Suspicion, sex and room service
March 2000 – July 2001
Darren Burgess was in despair. Unable to bring himself to end his marriage, he turned to alcohol. Through 1998 and 1999, he drank heavily “just to numb the pain of living with Michelle”.
He started taking risks. On March 1, 2000, after a Beaurepaires meeting, he was caught drink driving and immediately feared he would lose his job and his home. The following day, Darren approached Kevin Matthews – who by now had risen to the position of regional manager – and told him: ‘I’ve been booked for drink driving”.
Kevin replied: “You realise that’s obviously a sackable offence?”
The decision was referred to head office, which asked Kevin for his opinion; Darren kept his job. His six-month licence disqualification began on May 16. Darren believes that it was in this period that Michelle and Kevin began communicating via text messages.
He says: “I think it was an open communication in the beginning where I was aware and involved in some of the texts but this soon changed. Michelle would become very secretive with her phone. She would always be in the toilet with her phone, so again my suspicions were raised.”
It will never be known exactly what it was that so radically altered Michelle’s opinion of Kevin. But she was soon exchanging dozens and dozens of text messages with the man she had once contemptuously dismissed as a “pigdog”. She wanted to be wanted again, desired and coveted, just as she had been by the other men with whom she had had affairs; illicit meetings in parks and hotels for exciting, forbidden sex thrilled her like nothing else had in her life.
In August 2000, Darren had bought his own mobile phone and also updated Michelle’s, putting both in his name. But Michelle chose not to use the new phone, instead going out the same day and buying her own and opening an account with Vodafone. Now she was free to flirt with whomever she chose. Kevin Matthews was a fat, bald, bespectacled married man with a foul mouth. But he was Darren’s boss and, when he looked at her, she liked what she saw in his eyes – desire.
Michelle’s then friend, Cassandra Hutchinson, recalls that about two weeks prior to Darren’s birthday in September 2000, Michelle told her she was exchanging text messages with Kevin Matthews and that he had asked her to be his mistress. She made it clear their relationship had become intimate. On at least three occasions, Cassandra saw a grey Ford Falcon parked at Michelle’s home, usually around lunchtime or late morning. When Darren and Michelle had a Beaurepaires Christmas party at their house in December 2000, Cassandra saw the Matthews family arrive in the same car.
Cassandra’s friend, Jaylene Thompson, recalls similar incidents around mid 2000 after being introduced to Cassandra’s friend and neighbour, who lived two doors away. She saw Michelle at Cassandra’s home two or three times up until September 2000. On one occasion they were having a barbecue. A few weeks prior to this, Cassandra had told Jaylene that Michelle was having an affair with a man named Kevin, who was Darren’s boss at Beaurepaires. At the BBQ, Jaylene recalls standing with Cassandra and Michelle under the pergola when the subject of Darren’s boss came up. Michelle told them she was having an affair with Kevin. On another evening, Jaylene joined Michelle and Cassandra at the Village Tavern in Golden Grove. Within minutes of arriving, Michelle started a text-messaging marathon, telling them Kevin was in his lounge room and his wife was sitting nearby. She loved that it was happening under Carolyn’s nose. While the other women danced, Michelle kept texting, at one stage having a conversation with Kevin while he hid in his toilet.
Darren says that in the lead-up to his 30th birthday in September 2000, he recalls that Michelle went out with Cassandra and a couple of her girlfriends one night. The next day, he noticed what looked like a love bite on Michelle’s chest. He questioned her about it and she insisted someone had pinched her the night before in the nightclub. He says: “Absolute bullshit. She honestly thought I was stupid. Yes, I was stupid for everything I put up with but not stupid enough that I didn’t know what was going on.”
In another incident shortly before his birthday, Michelle told Darren she had to stay at the Hindley Park Royal in the city because she had some sort of training for a job she claimed to have been given at their son’s school and it required an overnight stay. But Michelle dropped by at Beaurepaires before mid-morning the next day. Darren questioned her about why she was there so early, and she claimed some of the other people on the course had “misbehaved” so the training had been called off the day.
Police later established that the first known phone call between Matthews and Burgess was on September 4, 2000, when he used his work mobile to call her mobile. A few days later, Darren and Michelle had a discussion about the guest list for his birthday party on Saturday, September 16, which was two days after his birthday. Darren was firm; “I don’t want Kevin here,” he told her.
“Well it’s too late – I’ve already mentioned it to him. I’ve invited him and his wife,” Michelle replied.
“Why?” he asked her.
“Well, he’s at all the Christmas parties and he’s your boss, so it would be good for you if he’s here,” she said.
The Burgesses hosted the Beaurepaires Elizabeth Christmas parties at their home each year. Because Kevin was regional manager, Darren would invite him and Carolyn to the parties. He recalls that at their first party, in 1997, he showed Kevin around his home. In the master bedroom, Kevin commented: “So this is where all the work gets done.” Because Michelle disliked both Kevin and Carolyn, she didn’t want them in her house. Now their attitudes to Kevin had reversed.
Darren says: “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here was a woman who hated Kevin and Carolyn immensely, didn’t want them at our house at Christmas time and all of a sudden she’s inviting them to my birthday party. I asked her why and she said that her opinion of Kevin and Carolyn had changed. I asked why and she told me that she and Kevin had talked and that they had some things in common with the troubles they had in their marriages.”
Michelle later confided to another woman that on her husband’s birthday, she had gone to Kevin Matthews’ office and had sex with him there. Matthews had never experienced anything like it; he was terrified they would be caught, but that also made it even more arousing. She’d arrived at his office with hungry eyes, wandering hands and a proposition – I want to be your mistress. Matthews did not require thinking music – he was titillated and instantly besotted.
There were four more calls between Matthews and Burgess in the following days. On the Saturday morning before his 30th birthday party at their home, a suspicious Darren began browsing the messages on his wife’s phone. When he discovered a message containing directions to Beaurepaires head office, sent from Kevin’s phone, he confronted his wife. She lamely explained: “I had a feeling you were going through my phone and I put that in there myself.”
That morning, she told Darren she was going to buy his birthday present, but was gone all morning. When she finally returned, she explained her extended absence by saying she had caught the train around the corner from where she bought the present, which was a Port Adelaide Football Club tracksuit. That evening, Kevin and Carolyn presented Darren with a Beaurepaires jacket. A decade later, Darren theorises that the jacket was probably the excuse Kevin used to go to his office that morning to have sex with his wife.
The guests at the party that night included the Burgess’s close friends, Brad and Sarah Creten. Sarah later told police that she was very surprised to see Kevin and Carolyn there. Michelle told her Darren had invited them and gave the impression that she was only tolerating them for Darren’s sake. But Sarah immediately picked up on Michelle’s new attitude towards Kevin, talking and laughing with him like they were old friends. She also noticed that Michelle seemed to avoid Carolyn and she didn’t see them speak at all during the evening. Days after the party, Sarah and a friend had coffee with Michelle and Kevin’s name came up. But Michelle had little to say and Sarah was left to wonder about Michelle’s odd changes in attitude towards him.
Shortly after the affair is suspected to have started, Michelle created a ruse to give herself more time outside the home. She told Darren she had a job at Evanston Primary School, which their son attended, which involved canvassing local businesses to sponsor the school. This would require Michelle to do some training and even overnight stays in Adelaide hotels, such as her visit to the Hindley Park Royal. She would drop off her daughter at her mother’s home in Holden Hill while she went off to her “job”.
Darren says: “I guess having experienced this before, I suspected there was an affair happening. I would question Michelle all the time and she would constantly deny it. At lunch times, I would ring both Kevin and Michelle and as luck would have it, both their phones were off and I would leave messages for them both to ring me. Surprise, surprise, they would both ring simultaneously as soon as they switched their phones back on.”
Also in September, Kevin Matthews rewarded himself with an extravagant gift for his approaching 40th birthday – ignoring the fact that the family’s finances were already stretched – by taking out a $17,500 loan to buy a speedboat which he immediately dubbed Bodgie.
Kaylene and Rodney Kenyon thought it was odd that they weren’t invited to Kevin’s 40th birthday party, on October 18, 2000. It was only later that Kaylene found out that it was actually Carolyn who insisted that they not be included; she had feared that her husband would humiliate her that night – and she was right.
Michelle and a reluctant Darren were among the party guests. Kevin had called Darren earlier that day and said they were welcome to stay the night. Darren was incredulous – was Kevin serious? Because he still didn’t have his driver’s licence, he’d already booked a room at the nearby Lakes Resort Inn, correctly guessing that Michelle would end the night in no shape to drive. They took a bottle of Scotch for the birthday boy. For Kevin Matthews, there was no such thing as too much Scotch – indeed, his party “decorations” included a bottle of Scotch hooked up to a drip.
He was ecstatic that his birthday gifts – including those from colleagues and business acquaintances – included no less than 52 bottles of Scotch of varying shapes and sizes. He then spent most of the evening squiring Michelle, his arm around her waist, as he introduced her to bemused guests as his “new best friend”.
Darren Burgess noticed Kevin’s friendly arm around his wife about five or six times that evening, but chose to keep the peace. He also noticed Michelle was drinking Scotch and Coke, rather than her usual Strongbow. As she got steadily more drunk and her affection for Kevin became obvious to everyone at the party, Darren decided it was best if he stopped drinking because it looked like things were about to get out of hand. Later in the evening, Michelle spent an extended period on her knees in the toilet – although she was alone on this occasion.
While this was happening, there was a altercation between Kevin, some of Kevin’s family members and several Beaurepaires managers. One of Kevin’s family members started targeting Darren, but Kevin interjected, saying: “Leave him alone, he is one of my best managers”. Darren eventually extracted Michelle from the toilet, but with the state she was in, no taxi would give them a ride.
Darren says: “I went against everything I believed in. I had sworn that while I didn’t have my licence I wouldn’t drive but desperate times called for desperate measures. I bundled Michelle into our car and drove around to the Lakes Resort Hotel. I put Michelle to bed. She was so intoxicated that by the morning when I woke her, she had soiled herself.”
On Tuesday, October 24, 2000, Kevin Matthews booked a standard
room with queen-sized bed at the Novotel Adelaide in Hindley Street. He checked in at 10.04am, and hotel records show that he watched The Patriot on the in-house movie system, ate a lunch that included two chicken burgers, wedges and orange juice, and then checked out at 4.11pm, paying the $163.75 bill.
On November 8, 2000, there was a booking in the name of Burgess for a spa room at the Airport Motel, on Burbridge Rd, Brooklyn Park. On the same day, the White Horse Inn at Bolivar charged $76.90 to Kevin Matthews’ credit card, indicating he was stocking up on drinks ahead of another night in a hotel. The following day, Kevin caught an Ansett flight to Melbourne and returned on November 11.
Leading up to Christmas 2000, Michelle told Darren she wanted a tattoo as a memorial for the baby they had aborted – it was of a rose, in the small of her back. At the regular Christmas party at the Burgess’s home that month, a grim Carolyn Matthews walked in from the backyard to speak to Darren.
He recalls: “Michelle was so proud of her tattoo she was parading it around to everyone who wanted to look. I remember Carolyn coming up to me in my kitchen and saying: ‘Your wife is out there showing her arse to my husband’.
Another guest at the party says: “(Michelle) came out with the tramp stamp on her back and Darren said ‘she didn’t get it for me,’ and she was saying ‘oh no, I got it for Darren’ but we knew…. It was a weird party. Darren Bland was there that night, too.”
Darren recalls that the night ended strangely. Carolyn and her boys wanted to leave but Kevin did not. They did leave, but returned to convince Kevin that he needed to come home. One of the boys took his father’s drink off the table and managed to coax him out to the car with it.
In mid-December, there was another Beaurepaires Christmas party, at the home of Robert, Darren’s former boss at Elizabeth. Sarah Creten recalls that Michelle and Kevin were together for most of the evening, laughing and chatting. Michelle steered clear of Carolyn and was again drinking Scotch and Coke rather than Strongbow – despite her previous bad experience. During the evening, there was an awkward moment when Robert asked Michelle what she did. She told him she worked on Mondays and did a course on Fridays. Robert said: “What, intercourse?” Few people laughed – but for some reason, Kevin and Michelle thought it was hilarious. When Kevin and Carolyn left the party early, about 10pm, Michelle’s good mood immediately changed. Sarah had agreed to drive home Darren and Michelle because they had arrived in a taxi, but now Michelle didn’t want to wait for the party to end – she wanted to go straight home.
Robert says his wife and Sarah had been sitting back from the crowd that evening and observing everything that was happening. After Michelle left, his wife told him: “There’s something going on there.” But Robert was dismissive: “That’s bullshit, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The intensity of the relationship was quickly making it very public. Already, a lot of people knew or suspected something was going on, but neither Kevin nor Michelle seemed to care. On December 19, they returned to the Novotel in Hindley Street, checking in at 10.39am, ordering room service throughout the day and then checking out at 5.47pm. The next day, it was the South Park Adelaide on South Terrace in the city. Kevin checked in at 9.13am and paid a food and drinks bill of $35 when he checked out at 4.53pm.
The long days of sex and room service were serving a purpose; Michelle was making her move, giving Kevin a taste of what he would miss out on unless he left his wife. Michelle’s friend Cassandra Hutchinson says she told her that at Christmas, she had given Kevin an ultimatum to leave Carolyn by mid January. If he didn’t leave, she would stop the sex. Michelle said Kevin had agreed and when the Matthews family returned from a Christmas holiday, he was going to leave. Cassandra was appalled at the situation, and resolved to try to stop the affair. She sent an anonymous letter to Kevin at his work address, explaining that people knew about the affair and if they didn’t stop, Carolyn would be told about it.
Cassandra later told police: “I didn’t intend it to be an ultimatum. I thought it would scare them both into realising what they were doing, that there were two families at risk here. I think I said in the letter that they were acting like children and that they were to halt the affair before Christmas.”
On December 22, Rodney and Kaylene Kenyon and their two sons made the trek from their Hills property to the Matthews’ home at West Lakes Shore. The two couples were relaxing in the outdoor entertaining area while the kids jumped in and out of the pool. It was a languid summer evening between friends, but Carolyn was preoccupied. Her father, Doug, was gravely ill and she had been spending a lot of time with him. He wasn’t expected to see out the year. They talked about Doug, and each other’s work, and the Matthews’ lifesaving activities. Then at 8pm, Kevin’s phone started receiving text messages; lots of them. Kevin passed his phone around to show his guests the messages, which said the unidentified sender needed Kevin to come out. Carolyn told Kevin he wasn’t going anywhere.
The messages stopped, but an hour later, they started flowing again. Kevin again passed his phone around. A woman was claiming to have slashed her wrists and was demanding that Kevin visit her in an unidentified hospital. Kevin and Carolyn started discussing some “problems” he was having with one of his managers. Kevin said he’d been to speak to the manager about not letting his marital troubles interfere with his work performance.
Kaylene says: “Kevin seemed quite open about showing the messages around. While these messages were coming in, Kevin and Carolyn spoke about calls they had received at the house, both threatening calls as well as calls that hung up. I asked Carolyn who had made the calls and she told me that it was people from Kevin’s work and that the calls had been coming for a while.”
Kaylene was not about to have her evening with her close friend ruined by Kevin’s shenanigans.
“Well, if we ring the hospitals and no one by that name has been admitted, then he doesn’t have to go anywhere,” she told Carolyn, who nodded in agreement.
“That’s right, that’s right Kevin,” she said, warming to the idea. After the women went inside to make the calls, Rodney spoke quietly to Kevin.
“Look Kevin, if you’re doing anything wrong, come clean and get it out in the open,” he told him. But Kevin was adamant: “No, there’s nothing going on.”
Kaylene recalls: “We made the calls – but I remember the name as Michelle Green, not Burgess. I remember feeling a sense of satisfaction – you can just stay here with your guests. So he stayed and the messages continued and he got quite… well, he was pacing around all the time, he hardly sat down. He made it uncomfortable, but that’s Kevin’s style. I decided I was just going to ignore him and enjoy my visit with my girlfriend.”
In addition to Kevin’s suspected philandering, Carolyn was coping with the imminent loss of her father. His emphysema, diagnosed 18 months earlier, had led to lung cancer. Yvonne had retired and they packed up the camper van, determined to spend every remaining minute together. Originally given six months to live, Doug defied the prognosis and was still alive 18 months later. But by December 2000, his condition was deteriorating rapidly. The Tidswells’ strong, proud husband and father was reduced to drinking thickshakes through a straw. He came home from hospital that month, to be surrounded by his family.
Charlie Tidswell recalls that his sister would come over often and was deeply upset by her father’s decline. Doug passed away on Christmas Eve and his funeral was on Boxing Day. Carolyn was devastated at the loss of her beloved father. But there was no support or comfort from her husband. Kaylene remembers that Doug and Carolyn had become very close during his illness. Kaylene went to the funeral with Rodney, Kevin, Carolyn and their children, then returned to the family home in Netley for the wake. Watching on the back verandah, Christine and Kaylene saw that Carolyn was running around trying to do everything. Each time they went into the lounge room, they found Kevin watching TV and drinking. The only time he came out the back to where the guests were was to refill his drink. When the wake ended, Carolyn rushed home and packed up their van with everything the family would need before driving off for their holiday at the Morgan Riverside Caravan Park in the Riverland.
Kaylene says: “Kevin was really, really arrogant and didn’t lift a finger. He drank and Carolyn ran around and did all of it, as well as being there for her mum. What an arsehole. But that’s Kevin.”
Christine was equally appalled. “He sat on his arse and drank Scotch. Not a care about what she was feeling. Her dad meant a great deal to her, she was daddy’s girl. He didn’t care.”
Without Michelle around to cajole him, Kevin backed out of the plan to tell Carolyn he was leaving her. With Doug’s passing, he may have worried about how bad it would look if he walked out on his wife while she was grieving.
On Christmas Day, Darren Burgess noticed Michelle wearing a gold necklace. When he asked where it came from, she said she bought it from Zamels jewellers for $10. Darren recalls: “That was bullshit – it looked a lot more expensive than that. In the next couple of days, I looked in Zamels and saw a similar necklace that cost hundreds.”
Darren also overheard a conversation that day between Michelle and her brother’s wife. Michelle said she was thinking about getting another tattoo on her backside, this time of Daffy Duck. Darren asked: “Why would you do that?” Michelle replied: “Because Daffy Duck is my favourite cartoon character.”
Darren was out the front of his home playing soccer with his kids on Boxing Day when Michelle took a call from a woman calling herself Julie, who asked to speak to him. She didn’t recognise the voice of her neighbour, Cassandra Hutchinson. Michelle called Darren to the phone. “Your wife’s having an affair with Kevin Matthews,” Cassandra told him, then immediately hung up. Darren’s anger was reaching a crescendo.
He says: “I rang Kevin and told him what I had been told and that I would beat the living fuck out of him. I think this was around the time Carolyn’s father died and Kevin was not happy with what he was hearing. He just hung up on me.”
Darren then began arguing with Michelle, leading to him searching her car for more evidence of the affair. He soon found a Zamel’s jewellery box and a Christmas card that read “Chook loves Daffy – this is just enough to tide you over Christmas don’t spend it on Scotch”.
Again, Darren confronted Michelle. She said it was from “one of the guys on one of the courses” she claimed to have completed. He fancied her but she had rejected him, she insisted. The next day, Darren again called Kevin, who was on holiday in the Riverland and in the car with his family. As Darren launched into a tirade about the affair, Kevin quickly took the phone off hands-free and told him to wait until he got out of the car. Darren says: “He swore on his kids’ lives that he was not having an affair with Michelle. But… the conversation didn’t last long.”
Darren went to stay with a friend on December 27, in turmoil over what he should do. But instead of making divorce his New Year’s resolution, he asked Michelle to spend New Year’s Eve with him. He had tickets to an Adelaide 36ers basketball game and afterwards, he returned home with Michelle – but slept on the lounge and returned to his friend’s home the next night. Darren says Carolyn and Kevin wanted to hold a meeting to “clear the air” on January 3, but Michelle wasn’t interested. On January 5, Kevin Matthews checked in to a room at the South Park on South Tce in Adelaide at 9.29am, departing at 4.15pm after yet another day of sex with Michelle. Carolyn called Darren on January 7. He remembers: “She wanted to ask me what I thought of the rumours of Kevin and Michelle having an affair. She also asked me if Michelle was OK.
“I said: ‘OK, why do you ask?
“She said: ‘With the stabbing’.
“‘What stabbing?’ I asked.
“Carolyn said: ‘Just before Christmas, you walked in and found Michelle on the floor stabbed, sitting alongside your son.’
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But I remember the night Carolyn was talking about. It was just before Christmas and Michelle went to the servo for cigarettes but was gone for over an hour. She told me she ran into one of our friend’s husbands and she was talking to him.
“Carolyn said: ‘Well, Kevin rang you the following day to find out how she was.’
“And I said: ‘Well, no, he didn’t.’
“I told Carolyn that I believed that Kevin and Michelle were having an affair, but I don’t think she wanted to believe it.”
(Around the time of this call – possibly shortly after – Carolyn also called Michelle and told her to stay away from her husband. Michelle ignored her plea.) After his conversation with Carolyn, Darren called his wife and told her it was time for them to talk. They met at Civic Park in Tea Tree Gully, where they had first met. Michelle maintained her policy of blanket denials. Darren told her: “This is where it all began – maybe this is where it all should finish”.
Darren suggested they needed to be alone to talk and work out a solution to the situation. Michelle agreed and organised for the children to stay at her mother’s and we drove home. Darren wasn’t comfortable at their home and booked a rook at the Lakes Resort at West Lakes. Even while they were packing, Michelle was texting Kevin. She also sent a message to Carolyn from Darren’s phone and immediately deleted it so he couldn’t read it. Carolyn later told Darren that the text, which she naturally assumed was from him, said that she was not to contact him or Michelle again. The hotel stay was a failure. Michelle locked herself in the bathroom and stayed in the spa for the evening, again engaging in a text-message marathon. Nothing was discussed.
The next day, January 8, a 28-page itemised phone bill for $1200 for a single month arrived in the Burgess’s letterbox. The bill also showed a previous account for $1600. And page after page was filled with calls and text messages to Kevin Matthews’ mobile phone. Aside from the night at West Lakes, Darren had continued to stay with his friend. But on the day the bill arrived, he was back at home looking after the children because Michelle had supposedly returned to her fantasy job at Evanston Primary School that day – despite the fact that school did not return for three weeks.
Michelle had already told Darren about the big bills, but she’d claimed they were in relation to her “job” and the school had paid them. But there was no denying the hard evidence. Darren, as usual, was furious.
That afternoon, one of Michelle’s friends, Kathy Cowled, called the house. She wanted Michelle to pick her up from the train station with her kids and take them home. Darren told her Michelle was not home and he was happy to do it. On the drive to her home, she asked him how his job was going. Darren told her he was still at Beaurepaires. Kathy, who as we will learn later is not one of the world’s great thinkers, said she was surprised.
“Why’s that?” Darren asked, curious.
“Well, you know Michelle’s having an affair with your boss Kevin,” she replied, and proceeded to tell Darren everything Michelle had told her.
After dropping off Kathy, Darren rang Michelle and got the usual denials and then called Kevin who did the same.
He told Kevin: “I just want to thank you.”
“Thank me? What for?” Kevin asked.
“For taking that stupid bitch off my hands.”
“You can’t say that!”
“No really, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Darren says: “Before Michelle got home, I decided this was it, I was leaving her. Once she was home, I confronted her with the bill and what Kathy Cowled had told me. She just denied it all and told me to pack my bags and get out – I was already going. It was really quite difficult and emotional to leave my children behind. With hindsight, on many different levels, it was one of the biggest mistakes to leave and not take the kids with me. I should have stayed and told Michelle to leave by herself.”
Darren went to stay with his parents and made an appointment with Kevin to discuss his future with Beaurepaires. He couldn’t handle Kevin as his boss any longer but the only job he offered him was as manager at Goodyear Modbury – a store still under his control. Another manager offered him position as a storeman at Wingfield (on the same pay, until something more suitable came up) and while Darren was grateful for the offer, he decided he would have to remain at Elizabeth until he could find something else that suited him. He immediately began applying for other jobs outside Beaurepaires.
Michelle celebrated Darren’s departure by arranging another rendezvous with Kevin, booking into a room at the South Park under her maiden name at 8.50am on January 12. After a day of room service, sex and Scotch, they checked out at 4.18pm. There was another tryst on January 25 at the Novotel Adelaide, in Hindley Street, where the couple also enjoyed two chicken schnitzel specials. But the regular hotel sex was expensive and wasn’t enough to satisfy their need for thrills. Mechanic Corey Bayliss says it was around January 2001 that he witnessed Michelle and Kevin’s public sex show at Roy Amer Reserve in Oakden.
They were also enjoying many long lunches at the Hampstead Hotel, in the inner north-eastern suburb of Collinswood. Barmaid Fiona Hughes later told police that a tall, fat bald man with a moustache and a stocky blonde woman frequented the hotel three or four days a week from December 2000 to July 2001, sometimes staying as long as four hours. Kevin would arrive first, and order two drinks, and Michelle would join him soon after, each time in the same booth in the saloon bar. They rarely ate, and if they did it was only a basket of chips. They would each drink eight full Scotches and Coke and Kevin would pay the bill of $60-$70 with a credit card. But there was nothing discreet about their behaviour.
Ms Hughes told police: “They were very friendly and affectionate to each other. They would kiss and touch under the table. They would be half laying and half sitting on the seats. Sometimes it was embarrassing to the staff and patrons. Patrons would often move and sit at a different table away from them and make comments. I once heard him say that he loved her. On a couple of occasions, they had minor arguments. She would either sit there in tears or walk out.”
Carolyn Matthews was a very private woman by nature, and had done a remarkable job of keeping her feelings about Kevin’s behaviour under wraps. But the cost of hotel rooms, Scotch and gold chains was quickly adding up, and, while she had no proof of where the money was going, she feared Kevin’s profligate behaviour was pushing their family to the brink of financial ruin. In July, 2000, their Property Power account had a debit balance of $126,000. By July 2001, it was $150,000. Kevin had been using their mortgage account to pay off his reckless spending on their MasterCard.
Bob Brooks, a life member of the Semaphore Surf Lifesaving Club who considered the Matthews family to be close friends, received a phone call from Carolyn at 10pm on Saturday, February 3, 2001. He later told police that Carolyn was upset and said that “things were not very good” between her and Kevin. She had no idea where Kevin was and he was sending her text messages telling her he “wanted out, he wasn’t coming back”. Bob reassured her that Kevin was probably drunk somewhere and that things would probably sort themselves out the next day. He sent Kevin a text asking him to call him, but he didn’t.
The next day, Bob went to the Matthews home and drove a tired and upset Carolyn, and her boys, to a surf lifesaving carnival at Goolwa. After leaving the boys at the beach, he returned to the car park to talk to Carolyn, who was initially hesitant. But then she admitted Kevin had maxxed out their credit card and there was no money in their bank account. She had no money and feared they would be unable to make their mortgage payment, due on Friday. Kevin had also been threatening suicide. She explained that Kevin had put a lock on his phone so she couldn’t use it or see any of his messages. Bob was astounded. He gave Carolyn $50 so she could buy lunch for the boys, who knew nothing of the situation. Yvonne was on the beach that day but Carolyn, who couldn’t bear to see her, remained in the car park.
The carnival finished early due to bad weather and they drove back to Adelaide. Kevin still wasn’t home when they arrived. Bob told Carolyn he would try to get some money for her from the surf lifesaving club. He drove to the club to see the president, Peter Campaign, about the money. Kevin and Carolyn had lent the club $1000 a few years previously towards a building fund and with interest, the club actually owed them about $1300. Campaign, who was also a longstanding friend of the Matthews family, agreed to repay the loan so that Carolyn could meet her mortgage payment. That evening, Carolyn made an excuse to leave the house and drove to the club, where the money was removed from the club’s bar safe and handed over to her. Carolyn begged Bob not to tell Kevin about the money. She was hoping Kevin would sort out their finances and she wouldn’t need to use it. She later told him that Kevin had paid the home loan and that she had told him about the money from the club.
Bob Brooks later told police: “Subsequently, Carolyn rang me at home and confided that someone had told her that Kevin was having an affair. I believe she said the person who told her was a sacked Beaurepaires employee and that this person’s wife was having the affair with Kevin.”
The loan to the club was indicative of how important surf lifesaving was to the Matthews family. It was this passion for surf, sun and sand that united them like nothing else in their lives.
Shane Tidswell recalls: “Kevin once explained it to me when he saw (country singer) John Williamson on TV, he said: ‘Do you know how much I love the surf club? That’s how much this bloke loves Australia’. Kevin loved the surf club a lot, he grew up with it.
“The Tidswells have been heavily involved in Glenelg SLSC and my old man was involved in Semaphore. We were born into it. All of my best mates are from the surf club. All my parents’ friends’ kids are my friends. After you’ve been on the beach all day together, everybody hangs around for the family functions. Lifesaving takes up so much of your time that if you’re involved as much as we were, it’s more of a lifestyle than sport. It’s not part-time. I was doing 11-14 hours a week in the pool. Mum would get up at 5.20am to take us, then every Saturday and Sunday on the beach.”
Darren Burgess immediately hit hurdles in his bid to continue being a father after leaving Michelle. She would make arrangements to drop the kids off to see him, but then cancel or postpone. It soon had an impact.
“About two weeks after I left, I went back to speak to Michelle. I was missing the kids badly. Some might say I went to reconcile but I really went to satisfy myself that I had made a tough but correct decision to leave Michelle. In my mind, I knew there would be dire consequences for my children. Michelle was a selfish person and she would not look after them properly. With what was going on, I knew she would risk their safety for her pleasure. After seeing her and speaking with her, I was satisfied it was all over and now I could move on with my life. In one way, I was devastated for the sake of the kids but happy to escape life with Michelle.”
On February 25, in another conversation, Michelle concocted yet another fantasy, claiming she had cervical cancer and wanted to get back together. Darren says: “She told me she had cancer, she had about six to 12 months to live, and she wanted to get back together so that (their two young children) could have a family. She said she’d spent the last three days at a health farm.”
The following day, Darren’s father, Lindsay, decided it was time he intervened in the situation. He later told police that a month after Darren came to stay, he had confided to his parents that Michelle had been having an affair with Kevin while they had still been together. He told them about the mobile phone account with dozens of calls to Kevin and the call from “Julie” warning him of the affair. Lindsay was furious and decided he needed to get to the bottom of all this; he would interrogate Kevin.
On Sunday, February 25, 2001, he went to the Matthews home and spoke to Kevin in the front yard. Predictably, he denied the affair and explained to Lindsay about the night Michelle had claimed to have been stabbed. While he was recounting this story, Carolyn came out and stood next to Kevin. Lindsay asked her what she thought of the situation. She shrugged. “I don’t know… I think we have a perfect marriage”.
Lindsay later told police: “Kevin said he wanted all four of them – himself, Carolyn, Darren and Michelle – to sit down and talk this affair thing over. Carolyn also confirmed this and did not seem shocked to hear this information about Kevin, but I always thought she was a calm sort of person. The only thing she was doing was pacing up and down a bit. I spoke to them for about half an hour. Early in the conversation, I felt that Kevin was lying because he wouldn’t look at me. I left, telling Kevin I’d make up my mind later about whether or not he was involved with Michelle. But I did tell him I thought he was having an affair. I shook his hand when I left and said goodbye to Carolyn.”
In February, after ending what was undoubtedly the worst relationship of his life, Darren Burgess’s luck finally changed. After watching a Port Adelaide game and enjoying a few beers with some mates, he was feeling better than he had in a long time. When one of his friends received a couple of text messages from a female work colleague, Darren got adventurous: “Give me her number, I’ll send her a message”. It was a message that flashed “masturbation can disturb your vision”.
The woman was bemused, replying: “Who is this?’ More messages were exchanged. The next day, Darren rang to apologise, fearing he may have disturbed her. He had not.
More than 10 years later, Kathy Morton remains Darren’s loyal and loving partner and they plan to marry. Michelle was oblivious to the fact that the man she had trapped was a good one. But Kathy, who instantly recognised Darren’s qualities, soon fell in love. In its first tentative months, their relationship was forged in fire, put to the ultimate test time and again as the situation with Michelle spun out of control and ultimately put both their lives in danger. And from the moment Darren informed Michelle of his new relationship, her jealousy was venomous. He informed her that Kathy would be attending their son’s soccer match and asked that she be polite when he introduced them. Michelle wanted no part in it and made sure it was an awkward and uncomfortable meeting for Kathy.
On March 5, Darren made a diary note stating: “Told Michelle I hate her.” followed two days later by: “I need to sort out Kevin otherwise I will quit my job.”
Darren says: “I did quit. But (his relevant superior) refused to accept it. She said to have a think about it. She rang Kevin to question him.
“When I rang her back, I said: ‘I’m not going to leave.’
“She said: ‘I don’t think you told me the full story, you didn’t mention that you’ve got a new girlfriend.’
“I said: ‘That’s irrelevant to the situation. This wasn’t about what I was doing when I was no longer with Michelle. This was about me working for Kevin after he had an affair with my wife.’
She told Darren he no longer had to communicate with Kevin and he should instead contact her for work matters; but a week later, she lost her job. Soon after, a new national retail sales manager, Stephen Gower, was appointed and he undertook a tour of the stores. Darren found himself standing in the front of his store with the new boss and Kevin. Kevin left as soon as he could. Darren was upfront and explained the situation to Gower, but had doubts that his story was believed. He had a point to prove, so he gave Michelle’s phone number to Gower and suggested he cross-reference Kevin’s phone records. Darren says Gower rang him days later and said: “Well, I can tell you that I know your wife’s number very well and I believe you.”
Darren says: “There were more and more stories going around Beaurepaires about Kevin and Michelle. One that she was caught giving him a head job in the car. I think Stephen rang around a few of the managers, including me, and asked what we thought about Kevin’s performance. I was a bit biased of course, but I told him we didn’t have any sales meetings. We hardly hear from him or see him.”
Gower, who was now Kevin Matthews’ immediate supervisor, reprimanded him in an email dated March 26 over the use of his corporate American Express card. He later told police he had advised Kevin that he’d signed off on his expenses for the month, but Kevin needed to be more specific with details in the future. He also noted that Kevin’s entertainment expenses were excessive and needed to be kept to a minimum.
Meanwhile, Darren also discovered that Michelle had yet another new man in her life. She’d met a man named Jason, from Perth, on the internet, and he came to stay with her for a couple of weeks. Darren saw him at his son’s soccer match once.
Michelle visited Rebel Ford Elizabeth on March 12 and told the manager she wanted to buy another car. But Michael Whellans, who had a working relationship with Darren and occasionally socialised with him, was a reluctant salesman on this occasion. Michelle told him she’d split up with Darren and needed to trade in her Nissan Pintara so she could get her own car. Whellans knew that Darren was a co-owner of the Pintara and he rang him later in the day to confirm that he would need to sort things out with Michelle before she could take delivery of another car. Michelle looked around the yard and found a red 1990 Toyota Seca. After a test drive, she agreed to buy it for $9888, plus costs. Once Darren had given permission for her to trade in the Pintara, Michelle made an application to a finance company which was approved – despite the fact she had no income – and arrangements were made for her to pick up the vehicle.
In April, Darren and Michelle’s estrangement took a turn for the worse. Darren says he and Michelle were getting on “relatively well” and, up until just before Easter 2001, she had been allowing him regular access to the children. He recalls: “I made the point to her when we broke up, that for the sake of (the children) we had to be on friendly terms. I didn’t want them stuck in the middle of two parents fighting. That changed when I met Kathy.”
Up to this point, the custody arrangement with the children was informal. They would stay with Darren every second weekend and he took them out to dinner every second Tuesday. But now, he was forced to take court action to see them. He was granted fortnightly visits and allowed to have dinner with them on Tuesday nights. Michelle believed Darren shouldn’t have the kids when Kathy had her boys with her because she didn’t want them mixing. Darren, in turn, wasn’t comfortable with having her boyfriends – particularly “Jason”, the man from Perth – around the children.
One Tuesday night in late March, as Darren was dropping the children home and saying goodbye out the front, his estranged wife snatched his mobile phone from his hand, ran inside and locked the door. After extracting Kathy’s phone number, she returned the phone. Darren recalls: “I quickly rang Kathy to tell her what had happened and to expect a call.”
On April 9, Darren made a diary note stating: “Michelle rang. Asked what me and my bitch were doing in the street on Sunday. She said that I was I dead and that Kathy was dead, and that was a promise, not a threat.”
Kathy Morton later gave police a detailed account of the incident, which occurred on a Sunday prior to Easter 2001. She was with Darren and they were driving home after checking on the house at Evanston Gardens. Darren’s mobile rang and when he answered it, Kathy could hear Michelle screaming at him: “She’s dead. You’re dead. I’ll kill you both.” Darren hung up and shortly after, he received a text message which read: “Please call, no more fighting.” A second, less conciliatory message read: ‘I know where she lives, it’s a promise, not a threat.’
The next day, Kathy was on the train on her way home from work when Michelle called her mobile. Kathy tried to discuss the children, because she was hoping Darren could have them for Easter so they could meet her children. Michelle began screaming abuse at her, calling her a slut, a whore and a troll. Kathy snapped back: “If you’re going to call me abusive names, at least get it right. It’s a trollop, not a troll. I don’t live under a bridge.” And then she hung up. The woman sitting next to her on the train had heard the exchange and looked at her with disgust.
Darren says: “Kathy is a very strong and brave person who stands up for herself. But this was disturbing even for her.”
Michelle immediately sent Kathy a text message saying: “You tell Darren he will not be getting sex this Tuesday night when he drops the children off. I am really pissed off and angry.” Kathy rang Darren’s parents to check the status of Darren and Michelle’s relationship. They assured her there was nothing going on and the relationship was over. His father told her that she was the best thing that had happened to him. That evening, Darren and Kathy went to the Christies Beach police station and got the paperwork for a restraining order against Michelle.
Darren: “The officer laughed at us and made us feel insignificant. He said to me: ‘You want a restraining order against your ex-wife?’ In hindsight, we should have gone ahead with it. I was genuinely concerned for my safety after what Michelle had threatened.”
Another separate, nasty spat broke out over a recurrent health issue one of the children was suffering. The situation culminated in a meeting between Michelle and an officer from Family and Youth Services, who commented that: “Michelle presented as a loving mother who was sensitive to the needs of the children.”
In a related incident, on April 15, an anonymous female complainant – almost certainly Michelle – rang FAYS and reported Darren. The woman told FAYS he was deliberately not administering a prescribed medication to the child to make it look as though the mother was not caring for her. The caller also said Darren had his driver’s licence suspended for drink-driving, had been regularly drinking and driving with the children in the car and made them refer to their mother as “bitch”. The person who took the call had serious doubts about the veracity of the complaint and accurately marked “notifier concern” on the report.
On April 12, 2001, Darren’s father Lindsay decided the situation again required his firm hand. He went to Beaurepaires head office to confront Kevin again. He told him the verdict was in and he was guilty of having an affair. Kevin denied it. Lindsay warned him of the impact it was having on the children involved, but Kevin was having none of it. Frustrated, Lindsay left.
He says: “I know at that time a lot of things were happening between Darren and Michelle and Michelle’s parents. In the next few days, Darren told me that Michelle’s father, Keith Goldup, had said to him that I want to be careful about what I say to Kevin. I thought it was strange that what I had said to Kevin was coming back through Michelle’s parents.”
Lindsay called Carolyn a couple of days after Easter, and immediately assured her wasn’t ringing to create hassles. He says: “I told her I believed that Michelle and Kevin were still communicating and I said she could do whatever she liked with that information. She just said ‘thankyou’ and we hung up. Shortly after this, Darren moved out of our house.”
Also over Easter, the Matthews family went to stay at a shack on the River Murray, at Scott Creek, near Morgan, which belonged to Valerie Rismondo, a close friend of Carolyn’s whom she met through their boys attending the same school. Valerie later told police that she talked to Carolyn throughout the weekend, but the focus was mostly on the children. She mentioned that she was worried about Kevin’s drinking and that they’d received a series of odd phone calls between October and Christmas. She also briefly mentioned that she had asked Kevin if he was having an affair and he’d told her “not to be so stupid”.
On April 20, a petty criminal named David William Edgar Key was released from a South Australian prison. Key had no connection whatsoever to Michelle Burgess or Kevin Matthews. But within just a few weeks, a series of bizarre circumstances would make him the lightning rod for Michelle’s dark fantasies.
Michelle Burgess booked into cabin 24 at the Adelaide Beachfront Tourist Park from April 25-27, under her maiden name. Notably, she had her children with her on this occasion and it is not known if Kevin Matthews joined her. On the morning she checked out, Kevin Matthews checked into Room 103 at the South Park on South Tce in Adelaide at 9.42am, checking out at 1.27pm.
But one man, it seemed, was rarely enough for Michelle Burgess. Jason from Perth was no longer around, and she had been scanning the personal ads in the local Messenger newspaper. In early June, 2001, a man we will call Steven placed two separate ads, several weeks apart, in the Talking Friends section of in the Messenger. About 15 women left messages, including a woman who described herself as 26, with blonde hair, blue eyes, children and recently separated, who was looking for friendship, view relationship.
Steven called the woman, and they immediately hit it off. They spoke on the phone for a couple of hours on June 5 and arranged to meet her at the Billy Baxters café in the Munno Para Shopping Centre. Michelle explained to him that she had split up with her husband Darren earlier in the year and they were in the process of selling their house. The conversation flowed smoothly and while Steven explained he would be meeting other women, Michelle was happy to exchange phone numbers before Steven, who was quite the gentleman, walked her to her car.
He says: “We became friends. She seemed an intelligent girl, but I don’t think we hit it off in the romance department. She would drink a lot and ring me and talk a lot. About her husband, the kids, driving her insane. How she would like to get rid of her husband. Not kill him, just get him out of her life somehow. I would just try to calm her down. She would generally call me early around 6am or 7am or after 4pm up to 8pm. We would talk on the phone for up to four hours at a time.
“She told me she had a couple of friends with benefits. I backed off from that sort of relationship, I’m not into that sort of stuff. But she didn’t mention any names. She would say her life was shit, complaining. I’m told I’m a good listener. I would then give my two cents worth. She always tried to make herself look pretty with make-up. We went to dinner a couple of times and she came to dinner at my place once. We just spent time as friends. She made up stories about her husband beating her up, putting her up against the wall and strangling her in front of the kids.”
The constant rumours, poor performance and excessive spending on his company credit card finally brought Kevin Matthews’ corporate career to a screeching halt. Stephen Gower flew to Adelaide in June 2001 and met Kevin in Ansett’s Golden Wing lounge. Gower told Kevin his performance was unsatisfactory. Branch managers had advised him that he rarely visited them. They could not contact him at work or on his mobile and when they did, he was very aggressive. Kevin had left his boss with no other choice – he would be demoted to branch manager at Port Adelaide. Gower didn’t mention that the other reason for the demotion was the irrefutable evidence of Kevin’s affair with Michelle Burgess.
On June 10, Kevin started his new role at Port Adelaide. By coincidence, Darren Bland – with whom Michelle Burgess had previously had an affair – had been managing that store, but had quit. He started work at the Ultratune store just across the driveway from Kevin’s new workplace in mid-June. They were both smokers and their paths would often cross outside the two businesses. Bland later told police he saw Kevin out the back or in the driveway using his mobile phone for up to couple of hours spread across the day. He had heard the rumours about Kevin and Michelle and was concerned. He liked Kevin and didn’t want to see him hurt, so he approached him on several occasions and questioned him about Michelle. Kevin insisted there was no affair, but Bland made his point – Michelle was nothing but trouble and Kevin would be better off steering clear.
Also that month, Kevin had to endure the ignominy of attending the Beaurepaires annual budget meeting as a store manager. Beaurepaires manager Robert says that at the start of the financial year, the managers would meet and store budgets were handed out. In 2001, it was at Wirrina, a resort and conference centre on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Robert’s wife recalls: “He was drinking triple Scotches at 10.30 in the morning. He was even reprimanded for his drinking.”
Robert remembers that Kevin was clearly uneasy. He says: “He’d gone from being regional manager to being one of us. And you could see he wasn’t comfortable. There were all these rumours and innuendo and then suddenly he’s been demoted.”
Kenny, Shane and Daniel Matthews also knew something was seriously amiss with their parents’ marriage, but they were shielded from the truth.
Shane remembers that while the word was never mentioned, the spectre of divorce hung heavily over the Matthews household. He had noticed that his father was going on more interstate trips and he was staying at work later a lot more often.
“The first time I realised something was wrong was when I was at the footy one Saturday. My game was over and I went to sit in the car, my dad’s work car. There was a tape player, Dictaphone-type thing in the car and I turned it on. It was dad’s voice arguing with someone else. He was saying something about two kids and obviously Darren and Michelle Burgess have two kids. I really can’t remember what was said, but it was something that didn’t add up to me. It sounded a bit weird, but I had no idea what I was listening to. That would have been in the winter. It sounded like he was at work and somebody else was telling him to do something. I was confused by it and just put it out of my mind.”
The strain was starting to show on the usually happy and carefree face of Carolyn Matthews. Anne McKenzie, a mother whose children went to the same swimming centre as the Matthews boys, noted Carolyn’s distress when Carolyn came to pick up her kids from swimming in the second week of June 2001. She looked very tired, as if she hadn’t slept and she was visibly upset. Anne commented on her appearance and Carolyn told her she’d been up all night and was upset. Carolyn rang her a week later to let her know that she’d changed their phone number to a silent number. Anne asked if it had anything to do with what happened the week before and Carolyn said it did – they had been getting threatening phone calls and even a death threat. Anne was nonplussed. “Who could be doing this to you?” she asked. Carolyn didn’t know, but whoever was making the calls knew details of their life, including when they went to the river. Anne asked if she had reported the calls to the police, but Carolyn told her the police had said there was nothing they could do unless there were three or more calls in a week.
While Carolyn was struggling to feed the family and begging for money to try to pay the home loan, Kevin’s corporate American Express card remained valid, despite his demotion. On June 15, he used it to pay for $60 worth of flowers and chocolates delivered to “Liz” (Elizabeth was Michelle’s middle name) at her Evanston Park home. The note read: “Liz, love you more.”
In recent days, they’d been house hunting for Michelle, because the Burgess’s home had finally been sold. A Century 21 property manager later told police that Michelle became a tenant at a villa in Bluebush Court, Craigmore, on June 18, 2001, with rent set at $330 fortnight. The manager met Michelle at the property for an inspection the week before she moved in. She was waiting at the house and saw Michelle arrive in one car, and Kevin arrive in another. They embraced and kissed before they came into the house. The manager asked if Kevin would also be living at the property, but he said he wouldn’t.
Michelle would now have her own little love nest, and there would soon be a sizeable cheque coming her way from the sale of the house. But it was far from enough. Her hatred of Carolyn Matthews was growing; Carolyn’s now-regular phone calls warning Michelle to keep away from her husband infuriated her. Michelle wanted what Carolyn had and was prepared to take drastic action to make it happen. She fantasised constantly about the life she and Kevin could have together – if only they could get rid of Darren and Carolyn. Detective Sergeant Mick Standing, a straight-talking, no-nonsense, veteran investigator who is now retired, recalls:
“Burgess saw that she was just a loose screw for him and so she forced the issue. I don’t think Kevin Matthews was ever going to leave his wife. Look at what he had to lose – his house, half of everything he’d got. In a divorce, he would have lost a lot. He had three young sons. So he had a lot to lose to go running off with her. And for what? To put it bluntly, because she was good in bed.”
(This is an extract from Dead By Friday – How lust and greed led to murder in the suburbs)