Peter May
Occupation Businessman
Born ca. 1964

January 25, 1996(1996-01-25) (aged 32)
Hillcrest, Australia

Cause of death Suicide
Spouse(s) Helen May
Attack information
Date January 25, 1996
~5 a.m.
Location(s) Hillcrest, Australia
Target(s) Family
Killed 6
Weapon(s) .30-30 Winchester lever-action rifle

Peter May was an Australian businessman who killed his estranged wife, three children, and parents-in-law in Hillcrest, Australia on January 25, 1996, before committing suicide.[1]


May, who had been physically abused as a child, had a sister named Helen. According to her May was a gun enthusiast and began hunting for pigs and rabbits at a young age. He joined a gun club later on, owned a small bore rifle, and also had a fascination for crime and detective TV shows. At the time of the murders he had been married to his wife, also named Helen, for 12 years. Together they had three children, Lisa, Andrew, and Natalie.

May controlled his family by means of intimidation and violence. His behaviour was unpredictable and could change from affection to unprovoked cruelty from one moment to the other. At times he would abuse his children in a similar manner, as had happened to him during his childhood, and he threatened his wife that he would kill her and the children, if she tried to leave him.

Due to failed business ventures and his pathological gambling May was constantly in financial distress, and only stayed afloat thanks to frequent loans from his parents and scams. In 1990 he finally had to file for bankruptcy, which lead to an increase in his criminal activities, in which he chiseled out money from credit companies by applying for loans with false names and employment records, and then used the money to buy cars, just to resell them immediately, before vanishing.

May and his family resided in a house in Middle Park. His parents-in-law lived in a flat under the building, which also served as a refuge for his children during his violent outbursts. The house was paid off in November 1994, but May soon had it remortgaged, and within 12 months lost most of the money by gambling at Jupiters Casino.

Eventually he was investigated by police for forging a credit application, and on July 3, 1995 his house was searched, and enough evidence collected to charge him. Police sought to arrest him in August the same year, and under the pressure of looming imprisonment his violence against his family increased. As a consequence his wife began planning to leave him. On November 16, May, together with his lawyer, made his appearence at the Criminal Investigation Branch, where he was charged with forgery and uttering, and released on bail. Afterwards he drove to Jupiters Casino to gamble, and when he eventually returned home, found his family gone.

Over the next couple of days May's emotional condition alternated between morose and angry, and he repeatedly called his wife's sister, Angela, to inquire about his family's whereabouts. Four days after their disappearence he was served a Temporary Protection Order prohibiting him from contacting his family, and police confiscated his rifle. The protection order became permanent in late November, and a committal date regarding his fraud trial was set in late January.

May attempted to regain access to his children via his solicitor, and also visited the Men's Rights Association in Brisbane. As his mood had considerably improved in the meantime Helen May agreed to sporadical visits by the children before Christmas, on Boxing Day, and for a fortnight in January. Meanwhile, May closed his children's bank accounts, and furthermore changed his last will, excluding in it his wife and children, and naming his sister as the sole heir. When May sent his sister the testament, she called him, afraid he was suicidal, though he was able to calm her.[2]


On January 11, May and his children drove to Jupiters Casino, where they resided for ten days in the penthouse suite, and afterwards stayed for another four days at Dockside in Brisbane. During their vacation May called his wife several times, asking her to join them, but she declined his offer.

By January 23, May had accumulated $13,000 of outstanding debt on his credit card, and he and his children returned to his home in Middle Park, since he was to hand over the children to his wife two days later. On January 24, May wrote two farewell letters, one addressed and sent to a friend of his, where he explained that he had decided to keep his children forever, and a second addressed, but not sent to his wife, whose whereabout was still unknown to him at the time.

The exact sequence of events the next morning is not known though it was assumed that around 4 a.m. on January 25, May packed an illegally obtained .30-30 Winchester six-shot lever-action rifle, woke his children and drove with them to his wife's hideout in Hillcrest, after obtaining its address from the kids. Around 5 a.m. the 32-year-old shot his three children, and then entered the house, where he killed his wife and parents-in-law, before committing suicide.[2]


  • Helen May, 29, his wife
  • Lisa May, 11
  • Andrew May, 8
  • Natalie May, 7
  • James Potter, Helen May's father
  • Rita Potter, Helen May's mother


  1. Brits in horror, Sunday Mail (January 28, 1996)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Killer instinct, The Bulletin (July 16, 1996) (pp. 20-22)
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