Melbourne’s convicted women: Sharon Saitlik, Tania Herman, Jess Legg

From a murderous mistress to a drug dealer queen, a respected former school principal turned stalker, and a mum out for revenge, these Melbourne women did the crimes and were often given the time.

web Convicted Women crime 1024
web Convicted Women crime 1024

Melbourne’s most gruesome and horrific crimes — and with good reason — but the fairer sex are guilty of their own.

From stalkers and scoundrels to drug dealers and murderers, Melbourne’s women have proven they’re just as capable as men when it comes to breaking the law.

Here are some of Melbourne’s most notorious convicted women that have made headlines.

Some were former pillars of society — teachers and charity workers.

Others were career go-getters or your seemingly average stay-at-home mums.

But all have one thing in common — black marks against their name handed down by the courts.

SHARON SAITLIK

Sharon Saitlik outside Ringwood Magistrates’ Court. Picture: Josie Hayden
Sharon Saitlik outside Ringwood Magistrates’ Court. Picture: Josie Hayden

A once highly respected primary school principal, Sharon Saitlik’s fall from grace was sudden and brutal.


FROM OUR PARTNERS 

Watch brand new drama The Undoing on BINGE New Bingers get a 14-day free trial


The 50-year-old teacher had built an impressive reputation as the head of Mont Albert Primary School and was widely liked by students, parents and the school community.

But when the time came for her to move on and she was promoted to a new position in another area, she found it wasn’t so easy to let go.

She bullied and harassed her replacement, Jason Walker, who took over as principal at the school, and sent him dozens of abusive letters over 12 months between June 2016 and August 2017.

The letters called him “foolish” and criticised him for his lack of leadership and were purportedly signed by frustrated parents.

In his victim impact statement Mr Walker told Ringwood Magistrates’ Court, Saitlik’s poison pen campaign left him an emotional wreck.

The court heard he would often cry in his sleep and his wife would often find him curled in the foetal position in their bedroom, unable to bring himself to get dressed for work, he told the court.

Magistrate Nunzio La Rosa said Saitlik’s behaviour was “bizarre”.

Saitlik pleaded guilty to stalking Mr Walker and was convicted and ordered to complete a two-year community corrections order.

Mr La Rosa said Saitlik destroyed her career by her actions and would likely find it difficult to continue to work in education as a result of her conviction.

TANIA HERMAN

Tania Herman said she was “brainwashed” by her lover Joe Korp when she attempted to strangle his wife, Maria, to death.
Tania Herman said she was “brainwashed” by her lover Joe Korp when she attempted to strangle his wife, Maria, to death.

Mum of two Tania Herman had three failed relationships behind her when she met Joe Korp online in 2003.

Korp was using the alias Joe Bonte and to Herman, a lonely single mother with children to different fathers, he was her soulmate.

Korp drove from his Mickleham home to Echuca to meet Herman, and she showed him around the town before they had sex in his car.

After that, he regularly visited Herman and the couple made plans to make a new life together.

Herman later told police Korp complained constantly about his unhappy marriage with his wife, Maria Korp, but he said he couldn’t leave her because she had incriminating evidence against him.

The pair hatched a plan to get Maria “permanently out of the road”, resulting in Herman lying in wait in the Korp’s garage and pouncing on Maria when she came to collect her car.

Herman wrapped a bag strap around Maria’s neck and strangled her.

She then stuffed the semi-lifeless woman into the boot of her car and drove off.

Maria, aged 50, was found several days later in the boot of that same car.

She remained in a coma until she died five months later.

When police asked Korp if he knew of anyone who would hurt his wife, he readily gave them Herman’s name.

Herman later told police she was “brainwashed” by him and would have done anything for him.

She was sentenced to at least nine years jail for the attempted murder of Maria Korp.

Joe Korp, who was also charged with attempted murder, killed himself on the day of his wife’s funeral.

Herman w as released from prison on Valentines Day in 2014 and moved into a Yarraville property with Nicky Muscat, a fellow former prisoner she met behind bars.

CONNIE PAGLIANITI

Connie Paglianiti rubbed shoulders with celebrities through her job in public relations, but she was hiding a terrible secret.
Connie Paglianiti rubbed shoulders with celebrities through her job in public relations, but she was hiding a terrible secret.

She was the glitzy, high-flying socialite who seemed to have it all.

Connie Paglianiti, of Brunswick East, stole millions of dollars in an effort to lure Hollywood A-listers to Melbourne in a desperate attempt to prop up her failing events business.

Paglianiti, owner of Eventcepts, swindled $6,320,230 from Eastern Ocean, a homewares and gifts import firm run by a friend while working as its part time bookkeeper.

She made 100 dodgy transactions, masked as ATO payments, between February 2014 and September 2018.

Paglianiti, a gambling addict who lost $1.5 million of the stolen cash at Crown, pleaded guilty to nine counts of theft.

The County Court heard Paglianiti hosted some events under the guise of charity fundraisers, including her La Dolce Italia gala dinner in 2015 held at Crown Casino and attended by actor Sophia Loren.

Tickets cost between $500 and $2000 per head and money raised was to go to the Alannah and Madeline Hill Foundation, but just how much money was passed on to the charity is unknown.

But even the star power of Hollywood A-listers wasn’t enough to save Paglianiti’s ailing business, and when her dodgy transactions were reported to police she was charged and brought before a judge.

Judge Liz Gaynor sentenced Paglianiti in November 2019, to four years in jail with a minimum of two years and six months.

Ms Gaynor also ordered Paglianiti pay $6 million in compensation — equal to the amount stolen.

JADE CHEASLEY

Jade Cheasley rorted cash from Centrelink despite her husband pulling in a six-figure salary. Picture: Facebook
Jade Cheasley rorted cash from Centrelink despite her husband pulling in a six-figure salary. Picture: Facebook

Dole-bludging Craigieburn mum Jade Cheasley stole $100k from Centrelink and blew it on holidays and parties.

The northern suburbs mum, who owned two investment properties and a houseboat, splashed the cash on a lavish lifestyle she couldn’t afford.

Cheasley, 31, pleaded guilty at the County Court in July to dishonestly causing a loss to the Commonwealth.

The court heard Cheasley stole $102,086.55 in parenting payments she was never entitled to between March 2013 and May 2018.

Cheasley rorted the system by claiming she had split up with her husband, David Cheasley, and was in financial hardship.

Her lies included that she was living in her car, had tried to get food parcels for her children and claiming her father was a “verbally abusive” alcoholic.

But in reality Cheasley was living a comfortable life with her husband and their children in their $565,000 Craigieburn home.

She also owned an investment property in Murchison East and an $870,000 house in Wandong.

The court heard Cheasley’s husband earned $226,000 a year through his business Lifestyle Roofing Pty Ltd.

The couple also had $780,000 in assets including cars, savings and a boat.

Judge Mark Dean said Cheasley committed a “systematic” fraud to live an “entitled” lifestyle.

Cheasley was jailed in October for 18 months but will be released after serving two-and-a-half months.

She was also ordered to repay Centrelink the amount stolen.

KERRY JOAN CAULFIELD

Criminals come in all shapes and sizes, and age is no barrier when it comes to transgressions against the law.

Werribee grandma Kerry Joan Caulfield stole more than $460,000 from her car dealership employer to feed her gambling habit.

Caulfield worked as a bookkeeper for Hopper Motor Group and pleaded guilty at the County Court to pocketing between $1000 and $21,000 each month between February 2015 and February 2018.

She also falsified accounts to cover up her tracks.

Caulfield told police she used most of what she stole to fund her gambling addiction.

She said she hoped to pay the business back with her winnings, which never came, and while she knew what she was doing was wrong, she told them she “didn’t care”.

Hopper Motor Group was forced to let go some of their employees as a result of the financial strain caused by Caulfield’s deceit.

Caulfield was initially sentenced to nine months’ jail and a two-year community corrections order, however this was overturned after prosecutors appealed the “lenient” sentence.

The Court of Appeal resentenced Caulfied in June 2019, to two years behind bars with a non-parole period of 18 months.

BERNADETTE DENNY

Bernadette Denny pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Melbourne businessman Herman Rockefeller.
Bernadette Denny pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Melbourne businessman Herman Rockefeller.

It was meant to be a night of no strings attached fun, but when millionaire Herman Charles Rockefeller turned up at swinger couple Bernadette Denny and Mario Schembri’s Hadfield home, he didn’t know he wouldn’t leave it alive.

Unbeknown to his wife, the Malvern businessman and church going father was into sordid sexual trysts with other couples.

He connected with couples through sex trade magazines and used an alias, “Andy Kingston”, instead of his real name.

In January 2010 Mr Rockefeller — or kinky Kingston — arrived at the Hadfield couple’s home under the guise of a partner swap.

But when he turned up alone, Schembri flew into a rage and got into a fist fight with Rockefeller before all hell broke loose and Denny joined the melee as well.

The couple would later tell police Rockefeller fell and hit his head and died.

They then drove his body to a semirural area in Heathcote, but later took him back to their Hadfield home and dumped him in the garage.

The following day the couple purchased a chainsaw and some plastic drop sheets from Bunnings in Broadmeadows.

Schembri then cut Rockefeller’s body into pieces and burnt his remains in a 44-gallon drum in the backyard of a mate’s Glenroy property.

Schembri and Denny both pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Schembri was jailed for nine years, with a non-parole term of seven.

Denny copped seven years with a minimum of five.

SWITA JAWANSHER

A mother’s wrath against her daughter’s ex-boyfriend took a violent turn which landed the Afghanistan immigrant before the courts.

Swita Jawansher, 47, was handed a good behaviour bond in October following a bizarre vigilante attack where she slapped, kicked and punched her daughter’s 19-year-old ex.

The County Court heard Jawansher, her daughter Sussan, and Sussan’s police-impersonating boyfriend Pardeep Singh, lured their victim to various locations in Frankston in 2019 where Jawansher and Singh bashed him after Sussan claimed he had sexually assaulted her.

Singh, of Dandenong, pretended to be a police officer and ordered the teen to meet him at a Frankston address on January 6, where he was pushed into a fence and Jawansher punched him in the ribs.

The pair also assaulted the victim at the George Pentland Botanical Gardens, where Singh held him from behind while Jawansher slapped him across the face and kicked him in the groin.

The court heard last month Jawansher moved to Melbourne from Afghanistan as part of an arranged marriage and suffered post traumatic stress disorder triggered by her abusive ex-husband.

She pleaded guilty to assault and was convicted and placed on a two-year good behaviour order.

Singh, 20, was jailed in the County Court on January 23 for his part in the farce, but he walked free from court after serving 380 days presentence detention.

JESSICA LEGG

Jessica Legg once raised money for cancer research, but her life took a downward spiral when she got onto drugs. Picture: Twitter
Jessica Legg once raised money for cancer research, but her life took a downward spiral when she got onto drugs. Picture: Twitter

Blackburn North woman Jessica Legg once raised cash for cancer research, but her life spiralled when she started delving into drugs.

Legg, 29, peddled drugs across Melbourne in a Breaking Bad-style meth syndicate and sold meth and the GHB mirror drug “bute” and valium to dozens of customers between July 2017 and August 2018.

But things came undone for the drug queen, who was also a former full time Coca-Cola employee when she sold the drug ice to eastern suburbs tradie Danny Vassallo.

Vassallo was under police surveillance for his role in another drug syndicate which was working on producing a new, deadlier type of imitation meth.

Detectives started keeping tabs on Legg and realised the prolific drug dealer was running her dodgy business from her Blackburn North home and a leased Bayswater storage unit.

She made deals in the carparks of Bunnings, Woolworths and McDonalds.

Police arrested Legg at her home in August 2018 and the County Court heard she’d moved 235g of meth, 1.8L of bute and 48 Valium tablets while under surveillance.

The court was also told Legg, “a high achiever”, was addicted to drugs and had once raised money for cancer research at Monash Health.

But Judge Gregory Lyon was unimpressed and said Legg’s “protracted and substantial” offending was a serious example of drug dealing.

He sentenced her in September to eight months’ jail and ordered she complete a two year community corrections order.

TRISHA COX

Drug-dealing stripper Trisha Cox had a unique defence when police busted her with bottles of GHB and bundles of cash in Seaford.

The Frankston Magistrates’ Court was told police noticed her car parked suspiciously on a nature strip and decided to search it in May 2018.

Inside they found cash, syringes, glass pipes, several bottles of GHB and 50 empty small bottles.

They also found more GHB, money, a glass pipe and small ziplock bags in her handbag.

The 25-year-old pleaded guilty to trafficking GHB, using ice and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

She was also in breach of her corrections order at the time of the offence.

Cox told the police she smoked ice the night before she was arrested and she’d earned the cash in a big win at the pokies.

She also initially denied dealing drugs, telling police she “made enough money as a stripper”.

But the court heard a different story.

Her defence lawyer told the court Cox had been working part-time as a dancer and stripper and dealt drugs to fund her own habit.

He also said she was an “anti-social downward spiral” at the time of her offending, but had since gotten herself clean.

Magistrate Gerard Lethbridge convicted and fined Cox $1500. He also placed her on an 18-month community corrections order.

Rebecca.dinuzzo@news.com.au

Leave a Reply