Truth of gruesome Valentine’s Day chainsaw torture finally revealed
For more than 30 years, Tameka Ridgeway has been gagged by Tasmania’s repressive sexual assault victim gag-laws. In September last year she joined the #LetHerSpeak campaign, and was able to take her case to the Supreme Court. Now, having won the matter, Tameka is finally revealing her real identity. She plans to use her voice to push for another law reform which will help keep Tasmania’s most dangerous murderers and criminals behind bars. This is her story.
The year was 1986. Tameka Ridgeway, 17, and her 22-year-old fiance, Dean Allie, had recently moved into their first home in Glenorchy, Hobart.
On Valentine’s Day they visited Dean’s parents, laughing over dinner, before returning to their small flat. It would be the last night the young couple would ever spend together.
The following morning, the pair awoke to intruders attacking them at knifepoint.
“I woke up with a hand over my mouth and a knife on the left side of my neck” Tameka, now aged 51, tells news.com.au.
“I could feel the point of the knife pressing into my neck. I was still only half awake and I didn’t know what this man was going to do to me.”
The two intruders were Jamie John Curtis, 30, and his 16-year-old accomplice.
Tameka was dragged to the living area where she was forced to watch as the men brutally bashed her fiance, binding Dean’s hands and feet, before torturing him with boiling water.
They then turned their focus on Tameka.
According to Tameka’s police statement, the men then raped her 13 times over a sustained period of time.
“They raped me in the most degrading way, verbally taunting me and saying and doing the most sadistic things,” Tameka says.
“I was disgusted but I told myself to just get it over and done with and do whatever they say. It felt like it would never end.”
Later it would be discovered that Tameka was not the first woman the men attacked that morning. Following a night of heavy drinking in Salamanca, Curtis and his accomplice had driven around Hobart prowling for a woman to rape.
Initially they approached women in Sandy Bay, offering them lifts. When that proved unsuccessful, the pair escalated their efforts, and at around 5am they used a knife to abduct a 15-year-old delivery girl who was completing her paper round.
When she managed to break free from the boot of their vehicle, using a loose screwdriver, the men became enraged, and decided to settle on a target much closer to home: a 17-year-old supermarket cashier who they had seen come and go from the flat next door to the one Curtis lived in.
“I immediately recognised the older one, who lived next door” Tameka says. “I’d seen him around, but I’d never spoken to him before.
“I had no idea I was living next to a wanted criminal, who had warrants out for his arrest in multiple other states”.
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When the sexual assaults finally stopped, Tameka hoped the men would leave and the ordeal would be over.
Instead she and Dean were abducted at knifepoint, and taken in Dean’s car. They were driven 50km northwest to a secluded paddock in Gretna, where they were tortured at length.
“Curtis told the young one to take out the chainsaw which they had packed from Curtis’ flat,” Tameka says. “The young one started it up and Curtis said ‘have you ever felt the blade of the chainsaw on your skin? It will be just like the chainsaw massacre movie’.
“Curtis then told us that he was going to give us a two-minute headstart to run into the woods and then they would come hunting us with the chainsaw.”
For more than an hour Curtis and his accomplice taunted Dean and Tameka, debating in front of them whether to slaughter them with a shotgun, a knife or the chainsaw.
Eventually the pair locked Tameka in the boot of her car.
“They closed the lid and I heard Dean crying,” Tameka says. “I remember that vividly. I remember the terror and thinking this is the day I am going to die.
“It was hot and stuffy in the boot of the car and I was crammed next to a big TV they had put in there.”
“I heard Dean say, ‘No please’.”
“That was the last thing I ever heard Dean say.”
‘JUST KILL ME ALREADY’
Outside the men led Dean a short way away from the vehicle. They took turns stabbing him to death.
“About 15 minutes later they came back. After they opened the boot they showed me the knife covered in blood,” Tameka says.
“They said they had killed him — and I knew deep down that they had — but I was in disbelief and shock. I was living my worst nightmare.
“Curtis then asked me, ‘Have you ever seen a dead person before?’”
“I walked up and could see Dean lying on the ground. There was blood all over his chest and I could see holes. His eyes and lips were all blue and he was pale. There were flies all over his face. He was dead.”
Curtis would later tell police he also intended to kill Tameka, but first he was hungry and wanted to refuel on supplies. And so the two men and their hostage drove to Gretna in search of meat pies and alcohol.
“As we sat in the parked car, I slowly pulled the lock up on my door. I was going to run,” Tameka says.
“I got the door open a little bit. But Curtis grabbed me by the hair and pulled me back while the young one started punching me.
“I began screaming. I could see people outside the pub. They didn’t take any notice. No one did anything.
“Curtis sped off. On the way he said ‘That’s it you b**ch, that’s the end of you.
“When we arrived back at the property, they told me they were going to kill me with the chainsaw. I pleaded with them, ‘Can’t you just do it with a knife?’
“I went and got a knife and handed it to them and said, ‘Just kill me already, I would rather be dead’.”
Instead Curtis raped her again.
This time Tameka fought back. Angered, Curtis retaliated and Tameka blacked out.
Several hours later, a farmer who was walking through his property in Gretna stumbled upon a car with three unconscious people in it. Two males were passed out drunk. The third, a semi-naked woman, was unconscious.
Using a stick, the farmer prodded her.
“As soon as he jabbed me I was wide awake, adrenaline pumping. I saw Curtis and the other one were still sleeping,” she says.
Police did arrive shortly after. They found two men still passed out. Nearby Dean Allie’s body was found, with 12 stab wounds in his torso, multiple injuries consistent with being bashed repeatedly, and severe scalding marks on his head.
“I still see him in the morgue to this day,” his sister Carol Allie, who later identified his body, tells news.com.au.
“He was the kind of person who would do absolutely anything for anyone. But he missed out on so much. He never got to become a dad, and our parents missed out on grandchildren from him.”
Dean Allan Allie would have been 57 this year.
Curtis and his 16-year-old accomplice were arrested on site. There were already warrants out for Curtis’ arrest in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania and he had also served jail time in Queensland.
But just eight months later, in October 1986, Curtis managed to break out of Risdon Prison in a laundry cart, triggering a statewide manhunt.
Armed with a prison table knife which had been sharpened to a point, the heavily tattooed 183cm fugitive led police on a wild-goose chase across the state. Air and sea ports were closed or put on tight surveillance, roadblocks were erected, and the police repeatedly warned the public that Curtis could easily abduct a hostage and was experienced in doing so.
But a trail of breadcrumbs were being left behind. A yellow Holden station wagon had been stolen from a Glenorchy caryard, meat had gone missing from a Deloraine farm, and Curtis’ fingerprints were found in a deserted farmhouse in Ellendale with its front door broken open.
Finally, nine days after the breakout, Curtis was tracked down and apprehended by a police squad, following a tip-off from the public.
He was growing a beard, had disposed of his prison-issued Khaki uniform, and was found wearing blue jeans, a blue cardigan and white T-shirt.
Chillingly, when apprehended, he was lurking on a neighbouring country property to where Tameka was being kept under police guard.
“I got a phone call and they told me they got him,” she says. “They told me to look out the window and I would see him driving past in just a moment and that I could wave”.
I WANT TO SPEAK OUT
Since then, Tameka has lived in a heightened state of fear, amplified by her PTSD which she still has to this day.
“The killer already knows my name. This law doesn’t protect me one bit” she told news.com.au last year, under an enforced pseudonym.
“It just works to silence me. But this is my story to tell, and I should be the one to tell it,” she said.
Since then, donations made to the #LetHerSpeak GoFundMe have covered Tameka’s court costs, and her legal work has been performed pro-bono by Marque Lawyers.
“I took my case to the Supreme Court and I won” she says.
“I’m now speaking out on the anniversary of Dean’s murder to warn the public of the risk Curtis still poses to the community. He should never be released.”
Yet in June 2018, despite pleas from Tameka and Dean’s family, Curtis was released on parole.
The Parole board decision noted at the time that Curtis still displayed a “high number of psychopathic traits” which “cannot be cured”, but went on to praise his “polite and courteous” engagement with prison staff.
Later it was discovered that within weeks of his release, Curtis had set up a prohibited Facebook account under the alias “Steve Johnson” and joined multiple dating sites including eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, Be Naughty, Naughty Date, Zoosk and Be2.
Then, in September 2018, police took out a restraining order against him, fearful that he would kill a woman who he had met through one of those dating websites.
Papers lodged with the Magistrate’s Court detailed swelling on the woman’s jaw, right cheek and right eye, and a large bruise.
According to the documents, the woman told family members that Curtis had “flipped out” when she said she was wanted to leave, telling her “do you think I’m that f**cking silly, you’re not leaving.” The woman has since declined to cooperate with police.
Tameka is now fearful that he will be eligible to apply for parole again soon.
“Last time he got out, my life stopped. His freedom ended my freedom. He shows no remorse and no respect for the law” says Tameka.
“Curtis was pure evil. He should never be released. I believe he will kill again and again. He should labelled a Dangerous Criminal.”
HE SHOULD COME OUT OF THERE IN A BOX
Under Tasmanian law, a prisoner may be permanently detained and deemed ‘never to be released’ if they are classed as a “Dangerous Criminal”. To date, only nine criminals have met this classification.
One aspect which makes it difficult, is the requirement that only the original sentencing judge can hear and approve an application.
In cases where the original sentencing judge is now dead or retired, there is simply no way for the application to be considered.
In short, this means that Curtis can never be considered, due to an absurd legal loophole.
“The situation is ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous” Tameka says. “Curtis has committed far more heinous crimes than some of the other nine on the list. But the requirement that only the original judge can hear the application creates a loophole which can be exploited.”
“Criminals such as Curtis can slip through the cracks. This places the community at increased risk as there is no opportunity for the courts to consider him being declared a dangerous criminal.”
Tameka is now calling on the Tasmanian Government to close the loophole.
Dean’s sister Carol agrees adding “Curtis should come out of there in a box.”
A spokesperson for the Tasmanian Government told news.com.au that there are “significant concerns” around the current legislation and that, in alignment with Tameka’s wishes, the Government’s own proposed amendments will allow another judge, other than the sentencing judge, to hear an application for a dangerous criminal declaration.
“This important legislative reform is part of the Tasmanian majority Liberal Government’s strong plan to keep our community safe and protect survivors and victims of crime.”
The Government has also released a draft bill to amend the sexual assault victim gag-laws in response to the #LetHerSpeak campaign, and it is anticipated that the law will be debated in the coming months.
To contribute towards Tameka’s court costs and the #LetHerSpeak campaign, donations can be made on the official GoFundMe page.