26 July, 2010

He thought he'd gotten away with it - Part II

Darryl was eventually arrested on 3rd April 1989 and remained in custody until he escaped on 19 April. He was recaptured on 23 April, and again remained in custody until being granted bail on 16 May 1990. He was due to go to trial, but in October 1990 the charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Darryl sister Joan later gave evidence that shortly after his arrest Darryl asked her to say the purple dress belonged to her, and that the deodorant was her daughter Shirley’s. She added that a few weeks after Christmas Darryl came to visit and said he’d been out with a girl called Jodie and spent the night, only to wake up in the morning and find her dead. He told Joan that he cleaned all the fingerprints from the flat and removed her body, taking it away in the car. He then told her he cut off her head and one arm, and buried all the parts separately between Melbourne and Mildura.

Joan’s son Brett Sutton spoke about a visit he had received from Darryl in January 1988. When Darryl arrived, Brett saw a shovel in his car that appeared to have wet blood on it. Brett asked Darryl if he’d killed someone, and he said “yes”. In cross-examination it was suggested to Brett that he had made this up, which he denied.

In 1990 Darryl began going out with a woman known only as Ms Wilson. A friend of hers, Susan Watt, met Darryl at his home in January 1991. He said to her “I have been charged with murder. They wont get me because they will never find the body”. Another time at Ms Wilson’s house, Darryl showed Susan and her husband various chains, and said “I used the chains to tie up Jodie when we were having sex… I like S&M”. Susan asked him who Jodie was, and he replied “She’s the one I’ve been accused of murdering. She is a prostitute”.

On another occasion when Darryl was at the Watt’s home, they had the following conversation:
Susan: Did you kill Jodie?
Darryl: Why do you want to know?
Susan: Because I do.
Darryl: All they have on me is Jodie’s teeth. They were in the truck. She was a slut and a prostitute and they always get what they deserve.”

Mr Watt also gave evidence, saying that on one occasion when they were at Ms Wilson’s home, Darryl said to him and Susan “I was framed for a murder charge. I was supposed to have murdered a young prostitute”. Another time, again at Ms Wilson’s, Mr Watt saw Darryl with a chain. He said “This is the chain I tied her up with”.

Darryl denied all these conversations.

In 1992 he was arrested again and sent to prison on unrelated charges. He ended up in Goulburn Jail in 1993, where he shared a cell with Bob Collins, who he also became friends with. Darryl told him that he’d picked up a prostitute in Sydney who’d given him oral sex. He said that she wanted more money for heroin, so he lent her $40 and took her jewellery as security. He said that she’d left her false teeth behind when she went off to buy heroin, and they were later found by police. Collins said that Darryl told him he had been with her a number of times, and referred to her as a “missing person”. Each time he said that, he would use the gestures for inverted commas, or quote marks. To Collins this meant he was speaking sarcastically.

Darryl also said on the night she was meant to have disappeared he was visiting his sister, and so he had an alibi. Not long after that Darryl was transferred to Long Bay hospital for a few weeks. When he returned, he told Collins he “did it”, referring to the murder, and said it was unlikely the body would ever be found.

Collins was released in May 1993, and months later contacted police to tell them what he knew. Detective Lennon, who was in charge of the investigation, asked him if he would help out, and he did, allowing listening devices to be installed in his home and car. Collins had been keeping in touch with Darryl, who was still in Goulburn Jail, via letter.

When Darryl was released, Collins picked him up in his car and took him back to his house on the Central Coast, where he stayed for some time with Collins and others. While he was there, he met Collins’ girlfriend Amelia Pasic. She and Collins were both on the methadone program at the time.

Darryl took a liking to Amelia, and told Collins how he felt. He suggested a plan to abduct her, drug her, take her to a hotel, then take turns “doing whatever we wished with her, that would include taking photos and having sex with her.” Darryl said that after that, “we would have to kill her and dig a hole and bury the bones”.

Collins pretended to go along with the idea, and they continued to discuss it for a few weeks. On 14 May 1994 a listening device was strapped to Collins’ body, and he drove with Darryl to Patonga where they discussed a plan for Amelia. What followed were several gruesome statements by Darryl about his murder, mutilation and burial of Jodie Larcombe. These included numerous references to taking her body through the suburbs, trying to dig up the body, and the body being dug up already by wild animals.

Darryl was recorded saying “So now you know I knocked her” and “I am guilty… and still got out of it”. Later, “But I’ve got away with fucken murder, they’ll never get away with murder … I’m laughing at McCann’s bullshit and the coppers because they know I’ve done it and can’t prove it… Her parents know I’ve done it and they can’t prove it”.

Other incriminating conversations included:
Darryl: … DNA on either one, either one can… the ground… get my drift?
Collins: How do you mean?
Darryl: Well, if you have bones in the head, bones in the feet, bones in the hand… DNA on bones and…
Collins: Trace it back to a person or whatever.
Darryl: Yeah, yeah.
Collins: Get rid of the bottom as well.
Darryl: If they can find a body and it will be exactly the same as the head…

And later on:
Darryl: Yeah, right, so what I was thinking, right, fucken we’ll do both at once. Like there’s no use doing one fucken part and not the other. Do you know what I mean, get the drift? Because of the DNA can be fucken…
Collins: Yeah right.
Darryl: Yeah, if we get rid of the old lot and put the new lot there, if ever the new lot gets discovered and they do a DNA there, its not going to match with the fucken…
Collins: Yeah, yeah
Darryl: Do you follow?

And later on:
Darryl: Yeah. I’m not worried about mine. What I’m saying is this: Mine will come after the other, right..
Collins: Yeah I just thought yeah, kill two birds with one stone is what I thought.
Darryl: Yeah well, mine will come after the other.
Collins: Yeah right. But get her out of the fucken way anyhow, I don’t, I don’t want to know where or any of that, you know what I mean,
Darryl: You’re gonna have to fucken know, because she’ll go in the same hole.
Collins: Two in the one hole.
Darryl: You might as well fucken,
Collins: Yeah,
Darryl: Keep the same space,
Collins: Yeah, yeah, um on the way of taking the, that means, well…
Darryl: See, I might pick up the same skeleton out of mine, put her there without the fucken..
Collins: Head.
Darryl: Without the head,
Collins: Yeah,
Darryl: Right
Collins: Yeah
Darryl: Say, and for argument’s sake they do fucken, wont but say for arguments sake they fucken, in trouble, fucken, in, in like years to come, they do a DNA on it, it’s a different DNA to the parents,
Collins: Yeah
Darryl: Follow? So its not, not the one they, they’re looking for, is it,
Collins: Yeah, but with Amelia, right,
Darryl: Yeah
Collins: Fucken, um, yeah, theyre not, they’re going to have to work out, firstly who is what, or what the fuck happened,
Darryl: They will immediately assume that its fucken Jodie, Jodie Larcombe,
Collins: Amelia?
Darryl: Yeah.
Collins: Amelia.
Darryl: Right.
Collins: How are we going to put the other one or something like that,
Darryl: That’s right
Collins: Alright, see, mate, like you’re the teacher, I’m the pupil.
Darryl: Can you follow what I mean now?

On 2nd June 1994 Darryl was re-arrested and charged with the murder of Jodie Larcombe and, while in custody in Long Bay Jail, admitted further aspects of the murder to Satirios Christofis. Christofis was a former prison officer who was convicted of drug dealing and dishonesty, and was now a prisoner. He told police what Darryl had told him in August 1994, and was interviewed by Detective Sergeant Lennon at Long Bay. He stated that Darryl had complained about Collins secretly recording him, but had made up an explanation for the incriminating things he had said in those recordings.

Darryl Suckling eventually went to trial in 1996, pleading not guilty to Jodie Larcombe’s murder. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He appealed on several grounds, all of which were rejected. He also appealed to the High Court, but they similarly rejected his appeal.

Jodie Larcombe’s body has never been found. Her mother committed suicide the day Darryl lodged his appeal.

24 July, 2010

He thought he'd gotten away with it - Part I

In 1987 21-year-old Jodie Larcombe was working as a prostitute in Melbourne’s St Kilda for about two years. She was a regular heroin user, and dabbled in other illegal drugs. Her friends and family saw her in mid-November of 1997, just before she spent a short time in Pentridge Prison for a minor offence. She was released on 22 December.

She was not seen or heard from since December 26, and extensive searches of banking, government and hospital records throughout Australia and New Zealand turned up nothing. Her body was not found.

50-year-old Darryl Suckling was the caretaker in the homestead at the otherwise unoccupied Wyrama Station, a property of about 6,000 acres in south-west NSW. His closest neighbours were the Millers, a couple living about 1km away from Wyrama. He had a Landcruiser as part of his work.

Shortly before starting this job in October 1987, he was staying with his niece Shirley Sutton in Doveton, near Melbourne. While there he would often go to St Kilda to visit a friend, and around this time he started hanging out with Jodie Larcombe. He claimed that it was not a sexual association at that stage, although it certainly became one after he went to Wyrama, when he made trips down to Melbourne.

On one occasion they had sex in the Landcruiser at Port Melbourne. He also took photos of her, and paid her $40 - she told him she needed the money.

On the night of Christmas Day when he was staying with Shirley again, he withdrew $40 from an ATM in St Kilda and met up with Jodie. They had oral sex. Darryl told her that she was hurting him, so she took her dental plate with false teeth out and put them in the glove box of his car. She told him she needed more money for drugs, so he loaned her $80 in exchange for some jewellery, which he took as security.

Darryl said he then drove Jodie back to St Kilda where they saw three of her friends, who said they were going to buy drugs. She wanted to go with them so she asked Darryl to wait, saying she’d be back in half an hour. He agreed, and she left, leaving her dental plate in his glove box. Darryl said he waited at St Kilda for about 45 minutes, and when she had not returned, he decided to leave. Before he could, he saw one the friends Jodie had left to buy drugs with, and claims he was told she was still trying to get the drugs. According to Darryl he never saw her again.

He said he went back to Shirley’s house and slept outside in the Landcruiser. The next morning he drove to his sister Joan Suttons’ house to spend Boxing Day with her, and then went back to Shirley’s late that evening. After that he returned once more to Joan’s and again, because it was late, he said he slept outside in the car. His sister woke him on the morning of the 27th.

Shirley Sutton said she saw Darryl on Christmas Day, and that when he came into the house he was carrying a green bag. She had earlier noticed that her packets of her Valium (sedative) and Ativan (anxiety medication) were missing. When Darryl was out of the room she peeked in his green bag and saw the missing pills, but didn’t remove them.

Joan Sutton gave a statement that it was her 60th birthday on Boxing Day 1987, and a number of her family gathered at her house in north-east Melbourne. They were all going to Templestowe to celebrate. Darryl apparently arrived around 10am and left around midday, not going with the rest of them to Templestowe. She then said she arrived home from the party late that night and did not see Darryl. The next morning however, her daughter Diane told her Darryl’s truck was outside. She went out around 7:30-8:30am and saw him asleep in the front seat. She said there was no other person in the truck. He went inside, had a cup of tea, and left between 10:30 and 11am.

Joan’s son David also said he thought he saw Darryl’s Landcruiser outside his mother’s house on the morning of the 27th, but he did not see Darryl.

Darryl said he made his way back to Wyrama on 27 December, and when he got there he rang a massage parlour in Melbourne where Jodie worked and left a message for her. He said he tried unsuccessfully to contact her a few times after that to get her dental plate back to her, but eventually gave up and threw it in the rubbish.

There was also the evidence of James Wembridge, the local mailman for Wyrama. He first met Darryl on 23 October 1987 when Darryl first moved up there, and asked James if he could get him a road map of the area. James couldn’t get it immediately and Darryl asked for it again - eventually James delivered it on 27 October.

On 8 December James received a call from Darryl saying he was going to Melbourne because his niece had been in a road accident and was in intensive care. James did not deliver any mail to Wyrama Station until he heard that Darryl was back.

James remembered 27 December 1987 well, as it was the day of his niece’s christening. He received two phone calls, the first at 10am and the second about 2:30pm. Darryl arrived at James’ house in Wentworth at around 5 or 6pm. He told James that he had two flat tyres and that his car was on the Arumpo Road. He asked James if he would come with him and help get the car going again. James went with Darryl to Arumpo Rd to a point 15km north of its junction with the Silver City Highway. The road was unsealed. Darryl’s car was on the right side of the road, facing south.

One of the tyres was completely destroyed, and it was obvious to James that it had been driven on flat, for at least 20-30km. All the doors of the Landcruiser were closed. He saw drop sheets, clothing and a travel bag piled high on the passenger seat, about 4-6 inches above the back of the seat. James went to open the passenger door to find a jack but Darryl told him not to, and said the jack was missing. James then used his own jack to fix the car.

Afterwards, they drove back to Wentworth and had something to eat. James asked Darryl what he’d been doing on Arumpo Rd, and he said he’d been up to Top Hut, and then he’d got lost and asked for directions. After that he decided to head south because he’d forgotten to call in and wish James’ family a happy Christmas.

On 30 December James did a mail run to Wyrama and saw Darryl washing the Landcruiser. He saw the seats were wet, and that the inside of the car had been completely hosed out and water was dripping from the roof. This was corroborated by Alan, James’ brother, who joined James on the mail run that day. So much water had been used that the car had become bogged.

Darryl’s explanation as to how he came to be on Arumpo Rd did not make sense. In a statement, he said “Now, the main road that Eddy’s talking about going past the property is a dirt road, twisted up in some parts, and only gets graded twice a year… I thought I’d try Arumpo Road and do the turn off on Exhibit 3 off the Arumpo Rd where it’s highlighted yellow. Because, to my mind, that’s a shorter cut than going through Wentworth.”

However the map shows this to be nonsense. Taking the Arumpo Rd would not have avoided the need to drive from Pooncarie to Wyrama because the Arumpo Rd is south of Pooncarie, whilst Wyrama is to the north. That would mean he drove on the Arumpo Road, which he described as a “dirt track” and “pretty deserted”, avoiding the bitumen road. It is by no means a short cut. It is significant that Darryl asked Mr Wembridge for a map of the area which was eventually given to him.

Darryl said he left Melbourne on the morning of 27 December. He said it was 560km from Melbourne to Mildura. He filled up with petrol at Kyneton, and Ouyen and Buronga. He said that the fuel he purchased at Buronga together with two 20L drums on the back of his vehicle was sufficient to get him to Wyrama:

“I didn’t even get to the turn off of the Arumpo Rd, the road going from Arumpo Road to Pooncarie, when I realised I hadn’t seen Jamie, the postie… Before I got to the turn-off from Arumpo Road to the Pooncarie Road I realised I hadn’t called in to see Jamie and his family for Christmas and the New Year, so I turned around. How close, to be honest, I don’t know, to the turn-off road I was but I turned around and I must have been driving for a while wand I realised I had got a puncture…

“I went through Arumpo and right up to Top Hut, so I pulled over wherever I was, wherever it is marked, and I sat in the truck for a while until somebody went past, and I pulled them up and asked them to take a message to Jamie, or phone a message to Jamie and let him know where I was and what was wrong. They agreed, so I went to the truck and opened the glove box and I come across Jodie’s teeth she had left and had forgotten about, and I had forgotten about the day before. So I put those on the seat and was still looking for my notebook. I got it and just wrote Jamie’s number and where I am, and that I needed a spare wheel…

“What Top Hut is, to be honest, I don’t know if it is a town or a station. I have never been there… If I was coming from Top Hut, why would I need directions when I could ask the people there directions?

“They have been given the message and I am waiting at the truck - no response - so after about an hour, an hour and a half when the next truck, vehicle has come past - I think it was a utility - I asked them if they could give me a lift to the T-intersection at the Arumpo Road and Silver City Highway which goes up to Wentworth. So Ieft the truck on the side of the road and I got a lift to the Silver City Highway. Now I did ring the Wembridges from Buronga and told them I was coming…

“I walked for a while and I got a lift to Wentworth to Jamie’s place… I seen Jamie and I told him the trouble I was in with the spare wheel and everything, and I needed a complete wheel and tyre… When we got to the truck it was raining… I remember saying to Jamie ‘Don’t worry about you giving me a hand, sit in the car’. I said ‘Its no good the two of us getting wet when only one of us should get wet’ and he agreed and sat in the car.”

It was hard to work out why Darryl would have taken a longer dirt road over a shorter bitumen one unless he was disposing of the body. The police searched Wyrama Station, but no-one searched the Top Hut area.

Further, if he had left his sister’s house at around 10:30-11am on the 27th as she claimed, he would not have been anywhere near Wyrama or Arumpo Road by that afternoon, and James was clear that he was with Darryl on that particular day.

Due to Darryl’s known association with Jodie immediately before her disappearance, he was treated as a suspect, and the homestead at Wyrama Station was searched by police in March 1988. In the main bedroom police found the photos Darryl had taken of Jodie, the jewellery he had taken as collateral, a green bag matching Shirley Sutton’s description, as well as packets of Valium and Avitan.

Police also located a purple dress, make-up and other accessories (such as her brand of deodorant) which were identified as belonging to Jodie. With these was a note written by Darryl saying “Jodie 27/12”. He denied the dress was Jodie’s, and said the note was to remind him to give her dental plate back. Police found the plate in the rubbish at the homestead.

Darryl’s explanation for the presence of these items was entirely unconvincing.

Jodie’s mother Dorothy Larcombe stated that Jodie had the dental plate fitted in 1985 after having five teeth removed. She said her daughter never removed it except on one occasion when she knew Jodie had broken it, glued it together, and was waiting for the glue to dry. Jodie’s brother Darren also confirmed that she wore a plate, and the only time he’d seen her without it was when it was being repaired. He said that without it, her speech was significantly handicapped - she found it very difficult to speak and kept her hand over her mouth. A boyfriend of Jodie’s who had been with her for about a year since 1986 and still saw her occasionally, said she only removed it to clean it. He said she never removed it in public, and she was embarrassed by it.

As the Crown put it, the suggestion that she would have simply left the plate behind in Darryl’s car “simply beggars belief”. It is also highly unlikely he made the many phone calls to Jodie’s workplace as he alleged, given the long distance he had to travel.

Two bottles of Noctec were also found in the bedroom at Wyrama. A pharmacologist stated that the combined effect of these drugs taken with alcohol would increase their strength and could induce a semi-conscious state, in which a person would be able to comply with instructions.

21 July, 2010

Protecting the pot plants

Although Tony Simpson and his wife had separated, they remained on good terms. Simpson had moved in with his mother nearby in Karuah, but was often a visitor to his former home, and saw his kids off to school on a daily basis.

Another reason for his regular visits was to tend to his marijuana plantation in the backyard of his former marital home. His plants were protected with chicken wire, corrugated iron, barbed wire and a home-made electric fence (Simpson was an electrician by trade). To do this, he secured coaxial cable to his back fence with nails, and removed its protective covering at 6cm intervals. This was powered by an extension cord that ran from the house to a shed nearby. Joined to the cord was a cable that ran from the shed to the chicken wire, then to the fence. This cable was also not fully insulated, with two breaks at the joins, about 1cm wide, exposing the wire. This set-up had been in place for around three years, and was switched on and off from inside the house.

Michael Priest knew of Simpson’s backyard plantation, and travelled to Karuah on the night of April 12 1998 with a group of friends, in order to steal Simpson’s plants. Priest went to Simpson’s backyard alone. When he had not returned after some time, his friends left. However they returned the next day, believing Priest had been captured and held by Simpson.

In actual fact, Priest had accidentally come into contact with some of the exposed wiring when trying to get to Simpson’s plants, had been electrocuted and died instantly. Tony Simpson had found Priest the next morning, standing upright with his face on the chicken wire roof. Apparently, in attempting to get at the plants, Priest had inadvertently pulled the chicken wire roof down so that it came into contact with the exposed cable. Simpson panicked, and wrapped Priest’s body in a quilt, dumping it in bushland near Swan Bay. He returned home and dismantled his set-up.

Later that morning, Priest’s friends had returned to find him, and decided to vigorously question Simpson about Priest’s whereabouts. Unfortunately they went to the wrong home, and the occupants immediately called the police. When Simpson saw the police at his neighbour’s house, he decided to approach them and ask to be interviewed. He then admitted his actions, showed the police his plants and the wiring set-up, and took them to the body.

Despite the fact that Priest was killed in the course of trying to steal from Simpson, this was not relevant to the charges against Simpson. Similarly, the fact that Simpson’s plants were illegal was also not relevant to the charges, although he was separately charged with drug offences.

Simpson pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the basis of criminal negligence. He had not intended to kill or seriously harm Priest, but had failed to take reasonable care in that he exposed a person to a high risk of serious harm or death.

At his sentence hearing, evidence was called from an electrical expert about Simpson’s home-made system:
“Q: What do you way about that particular portion of the apparatus, the wiring, the exposed area running across the top of the fence?
A: Potentially very, very dangerous.
Q: Why is that?
A: Well, it is open to a fatality, just by exposing that attached cable, and earthing out with the knees or feet, it can be very fatal.
Q: And that earthing, it would be caused, I suppose, by a person not only going in, but trying to get over the fence?
A: Yes
Q: But trying to get out that way too?
A: Yes, certainly.
Q: In relation to the situation of the wire meshing roofing..
A: Yes?
Q: .. the three- or two-side wire mesh fences and the wire mesh fence at the front, with this cable, for want of a better description, running through, with the two exposed joins, as I understand Simpson’s description, at midpoint a 30mm gap between the height of the wire fencing and the height of the roofing…
A: Yes?
Q: What do you say about that, the danger that it represents?
A: Well, it’s the same as the wire on the back fence - it is open up to a fatality.
Judge: What did you say?
A: It is very, very dangerous and open up to a fatality.
: And if one was standing on the earth and just accidentally put one’s hand around that exposed area of wiring, what would be the effect?
A: Well, it would be a fatality.
Q: Just in relation to, and only going to, the potentiality of the danger in the overall situation, the wood across the top of the back fence, would that provide a degree of insulation between the metal fence and the exposed wires?
A: Depending on the weather, whether it had been raining or not, but yes, quite a degree of insulation, yes.
Q: But once the wood was moist?
A: Moist, a different matter.
Q: Is that because moisture itself is a conductor?
A: That’s right, yes.”

Simpson was also cross-examined about this:
“Q: See, no matter how short a time one received a shock for, a result is dependent on the person’s physical health, isn’t it?
A: Yes.
Q: And your training tells you, you have been warned that can happen very quickly from an electric shock, haven’t you?
A: Yes.”

Simpson argued that the evidence showed that the part Priest had electrocuted himself upon was not deliberately uninsulated, however the Judge was not entirely convinced. Nevertheless, whether the exposure was intentional or not, Simpson as a qualified electrician should have recognised the danger. He had tied the uninsulated wires together himself. In his defence, Simpson claimed that he could not afford a piece of conduit to cover it, however this was rejected by the Judge. The part in question cost only around $11, and Simpson had had three years to fix it.

Simpson also argued that it was not intended that the wire roof would be pulled down so that it contacted the exposed wires, however the Judge also rejected this, saying that Simpson should have been aware of this possibility, given that he was trying to protect his plants from intruders.

Simpson was questioned about this:
“Q: With the power on, and with the wire connecting the house to the back fence, would the wire roof of the enclosure have been live?
A: No.
Q: That was because of the gap between the wire roof and the naked joins.
A: That is correct.
Q: And were those naked joins positioned within the enclosure itself, and not in the ordinary course in contact with the wire perimeter fence?
A: That is correct.
Q: Now if the power were on, and the roof wire were depressed against the naked wire join, that would render the roof live, would it not?
A: That’s right.
Q: Or alternatively, if somebody had inadvertently, by movement of some part of their body caused the naked wire to lift against the roof, that would also render the roof live, yes?
A: That is correct.”

He was then cross examined:
“Q: What this man sees to have done, on your reconstruction, and I am not criticising you for it, is indeed come into contact with the wires in some process of trying to lean in and get at those plants, would you agree with that?
A: That is possible, yes.
Q: Done the very thing that I suggest to you could happen to someone who had to manipulate the roofing and the front fence to get at the plants, correct?
A: Yes, it is possible.
Q: You have, with due respect, drawn a diagram of somebody who is actually leaning in towards where the plants are, much as I am now?
A: Yes.
Q: With his arms extended forward as one would anticipate someone trying to pull plants out?
A: Yes.
Q: And at the same time come into contact wit the ground?
A: Yes.
Q: And we unfortunately know the result, don’t we?
A: Yes.”

The Judge found that this was a very serious case of criminal negligence, however Simpson was co-operative with police, and clearly remorseful about what had happened to Priest. He had a history of drug offences dating back to the 70’s, and pleaded guilt to cultivating five marijuana plants.

Tony Simpson was sentenced to nine years in prison, with a non-parole period of six years. He appealed his sentence, but was unsuccessful.

He was released in July 2005.

18 July, 2010

A system failure - Part II

By the 24th of October, Tomi had decided to move to Wollongong. He had no food or clothes, and wanted to get his stuff from Geoff’s place before he moved.

Tomi found Geoff at home, using drugs, and decided to join him. He said Geoff started rubbing his leg and his groin, and told Tomi it was turning him on. He didn’t want to be raped again, he wanted Geoff to leave him along. He got up and went to the kitchen, where he took a knife from a holder next to the microwave. He said he wanted to scare Geoff, so “the thing” would not happen again. He found Geoff standing in the living room, waiting. Geoff came towards Tomi, and Tomi struck out with the knife, intending to scare him. He couldn’t remember where he struck Geoff.

Tomi then searched the unit, grabbing his clothes and a bottle of whisky. He looked for the key but was unable to find it, so he climbed over the balcony. In his haste he left his wallet in the bathroom. At 9:32pm he called ‘000’ from a nearby phonebox:
“Hello, could I get… I would like to report a murder at, um, 11/3 London St, Enmore. Anonymous caller. A murder, someone’s been stabbed”.

The next morning he called Geoff’s unit and left a message on his answering machine. “Hi Geoff, its me, Tomi. I’ll be back home in a week. Ok, bye”.

Around that time Tomi ran into his friend Stone again at the squat in Parramatta. Stone was interviewed and gave the following answers:
“Q: What did he say to you?
A: That he killed someone because he got raped.
Q: What were the words he said to you?
A: He said ‘I done it’.
Q: Were they the words he uttered? ‘I done it’?
A: Yeah.
Q: What did you say in response to that?
A: ‘Done what’?
Q: What did he say?
A: ‘Killed the bloke I was living with because he raped me’.
Stone said he told Tomi he should turn himself in to police.

On the 26th, two days after the killing, Tomi again called ‘000’ from a phone box near Geoff’s house at 7:25pm. He said “Hello, there’s been a murder at 11/3 London St, Enmore. They’vekilled a person, um, I dunno. I done it.”

As it happened, police arrived at the apartment block at around 7:30pm that evening, responding to the concerns of Geoff’s colleagues. Tomi approached the police and told hem he lived at Unit 11 with Geoff. He said he’d been camping for a few weeks and just got back. He went back to the police station for an interview, and Detective Jackson came out to tell him arrangements had been made for an independent adult to be present when he was interviewed, as he was a minor. Tomi looked at Det. Jackson and said “I stabbed him”. Detective Jackson said “What”? Tomi repeated “I stabbed him. I stabbed him ‘cause he was fucking me up the arse”.

In his interview, Tomi said “well, a while back Geoff got me stoned on drink and drugs and fucked me up the arse twice. Last Thursday, after I had drunk half a bottle of Scotch, Geoff kept touching me on the leg and saying ‘you’re making me horny’ so I got up and went to the kitchen and cut his throat and stabbed him a few times”.

Geoff was found lying in the kitchen, with blood all through the unit, suggesting the attack began in the lounge. He was nude, and was probably nude when Tomi attacked him. There was evidence that suggested he was often nude at home.

Psychologists felt Tomi was suffering from an ‘abnormality of mind’ at the time of the stabbing, due to his inability to recall parts, the differences in the details he provided and the nature of the wounds.

There was a 13.5cm cut to Geoff’s throat, and a stab wound to his head, which penetrated the skull, but not the underlying membrane. He also had four stabs in the upper right of his back from 9-18cm, three of which penetrated bones. All four stabs penetrated the lungs, the loss of blood proving fatal.

The injuries suggest that Tomi lost control.

Tomi was put on trial for the murder of Geoffrey Boyson. They jury found him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.

Because the jury do not give reasons for their verdict, it is up to the Judge to then work out why they came to such a decision. In Tomi’s case, there was evidence of both ‘provocation’ and ‘diminished responsibility‘, either of which would give the jury grounds to reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter.

Both the Crown and the defence agreed that the defence of ‘provocation’ was established in this case. The law states that a killing is done under provocation where a person loses self-control because of another person’s conduct or behaviour towards him or her, and this can include words or gestures - it does not have to be a physical attack. The test for the jury, is whether a reasonable person, not drunk, would have also lost self-control if he or she was in the killer’s shoes. In this case, being in Tomi’s shoes meant someone from an emotionally deprived background, let down by those who were obliged to take care for him in his early years. The only difficulty was the fact that he had been drinking with Geoff before the incident.

Nevertheless the Judge accepted that provocation had been established, and commented that in such a case, a loss of self-control is more understandable and excusable than for the vast majority of the community.

Tomi’s lawyers also argued that he had a defence of ‘diminished responsibility’. To prove this they had to show two things: that at the time of the killing Tomi had an ‘abnormality of mind’; and that this ‘substantially impaired his mental responsibility’. All psychiatrists agreed, as did the Crown, that Tomi suffered from severe psychiatric issues arising from his background. The psychologists interviewing him for court largely agreed with the conclusions of other medical professionals throughout his life. One wrote “at no time was I able to detect any of the warmth and empathy that I would normally expect in interactions with a fellow human being. I consider this abnormal, even after making due allowance for the fact that he is amidst his trial for murder… In summary, Tomi has gross emotional coldness, shallow affect and lack of empathy, a persistent failure to confirm to social norms, a reckless disregard for the safety of others and lack of remorse. Taken together, this is indicative of gross psychiatric disturbance.”

The real issue therefore, was whether this really affected his level of criminal responsibility for his actions. The Crown argued that it did, saying Tomi had been drinking, and made a conscious plan “to scare“ Geoff, after which he spent time collecting his things and other items from the flat before leaving through a window.

One doctor commented: “If Tomi’s version is accurate, his ability to exercise control over his physical acts at the time of the alleged killing did not appear to be impaired. According to him, he sat in the kitchen for ten minutes pondering what to do before he committed the stabbing. Admittedly, [Geoff] had six stab wounds whereas Tomi did not suffer any significant injury and told police that [Geoff] did not fight back. However I do not feel we can conclude from this that the attack was one committed under impaired control. He did not appear unduly prone to impulsive behaviour.”

However, another doctor stated: “His capacity to judge his situation correctly and control his impulse to kill would have been substantially impaired. Unlike an ordinary person, his personal boundaries would have been grossly disrupted by the cumulative impact of childhood sexual and physical abuse, gross emotional deprivation, institutional abuse, and life on the streets.”

The Judge eventually rejected the Crown’s arguments, and found that Tomi did have diminished responsibility for his actions. However his Honour had some reservations about this, particularly at the sentence hearing, when Tomi was described as laughing, smiling and making eye contact, in stark contrast to the psychiatric symptoms he displayed during the trial. The Judge questioned whether Tomi had in fact been putting on an act, and queried whether there really was an abnormality of mind, but eventually gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Since his arrest in 1996, Tomi’s criminal behaviour had not improved. The following year he was caught starting electrical fires, and escaped fro police. Although he had been granted bail, he was returned to juvenile custody. He improved in the middle of the year following visits from his natural father, but in September when his father visited with the rest of his family (step-mother and two step-sisters) Tomi escaped once more. He emptied a fuel bowser and set it alight, but luckily the damage was quickly contained.

When handing down his sentence, the Judge felt that further custody would not be of any benefit to Tomi - he would be at risk of further institutionalisation, and would have access to illicit drugs. He was supported by the ‘Youth Off The Streets’ program and Father Riley, which offered a supportive family environment with a zero-drugs policy and a positive peer culture. Tomi had shown real progress in his time there, completing his school certificate and studying for his HSC.

Despite Tomi’s early attempt at creating an alibi for himself (leaving a message on Geoff’s answering machine saying he was camping), and his proud boasts that he had eliminated “a faggot”, the Judge found that Tomi was genuinely remorseful for his actions, as seen in his ‘000’ calls, his arrival at the unit afterwards to see police, and his early confession.

Tomi was given a four-year good-behaviour bond. The conditions were that he be of good behaviour, take no drugs, drink no alcohol for twelve months, live at YOTS and participate in all educational, vocational, and drug & alcohol programs as ordered. He was to obey all directions of Father Riley, including regarding his consumption of alcohol.

The Crown immediately appealed Tomi’s sentence, on the basis that it was too lenient. It is rare for the Crown to appeal a sentence, as it has a much bigger hurdle to get over - the defence need only show a sentence was a little harsh to get it overturned, but the Crown must show much more than a little leniency, rather it must prove the sentence was ‘manifestly inadequate’ - a much harder test. These appeals are rarely run, and even more rarely successful.

Unsurprisingly, in this case the appeal was rejected.

16 July, 2010

A system failure - Part I

Tomi K was born the day after New Year’s Day, 1980. His mother was an alcoholic who drank all through his pregnancy, as well as that of his two-year-old sister Suzie. Visiting DoCS officers constantly found the home littered with rubbish, food scraps, beer and other alcohol bottles, cigarette butts, unwashed plates, cutlery and clothes.

In June 1980 Tomi was hospitalised with severe nappy rash after his mother was found unconscious outside the local pub. Tomi was unkempt, not well cared for, and seemed to be an unhappy baby. He lay miserably in his cot, and did not interact with staff. His mental age was found to be lagging, and he was delayed in his personal, social and language development.

Suzie was in a similar state of late development. She was very small for her age and unable to speak, uttering only monosyllables. She was diagnosed with foetal alcohol syndrome, a type of retardation caused by the mother drinking throughout pregnancy.

Tomi improved a little while in hospital, but regressed once he was released back into his mother’s care. However not long after, in August 1980, his mother dumped Tomi and Suzie with her parents and fled. When DoCS visited, the grandmother was found in a drunk and disorderly state. DoCS intervened and made both children wards of the state, placing them in an institution.

In November 1980 Tomi and Suzie were placed with foster parents, the Banks. Tomi initially settled well, and his development improved. In March 1981 he began to have convulsions, and in May began to display tempter tantrums and would regularly hold his breath as long as he could. He was prescribed with Dilantin and by 1983 had no more seizures.

In 1984 the relationship with the Banks seemed good, although they were a little concerned about unusual behaviour from both of the children. Suzie in particular was displaying overtly sexual behaviour, and Tomi had a habit of putting everything into his mouth and eating it (pica).

In 1985 Tomi started kindergarten. He was still eating everything he could lay his hands on. He seemed to have no fear about it, and it seemed to be a device to get attention, even if it was just to be punished. He was disruptive in class, and had a limited concentration span. He quickly became alienated from other children, and often injured them with sticks and stones. He also liked to urinate and defecate in the sinks and washbowls (encopresis). He had no fear about being punished for any of this, and seemed to have no sense of shame.

In August of 1995 this behaviour became increasingly self-destructive. He would hand upside down on the money-bars and fall onto his own head, bite his own fingers, gouge his own eyes and rub his feet in glass. He talked about death all the time, and was often found trying to hurt or kill small animals. He ate cockroaches, and regularly peed on the floor.

A psychologist who saw the children wrote a report for DoCS: “In summary, Suzie and Tomi are both extremely disturbed children who came from a very deprived background. Their behaviour is typical of that classically described in children with this degree of deprivation including excessive eating of normal and abnormal things as well as a lack of affect and any sense of guilt or responsibility. I should think that the prognosis for the children from a psychological point of view is very dismal indeed… I certainly do not think there is any evidence that there is a neurological disease except for the brain damage and clumsiness which are the result of the alcohol exposure during pregnancy.”

Another doctor commented that both children “have gross behavioural, emotional, educational and cognitive problems … explicable on the basis of the grossest abuse and disruption of attachments in the early years”.

By October of 1985 Mrs Banks was no longer able to cope with the children, Suzie in particular. She asked DoCS to remove the children, and by November she told them that if no alternative placement was found for Suzie within three days, she would leave her at the DoCS office.

In addition to the encopresis and pica, Tomi was also displaying self-harm and other dangerous destructive behaviour, as well as lying, and showing overt sexual interests for his age.

Nevertheless, Tomi and Suzie were not removed from the Banks’ care until March 1986, after a doctor was critical of their standard of care and what he described as “incompetently inappropriate management”. He felt that Mrs Banks was ambivalent towards the children, and had created an isolated, hostile environment. He was of the opinion that if the children had been receiving appropriate care, developmental problems such as poor concentration and co-ordination would have improved.

Suzie and Tomi were sent to institutions including Mirali, and by June they were in the Lindfield unit of Barnardos, which was for severely emotionally disturbed children: “The two children are very difficult management problems who require intensive and continuous care which is far beyond that required for a ward in normal circumstances”.

In April 1987 after some improvement, both children were sent to stay with Miss Williams. Around the same time, their natural mother had been leading a more stable life, and coping well with her three other children. So, despite things going well with Miss Williams, both children were returned to the care of their natural mother in March 1988. In November their status as ‘wards’ was officially removed.

However Tomi’s behaviour continued to decline, and by November 1990 his natural mother and her husband were no longer able to cope. 10-year-old Tomi was constantly running away, deliberately placing himself in danger, sniffing turpentine and other destructive activities. He was suspended from school in December and returned to Minali children’s home.

In 1991 a treating psychologist described Tomi as having a poor self-image, and viewed the world as a threatening place. He was unable to trust most adults, and his behaviour was worst when he was under stress. In February his mother and husband refused to have him back, and once more he was made a ward of the state.

In December that year his mother refused to have him home for Christmas, and his step-father banned him from writing to her. This was the ‘ultimate rejection’ for Tomi, and his behaviour became even worse. He began to escape from the children’s homes and commit crimes.

In 1992 he was charged with two counts of ‘break, enter and steal’ and one charge of stealing a motor vehicle. Psychologist reports for the court showed that he was angry, hurt and disappointed about his mother’s rejection, and blamed his step-father. He was openly defiant, abusive and sullen. He showed no interest in anything, no spontaneity. He was emotionally empty, not even showing any anxiety facing court. He was diagnosed as likely to develop an avoidant personality disorder.

In December 1992 he was sent to live with Mr Walker. He was still showing distress over his mother’s refusal to have any contact with him, and had created an idealised image in his head of his absent father. In a way, despite all his misconduct, he was desperately searching for people who would care for him.

Living with Mr Walker went well, and in 1993 Tomi, now aged 13, asked Mr Walker to adopt him. Its not clear what progress was made with this, and by 1994 Tomi’s behaviour was once more becoming aggressive, and he was caught setting fires and destroying property, including causing over $2,000 damage to a St Vincent De Paul shop. He was sniffing turpentine again, and the stealing and violence increased. In August he was sent back to Minali Children’s Home, where he was charged with damaging property and given nine months probation. He claimed he now hated Mr Walker, and resented his affection.

He still fantasised about having the perfect family, although he was seen to be immature, and still emotionally empty. He spent most of his time getting drunk and taking drugs, and enjoyed self-mutilation. He continually stole cars, and in September of 1994 was found at the home of a known paedophile by Flemington police.

In June 1995 he left the Home to live on the streets. Occasionally he stayed with his sister Suzie, and spent most of his time stealing car radios to buy drugs. But in August he went back to Mr Walker’s house and asked for another chance. Mr Walker claimed Tomi insisted on sleeping in his bed, despite his efforts to get him out.

Around November 1995 Tomi met Geoffrey Boyson at Central station, and began staying with him regularly. Boyson wasn‘t considered ideal by DoCS and Tomi was told to go back to Mr Walker. He did so, but continued to visit Geoff regularly, and eventually left Mr Walker. But in June 1996 Tomi called Mr Walker, asking if he could return. Walker let him come back, but it was not long before he demanded Tomi leave, as his behaviour had not changed.

In August 1996 16-year-old Tomi collapsed from alcohol poisoning, and escaped from the hospital to go and stay with Geoff Boyson, officially taking up residence there in August of 1996. DoCS visited and interviewed Geoff and made police checks, and he came Tomi’s official carer in October of that year. DoCS weren’t entirely happy with the situation, but they did not have a great deal of choice in the end, as Tomi refused to stay anywhere where DoCS assigned him, and continually absconded to Geoff’s place in Enmore.

He lived with Geoff for the next few months, but in fact spent most of his time on the street, doing drug and committing petty crimes to support his habit. He actually spent very little time with Geoff, using his place mainly for drugs, and only staying there when the two of them used drugs together.

Geoff brought home drugs he had confiscated from residents where he worked. Tomi also gave him drugs - this seemed to be the real basis of their relationship. He was adamant he would never have gone to Geoff’s in the first place if he hadn’t been allowed to use there.

Geoff was a gay man with suspected paedophilic tendencies. At his house, advertisements from ‘Campaign’ and ‘Outrage’ were found, as well as an index to advertisements in women’s magazine with images of babies and young children, naked or semi-naked.

The relationship deteriorated between the two in October, when Tomi claimed that Geoff raped him on around the 10th. Tomi said he was on drugs at the time, and not able to resist.

Tomi left Geoff’s place and didn’t return for two weeks. During this time he met up with a friend of his, Stone, at a squat in Parramatta. According to Stone, they had the following conversation:
Tomi: What would you do if someone raped you?
Stone: In what way?
Tomi: Rooted you, and stuff like that.
Stone: I’d kill ‘em

to be continued....

13 July, 2010


A fire broke out in Manuka St, Wentrworthville in the early hours of the morning on Australia Day 1995, completely destroying the house of Shanti Krishna and Ram Lingam. Both were home, along with their young son. Ram Lingam suffered serious burns in the fire.

It was quickly realised that the fire was deliberately lit. There was unmistakeable and undisputed evidence that petrol, from a tin usually stored in the garage of the house, had been scattered through two rooms of the house. Ram Lingam had also been doused with petrol himself.

It was also undisputed that the fire could only have been caused by Shanti Krishna or Ram Lingam.

Mr Lingam was in hospital for several weeks. He was interviewed in February by an insurance investigator - Shanti held a policy covering the property for fire damage. He said he had been asleep on the floor of the living room when he was awakened by flames. He denied that he had lit the fire himself.

He as interviewed again in March, this time by police. He again denied lighting the fire. In October he gave evidence at a coronial inquest into the fire and maintained his evidence.

Shanti was also interviewed by police, in January and April. She also denied responsibility for the fire.

In 1996, the DPP charged Shanti Krishna with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm to Ram Lingam with intent to murder, and in the alternative, with intent to inflict GBH. She was also charged with arson and fraud, in that she intentionally caused damage by fire to gain from the insurance policy.

In April 1997 Ram Lingam approached police with his solicitor and stated that he had in fact started the fire, because he was attempting to commit suicide. He repeated this version in another interview in October.

However the Crown proceeded with the charges, despite a circumstantial case, and the evidence of Mr Lingam. They hoped to damage his credibility through cross-examination, and expert evidence that challenged the description he gave of the fire. They also hoped to establish that because of the poor state of the relationship between Shanti and Ram, she had a motive to kill him.

However, the jury rejected the Crown’s case, although after lengthy deliberation. The Crown had presented a good deal of evidence that contradicted Ram’s second version of events, and submitted it should not be accepted. Once his suicide story was rejected, the circumstantial case for the Crown would be quite strong.

Shanti Krishna then applied for costs against the Crown, and was successful.

10 July, 2010

Too hot in the kitchen

Bin had been having arguments with Hiu and her husband Andrew over shared work and living arrangements. They all worked together at a restaurant that they shared a financial interest in, and also lived together in a house in Baulkham Hills. Given this sort of arrangement, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that things were starting to fall apart. Arguments were increasing during 1995, and in November they had a particularly bitter fight in the kitchen of the restaurant, resulting in Andrew brandishing a cleaver at Bin

Things did not improve when they all returned home that evening, and the two women were shouting at each other, with Hiu threatening to get a knife and chop up Bin. Andrew heard most of what was going on, and at the same time as Hiu uttered this threat, he heard noises downstairs in the kitchen that sounded like someone getting out a knife or cleaver. The two women apparently ended up getting into a physical fight, and somehow this got to the point where Hiu pulled out a rifle, aimed it at Bin and threatened to fire.

Bin’s husband Ivan intervened, and things seemed to go no further. Apparently there was further discussion of a more sensible nature and the turbulent evening had come to an end, as far as Andrew was concerned. There did not seem to be any more trouble for a fortnight or so (although Bin later claimed that Hiu had repeated her threats to kill Bin), but on the 22nd November tensions exploded into another physical fight between the two women.

Bin claimed she came home early, and didn’t expect to find Hiu at the house. She was worried about the rifle Hiu had pulled out two weeks before, and decided to go in search for it. She eventually located it in a dismantled condition, whereupon she took it back to her own room and reassembled it. She also inserted the magazine, which contained a number of bullets. She claimed she did this is for self-protection, because she was frightened Hiu would use it against her, as she had threatened.

Later on Bin heard Hiu outside her room in the upstairs part of the house, and as she came out of the bedroom she was confronted by Hiu. Bin said Hiu again made threats to killer, and stared attacking her with a stick. Bin had just enough time to grab a metal pole to defend herself with.

Anthony was also home by this stage and heard the sounds of yet another hostile fight. He saw Bin wielding the metal pole, but didn’t see any wooden stick. He didn’t see anything else between the two.

Shortly after, Bin found Hiu and shot her with the rifle, killing her instantly. In the process she also managed to wound Hiu’s daughter Vania. Bin later said that Hiu’s latest threat to killer, coupled with everything that had gone before, made her feel like she had nowhere to turn for help. She said she felt so threatened, and in such a state that it seemed to her the only way out was to use the rifle to kill Hiu.

Bin was put on trial for the murder of Hiu and the intent to murder Vania. She pleaded not guilty to both charges, and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty or murder but guilty of manslaughter for the killing of Hiu, and not guilty of intent to murder, but guilty of the malicious wounding of Vania.

In the trial Bin raised both provocation on Hiu’s part, as well as self-defence. It is clear from their verdict that the jury rejected self-defence, but accepted that there was sufficient provocation by Hiu to justify reducing the charge from murder to manslaughter. The same reasoning was applied to the wounding of Vania.

Bin was sentenced to six years in prison with a non-parole period of four years and six months for killing Hiu. For the malicious wounding of Vania she received a fixed term of four years imprisonment, to be served at the same time as the sentence for manslaughter. This is because the two crimes were committed together.

In this case, a somewhat rare Crown appeal was lodged against the manslaughter sentence. The Crown may appeal where they believe a sentence is too lenient, however the test is different to when an accused person appeals. An accused person need only show some level of overly severe sentencing to have a sentence reduced. For the Crown to be successful in a leniency appeal, it must show that the sentence is manifestly inadequate, i.e, not just lenient, but excessively lenient.

Bin lodged a counter-appeal claiming her sentence was too severe. Both arguments were heard and decided at the same time. The Appeal Court felt that in the circumstances, while Bin’s sentence was on the lenient side, the Crown had not shown it was excessively lenient to justify a re-sentencing, and the Crown’s appeal was rejected.

The Court also found that the Judge had made an error in taking into account the obvious distress and anguish experienced by Hiu’s family and friends, as the stated in their Victim Impact Statement. It is established law that while it is important for such Statements to be prepared by the family and read out at the sentence hearings, those views should not be taken into account by Judges in setting their sentences (and rightly so), as it suggests that the killer of a person with no family living or present to make such a statement does not deserve as big a sentence as someone whose family fills the courtroom. However, given the Court’s conclusion that Bin’s sentence was already quite light, her appeal was also rejected.

She was released on 5 January 2003.