha was spotted at 5.30pm and a woman she knew spoke to her around that time at the corner of Bondi Road and Wellington Street. Samantha told the woman she had lost her front door key.
Around an hour later, at 6.30pm, Samantha bought a toothbrush from a pharmacy on Bondi Road. The last known sighting of Samantha was at 6.45pm by a neighbor who saw her on Bondi Road near the intersection of Imperial Avenue. She was talking to an adult male but Samantha seemed to be going home as she was walking in the direction of the complex. That was the last time Samantha was seen.
The next day, thousands of volunteers helped search the area looking for Samantha. Hundreds of thousands of missing posters of Samantha were printed and posted all around the country.
Despite huge media interest in the case at that time and many people willing to help, the case went cold as there were no solid leads and no arrests were made.
It would take a further 16 years before there was a break in the case.
A man, Michael Guider, came to the attention of the police in relation to Samantha's disappearance. Michael was well known in the community and worked as a babysitter, part-time gardener, copy boy, clerical assistant, and cleaner. He moved around a lot but when police questioned him in relation to Samantha's disappearance, he was in prison.
Michael was in prison serving 16 years for sexually abusing 13 boys and girls on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Michael was first jailed in 1996 after pleading guilty to 60 child sex offenses which included 15 counts of sexual intercourse without consent “comprising acts of penile penetration, penetration with a finger and with objects, and oral intercourse.”
In 2000, he was sentenced for eight more child sexual assault offenses dating back to the 1980s.
Police found thousands of indecent photographs of children being sexually assaulted and in indecent poses in his home and shed along with pornographic books, children’s underwear and cameras. Michael had a pattern of abuse. He often befriended the children's mothers, a lot of them were vulnerable, and he would gain their trust and then offer to babysit. He met them mostly when he worked as a gardner at Royal North Shore Hospital. Michael would give the children sleeping tablets in soft drinks and when they were drugged and passed out, he would sexually abuse them and take photos of them. He told police that he was obsessed with photographing children and also collecting children's underwear.
In prison, Michael told two inmates that he knew what happened to Samantha. He told one of the prisoners that he snatched Samantha from Bondi and drugged her. He said that he had planned to take photos of her but when he returned from a trip to the shops, she was dead on his lounge. Michael said that he panicked and buried her body. He later moved her body to a different location.
Police questioning Michael
Police questioned him in relation to Samantha's disappearance and he agreed with the police that Samantha died of a sedative overdose that he had administered. That was what he did to all of the children. He subdued them using a sedative and then raped them. But, according to Michael, Samantha was given two doses because she began to wake up after the first dose. Even after Samantha's death, he continued to use the same drug on other children.
In 2002, Michael pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He has never revealed the true location of Samantha’s body.
Michael met Tess and Samantha years before Samantha disappeared. He knew them from when they lived in Manly but Tess believes that Samantha would not have recognized him but she wondered if he had stalked them afterwards for years and followed them to Bondi.
When Michael was sentenced for Samantha's death, he was already serving time for the sexual offenses on the other children. Those offenses took place between 1980 and 1996. He was sentenced to 17 years in 2012 for the manslaughter of Samantha.
During his time incarcerated, Michael never revealed exactly what happened to Samantha. Tess wanted to know what her daughter's last words were and if she had looked for her or called out for her. Michael not only refused to reveal exactly what happened or where Samantha's body was, he later said that he did not kill her despite his confession.
In 2019, Michael was due to be released. His lawyers, Matthew Johnston, SC, and Georgia Lewer said that their client was a "model prisoner" who had served a "very long sentence" . It was their argument that he did everything that he was required to do and should be released. They argued that he was only given a warning once during his 23 years in custody and that was for feeding birds.
The Prosecutor tried to have him serve an additional year in prison. Crown prosecutor David Kell SC said the Judge would be “comfortably satisfied” Michael posed an unacceptable risk of committing a further sexual offense if he’s not kept behind bars.
In deciding whether or not to release Michael, the Judge noted that Michael now denies being involved in Samantha's death "despite all the evidence to the contrary."
He went on to further note that:
"His sexual attraction to children was so profound that the death of a child at his hands did not deter him from continuing to offend in the same way, and using the same self-evidently potentially fatal method of doing so.”
Despite those concerns, the Judge ordered his release subject to a five year extended supervision order with 56 strict conditions. Michael must wear an ankle bracelet 24/7 so that his movements can be electronically monitored. He was banned from certain suburbs and places where children normally are such as cinemas, daycare centers, preschools, schools, amusement parks, libraries, pools and any other recreational areas where children could be.
Michael must also take anti libidinal medication and must not buy, possess, obtain, view, access, participate in or listen to any pornographic material.
Even though drawings of young boys were found in his jail cell as recently as 2012, the Judge said that he accepted that Michael had “confronted his grossly distorted sexuality” over many years and made an effort to overcome it but he was not sure that his sexual attraction to children had dissipated entirely. However, he believed that to incarcerate him for a longer period would not serve any rehabilitative purpose.
Tess Knight was devastated and said:
“We should all be shocked. He hasn’t demonstrated that he’s changed. So not only hasn’t he told us what he did with Samantha’s body — and there will be no body to find anymore, it’s a long time — but he hasn’t given me and my family and Samantha’s friends any details of what happened that day."
Tess is also concerned about the other children that Michael abused:
“At this point, I don’t care about me. I actually care about the young women who were sitting in there devastated. I care about all of the other children that he abused and I care that this might happen again.”
Michael was released from prison in September 2019. As he left the prison carrying two black garbage bags containing his possessions , he was heckled by members of the public. One of the people outside the prison shouted:
"You filthy piece of sh*t."
Another man on a scooter pulled alongside the vehicle Michael was in and shouted: