Triple killer, rapist and armed robber John Ernest Cribb was so ‘world weary’ after 40 years behind bars he asked not be resuscitated if found unconscious in jail.
Described as an ‘end-of-the-line psychopath’, Cribb got his final wish when Corrective Services officers stopped trying to revive him on February 21, 2018.
Cribb’s last hours in the maximum security Goulburn Correctional Centre in the NSW Southern Tablelands have been detailed in a coroner’s findings made five years after he died of natural causes.
Apart from two brief periods of freedom after escaping from prison the 67-year-old had been in custody since being sentenced to three life terms of imprisonment in May 1979.
Triple killer, rapist and armed robber John Cribb was an ‘end-of-the-line psychopath’ according to criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro. He died alone in a prison cell at Goulburn Correctional Centre in February 2018 and a coroner’s reporter has now been released
Cribb’s criminal history dated back to 1968 for property offences, armed robberies and escaping lawful custody but his infamy stemmed from one series of appalling crimes.
The habitual drug user kidnapped Valda Connell, 39, and her children Sally, 10, and Damien 4, from their Baulkham Hills home, in Sydney’s north-west, on August 11, 1978.
He drove the 300km to Elands, on the mid north coast, where he stopped at a picnic ground near Ellenborough Falls.
There he raped Mrs Connell in front of the children, tied them all up and stabbed each to death. He put the bodies in the boot of the car and dumped it at Swansea, near Newcastle.
Cribb was captured after a 10-hour siege in which he held a woman at knife-point inside her home at Islington in inner-city Newcastle.
While on remand Cribb was transferred to Morisset hospital for the criminally insane, from where he escaped with another armed robber and rapist, William John Munday.
The pair travelled to Sydney and kidnapped two 17-year-old schoolgirls who they held in a Bondi hotel for two days and repeatedly raped.
Cribb was pronounced dead at 10.40am on February 21, 2018 in Cell 3 of Unit 2 at Goulburn Correctional Centre. Police found no evidence of foul play, self-harm or external injuries. A cell at Goulburn Correctional Centre is pictured
While in custody, Cribb again displayed his depravity when he was caught in a sex act with a nun in a visiting room at Parramatta Gaol.
Coroner David O’Neil, who on April 28 heard an inquest into Cribb’s death, outlined some of the killer’s background in his findings delivered on May 5.
Mr O’Neil said Cribb, who had a ‘troubled youth’, grew up in Sydney’s Baulkham Hills and was educated by the Marist Brothers at Parramatta.
He began smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol at age 14 and by 17 was using LSD.
In the early years of his last long stint of imprisonment Cribb was regularly reviewed by psychiatrists due to ‘violent outbursts and possible psychosis’.
He was treated with anti-psychotic medications and prescribed lithium for manic depressive order, as well being provided with psychiatric consultations and anti-depressants after expressing suicidal thoughts.
‘Over time, it appears that with the acceptance of his situation, Mr Cribb’s mental health conditions improved, and his medications were ultimately ceased,’ Mr O’Neil found.
Cribb was diagnosed with moderate non-obstructive coronary disease, coronary artery insufficiency, aortic regurgitation and hypertension in February 2012.
In July 2017, he was transferred to Goulburn Correctional Centre where he was housed for his own protection in a ‘one-out’ cell.
Cribb kidnapped Valda Connell, 39, and her children Sally, 10, and Damien 4, from their Baulkham Hills home, in Sydney’s north-west, on August 11, 1978. He drove them to the state’s mid north coast where he raped Mrs Connell then killed her and the children
In August that year Cribb was referred to Justice Health and examined by a medical officer due to his age and existing heart problems.
‘Mr Cribb was described as “world weary” and clearly indicated that he did not wish for his life to be prolonged with medical intervention,’ Mr O’Neil found.
In accordance with Cribb’s wishes a not-for-resuscitation plan was signed.
‘Mr Cribb thereafter declined to be transferred to other correctional centres where his heart issue and other medical issues could be better managed,’ Mr O’Neil found.
On February 19, 2018, Cribb complained about vomiting and diarrhoea. A nurse gave him Panadol for his stomach cramps and he was to be assessed the next day.
There was a heatwave on February 20 and about 10.15am Cribb was seen lying down in one of Goulburn’s yards. He was sent to the medical clinic, given a medical certificate and escorted back to his cell.
Officers who observed Cribb in Cell 3 of Unit 2 at 2.34pm reported no issues with the prisoner and that was the last time he was seen alive.
At 8.28am the next day the door of Cribb’s cell was briefly unlocked but not opened by an officer who then secured the door to attend to other duties.
Cribb, who had a ‘troubled youth’, grew up in Sydney’s Baulkham Hills and was educated by the Marist Brothers at Parramatta. He began smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol at age 14 and by 17 was using LSD. He is pictured in a police mugshot aged 24
While on remand Cribb was transferred to Morisset hospital for the criminally insane, from where he escaped with another armed robber and rapist, William John Munday (above)
About 10.25am another inmate found Cribb unresponsive and alerted officers who attended his cell. Cribb was lying on his side on the floor, slightly under a set of storage shelves with his feet to the rear of the cell.
Despite Cribb’s body being cold and stiff officers commenced CPR until his not-for-resuscitation plan was confirmed.
Cribb was pronounced dead at 10.40am. Police were called to the jail and no evidence of foul play, self-harm or external injuries was located.
Mr O’Neil declared the cause of death was haemopericardium – a build up of blood in the sac that surrounds the heart – arising from a ruptured aorta.
The coroner ruled that while Cribb should have been observed when his cell door was unlocked there was no need to make any recommendations.
‘I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the failure to observe Mr Cribb at the “let go” did no play any role in his passing, given he suffered a ruptured aortic dissection and given his desire not to be resuscitated,’ Mr O’Neil found.
Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro has assessed some of Australia’s most notorious criminals and once described Cribb as the worst of the lot.
‘He was universally loathed by the crooks and the screws,’ Mr Watson-Munro wrote in his book Dancing with Demons.
‘His crimes breached all the codes. It was a real-life horror story.’
Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro (above) has assessed some of Australia’s most notorious criminals and once described Cribb as the worst of the lot
Mr Watson-Munro said Cribb was one of the few genuinely evil men he had met in the prison system.
‘When I worked at Parramatta Gaol, I was surrounded by end-of-the-line psychopaths,’ he wrote. ‘Johnny Cribb was one of them.
‘Convicted of three counts of murder, three counts of kidnapping, as well as false imprisonment and a raft of other serious crimes, his tale of evil still chills my spine.
‘He was kept in solitary confinement as the authorities recognised that he would last mere minutes if he was released into the mainstream prison community.’
While serving his three life sentences for murder Cribb was befriended by a nun at Parramatta Gaol.
Mr Watson-Munro revealed the nun wrote a lurid letter to Cribb in which she said she would perform a sex act on him ‘until your eyes pop out’ during a scheduled contact visit.
‘As a final demonstration of the power of evil, Cribb was befriended by a nun,’ Mr Watson-Munro wrote.
‘She had felt sorry for him and with the liberal exchange of letters allowed at the time, she fell under his satanic spell.’
Prison officials decided to let the visit go ahead and burst in while the nun was performing the sex act.
‘Cribb was banned from future contact visits and God only knows what happened to the nun,’ Mr Watson-Munro wrote.
In 1993 Cribb unsuccessfully sought a non-parole period for his life sentences. He had claimed to be reformed and was supported by priests, psychiatrists and psychologists.
But Mr Watson-Munro had no doubt where Cribb belonged.
‘I firmly believe that some of the men and women I have assessed are purely evil. They were born that way and they have no redeeming features. They deserve to be in jail and, in my view, should never be released.’
Cribb’s last hours in the maximum security Goulburn Correctional Centre in the NSW Southern Tablelands have been detailed in a coroner’s findings made five years after he died of natural causes