02 March, 2010

A Manipulative Attention-Seeker - Part I

David and Joanne Barac's relationship was marred by frequent episodes of violence. They had separated in the past, and on one occasion Joanne was forced to seek shelter in a women's refuge. By 1992 the marriage was clearly breaking down, and this could largely be blamed upon David's serious alcohol problem. In December 1992 he was convicted of a domestic violence assault upon Joanne, and in March 1993 he breached a restraining order by making threats against Joanne's life. Upon being arrested and getting bail, he immediately breached it again. He had a total disregard for the "shackles" of court orders that prevented him from approaching his wife and their 18-month-old baby. He freely admitted spying on them on a regular basis.

On 21 September 1992, David became particularly enraged by this continual denial of the access that he wanted (and felt was his right), so he dressed in black, armed himself with a knife and headed to Joanne's home "with revenge in his heart." He had, of course, been drinking - two 750mL bottles of spirits, as well as smoking pot and snorting cocaine. When he got there, he saw a man who was also living in Joanna's house, and became even more enraged. He began circling the house, trying to figure out a way to get to the man. When Joanne and their baby arrived home he attacked her instead, striking her with blows to the head and knocking her to the ground. He began stabbing her with such force that the blade of the knife broke away from the handle.

Joanne pretended to be dead (or at least unconscious) in the hopes that he would give up and leave her alone, but he was undeterred. He forced her to stand, tied her up and forced her into the car. He briefly allowed her to attend to their crying baby, then drove her to another house where he detained her for hours. He spent that time continually threatening her with knives, before eventually releasing her.

David was arrested and charged with malicious wounding with intent, and kidnapping, made all the more serious by the fact that he was at the time under the restraining order, and had just been given bail for breaching it. The maximum penalty was 25 years imprisonment. In court he claimed he was completely and utterly remorseful for his actions, and promised to take steps to come to terms with his alcohol problem. He was sentenced to just four and a half years in prison, with a non-parole period of two years.

While serving his sentence at Junee in 1993, David met 23-year-old Helen Cusack. She was working at the jail as an English teacher and librarian, and she helped him improve his English while he in turn taught her Spanish, his native language. She couldn't help falling for him, and they began a relationship.

When he was released in September 1994, they moved in together in Potts Point. She was working at Coopers & Lybrand, and he was a chef at the popular Mezzaluna restaurant. They married almost immediately, and stayed in Sydney for another six months. In February 1995 they planned to move to Adelaide together while he applied to study as a minister of religion in the Wesley Mission in Adelaide. On the way, they stopped off at the Cusack family home, a property called 'Corio' in Eurogilly in the Riverina.

It was here that things began to take a turn for the worse, as it became increasingly obvious that Helen's family were not happy about her new husband, and according to David they began to disrupt their lives, because they did not accept him. He decided to leave his new wife and return to Newcastle, where he stayed with some friends. Helen remained at Corio with her mother Celia, phoning him after a few days to say she wanted a month or so to think things over.

That month David got a temporary job at the National Training Board, starting on 21 March. He was also required to attend alcohol rehabilitation programs as part of his parole conditions, and he enrolled at Kedesh House in Wollongong in March 1995. He commenced the course, but left on 30 March and never went back.

On 1 April, a Saturday, David phoned Helen at Corio and spoke with Celia, asking her to give Helen a message to contact him. Helen then made several attempts to get in touch with David, who was now staying with friends in Lilyfield Rd, Rozelle (Douglas Kuhl and Gus Laviano). She eventually spoke to him at about 8:00am on Sunday 2nd. David told her that he had to be at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Canberra on Monday 3rd about possible deportation to his home country of Peru. He was going to take the bus that day to Canberra, and Helen agreed to meet him at the Joliment bus terminal in Canberra City. Helen also spoke to Doug Kuhl and said she'd organised David's bus ticket and booked a motel. David told Gus he had to go to Canberra for a breach of parole hearing.

Needless to say, there was no deportation hearing scheduled for Monday 3rd, or indeed for any other day. Nor was there any breach of parole hearing. Helen had apparently contacted the Department of Immigration back on March 7, stating that she wished to support the deportation application, but it was not clear whether David knew of this or not. At his request she prepared a letter stating that she and David had separated on March 2nd, but were on friendly terms.

David left Rozelle at about 6pm on Sunday night to catch the bus to Canberra, and Helen left home at about 9:45pm. She had ironed a white shirt for David to wear at the non-existent hearing. She hung this and a grey suit over a coathanger and took it with her in the car, a silver Mazda 626 hatchback. Her flatmate Erica Stevens confirmed all of this. She then drove to Joliment bus terminal, where she met David, and they drove to the Carotel Hotel in Watson, arriving at around 11:30pm. They registered under the name Barac, and were given room 32. Helen phoned Erica at about 12:45 am and told her she would be spending the night at the hotel with David.

She was never heard from or seen alive again.

David arrived back at Lilyfield Rd at about 10:00am on Monday 3rd. His first words to Doug Kuhl were "All hell's broken loose." He showed Doug a large open wound on the palm of his right hand, which was bleeding. Doug also saw a 3cm blood stain on the front of David's T-shirt. He said "Where's Helen?" David replied "She's at the hospital." He then asked if he could wash the car, and without waiting for an answer immediately began doing so in the back courtyard of the house.

A short time later Gus Laviano arrived back at the Rozelle house and asked David "What happened?" David said "I got into a fight and got stabbed in the hand". He then held out his hand and Gus saw a wound that appeared very deep and needed medical attention. He said "Why did you get into a fight?". David told him:
"When I got off the bus I was met by Helen and another fella. I said to Helen 'Who's this fella?' and he said 'Who are you talking to you piece of shit?'. I said to him 'Who are you calling a piece of shit? Your words are quite tough, lets see how tough you are - I'll give you a run'. All of a sudden this guy put his hand behind his back - I was puzzled - and the next thing I knew he had a knife". Later David told Gus "When I had the fight with the bloke, Helen threw me the keys".

David didn't give any more details after that. He gave the car keys to Gus, who put them in his own glovebox. The keys were in an Oroton leather case, and belonged to Helen.

Robert Longbottom, the security guard working at the Joliment bus terminal on the night of April 3rd, reported no fights or other incidents that night.

David then asked Gus to drive him to another friend's place at Wallsend, near Newcastle, which he agreed to do. On the way they stopped at about 11:45am at a medical practice belonging to Dr Chew in North Sydney, where David had the wound in his right palm stitched. Dr Chew's opinion was that the wound (2 lacerations) was a few hours old at that stage, and was inflicted by a knife. David told Dr Chew that he had arrived home at about 8:00am to find his wife in bed with another man, and that he punched him but the man stabbed him back.

Gus then continued driving David to the house of his friends Kim and Angela Maybury in Wallsend. They arrived at around 2:30 in the afternoon. David spent the afternoon there, and Kim drove him to Broadmeadow Railway station at around 7:30-8:00pm. David next turned up at his friend Troy Power's house in Mayfield, where he asked if he could stay the night. He left again at about midday the next day, saying he was going to catch the train back to Sydney.

On Tuesday 4th April, Celia Cusack phoned the Major Crime Squad of the Australian Federal Police, concerned for her daughter's welfare. This message was relayed to the State police. At about 3:30pm police arrived at the Lilyfield Rd address and saw Helen's car in the back courtyard. There was damage to the front bonnet, along with some blood stains. The car was locked, so were not able to search inside, but they saw a handbag on the front seat, which later turned out to be Helen's. The police then spoke to other occupants of the house, Paul Bocska and John Devitt, and asked them to tell David to contact Ashfield police.

David arrived back at the Rozelle house around 4:30pm, and Paul told him the police had visited, asking who had the keys to the car. David asked Paul if they had looked inside the car, and when Paul said yes, David started to panic. He climbed into the car and backed it out of the driveway, hitting the gatepost on the way. He drove quickly away. Little did they all know, the body of Helen Cusack (pictured below on her wedding day) had been in the boot the entire time.

To be continued...

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