The Chilling Moment Nina Discovered Her Father Was A Murderer

Questions uncover grim family history

Nina Young was 26 when she discovered the awful truth about her father.

Joseph Allan Ladd had mostly been an absent parent. Nina’s mother Denise broke up with him when Nina was just a toddler, and Nina only knew him from his occasional visits.

“He’d sort of show up for a day or two,” Nina recalls. “And he just seemed like a cool guy, he rode a motorbike, he had a leather jacket, you know, he was younger than my stepdad, I was like ‘yeah, I’ve got a cool dad’.”

Nina knew that her parents had met at Fremantle Prison while her mum was volunteering as an English tutor. What she didn’t know was the seriousness of her father’s crimes.

“She always presented him as a diamond in the rough and not a bad man, not a monster or anything like that,” Nina says. “I kind of always assumed that he was there for some vague violent crime: fighting, theft… You don’t really assume it’s going to be something awful.”

But in 2001, Ladd was sentenced for manslaughter of a man. And by her mid 20s, Nina decided to look up the judgment.

The previous case history horrified her.

“It said that he had strangled a woman to death in 1977 and buried her in a shallow grave.”

At first Nina thought it was a mistake. But soon she realised that it was her mother’s tutoring that helped Ladd seemingly reform his behaviour, so much so that he was released on parole after serving just seven and a half years of a life sentence.

But he was far from reformed. Denise left Ladd after he became violent towards both her and Nina when she was just 18 months old. He threw Nina into the ocean to ‘teach her to swim’ – an event that gave Nina inexplicable flashbacks for most of her life.

He was twice charged with vicious assaults on his partner in the late 1990s. And having served his term for manslaughter, he was imprisoned again in 2013 when WA authorities discovered he had breached his parole – way back in 1987.

Nina initially felt anger towards her mother for not telling her the truth about her father.

“Her reasoning was, ‘when is a good time to tell your child that their father is a murderer?’”

Nina is now a journalist with whimn.com.au, and is putting her quest for answers about her father’s history, and what impact that may have on her, into a podcast, My Father The Murderer. The first of six episodes launched yesterday.