This was Nina Young’s shocking realisation in her mid-twenties, when she found out from online court records that the father from whom she’d always been distant, Allan Ladd, had strangled a woman to death decades before. In prison he’d met Denise, Nina’s mother, who was his tutor. Although Denise didn’t know the extent of Allan’s crime when she fell in love with him, by the time she found out, she was in too deep. She had to flee from him before Nina turned two.
A decade after reading the court records, Nina, now a journalist, decided to release a podcast to tackle the questions she’d been asking herself ever since. How did her mother fall in love with a murderer? What happened to Conan, Nina’s estranged half-brother, who spent his formative years in Allan’s care? How much do your origins determine your destiny?
This is the story behind the podcast, taking Nina on a cross-country journey to retrace her steps. We move from Sydney to the old Fremantle Prison, where Nina’s parents met; then to the suburbs of Perth, where they raised her in those early years; back to Sydney, where Denise put their past behind them and gave Nina and her siblings a new lease on life; and finally back to Western Australia, to the scene of the original crime- the remote outback town of Norseman, where Allan killed a woman late one night in the bush in 1977.
This is also Denise’s story, of falling in love with a charismatic, intelligent prisoner who turned out to be violent and callous. Unburdening herself of the stigma she carried with her for thirty years, Denise tells of how she came to marry a murderer, and what it took to leave and rebuild her life in the wake of the destruction Allan caused.
A dual memoir, a true crime story and an examination of the way domestic violence insinuates itself into the lives of survivors, My Father, the Murderer is, at its heart, a story of a mother and daughter coming together with honesty and openness to reckon with the past.
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