29 June, 2010

Back in the Fifties...

On 13th December 1953 Dr Basto was charged with poisoning with intent to murder. The victim was his infant daughter, aged a little over two years. He was also charged with attempting to commit suicide.

Dr Basto was a qualified medical practitioner, with a practice in Sydney specialising in eye, ear, nose and throat. He was married in 1952, and they had one daughter (the victim of this offence). He and his wife separated in December 1952, and she had custody of the girl, although Dr Basto was entitled to access once a week or once a fortnight on Sundays, between the morning and 5pm.

Dr Basto lived in a flat in Elizabeth Bay. On Sunday 13th December, he arrived at his wife’s place in the morning to pick up his daughter. He said that he planned to take her to Newport for the day. However it seems his normal arrangements to have an assistant help him care for his daughter fell through, so he decided not to go to Newport and instead played with his daughter in a park near his flat.

At 5pm that afternoon Dr Basto had not returned his daughter to her other. She began phoning his flat at regular intervals from then until 9pm, when she decided to go to the local police station. She arrived at Dr Basto’s flat at around 10pm. The flat was in darkness - she knocked, but received no response. She waited outside the flat for about half an hour in case the Dr had gone somewhere, and then saw a light come on inside. She returned to the flat.

In the meantime, Dr Basto’s secretary, who had also been contacted in the search for the doctor, had managed to get into contact. She lived at the clinic, and had been telephoning his flat constantly from about 7:30pm. There was no answer, but she could hear it ringing. He eventually answered at about 10:30pm. His voice sounded slurred as he asked who was speaking, and when he learned who it was, he asked her to come to the flat.

When she entered the flat, she found it in serious disarray. The infant girl was lying on the floor of the bedroom, unconscious. She was fully clothed, except for shoes and socks. Dr Basto himself was lying on the bed, but he was semi-conscious and unable to get us. He was party clothed, but the left sleeve of his shirt was rolled up, and on his arm were the needle marks of hypodermic injections. Hanging nearby was a solution in a bottle with a rubber tube extending to the bedside, and at the end of the tube was a hypodermic needle. A second tube had been attached to a jet of the gas stove in the kitchen. This tube extended to the bedroom and had been attached to the bed, but the gas was not turned on, and the window was open. There were no hypodermic marks on the child’s arms.

Dr Basto’s secretary carefully inspected the child, then took her into another room and placed her on the bed. She then immediately telephoned the doctor who normally treated Dr Basto. Dr Basto asked her not the call the police, however she did so, as she had already telephoned them to report her concerns before the had left the clinic to come to Dr Basto’s flat. However when the child’s mother arrived at the door, having seen the light on, the secretary thought it best to tell her that the child was not in the flat.

Once the doctor arrived he immediately washed out the child’s stomach, then arranged for both her and her father to be taken to hospital. At the hospital the child was in a stupor, with pale skin and very shallow breathing. She was not responding to sound, and only slightly to the pinching of skin. Her pulse was slightly raised, but her temperature was normal. She remained in a coma for another eighteen hours, until her consciousness began to return. She was drowsy for another few days, and ended up contracting pneumonia.

Although it was clear that she had been drugged, doctors were not sure what type of drug was used. It was assumed to be a barbiturate, possibly morphine. Morphine, chloral hydrate and other drugs were found at Dr Basto’s flat, and each had evidence of recent use. Chloral hydrate is a sedative and hypnotic often used safely with children. Two days earlier, Dr Basto had called in at a chemist near his clinic and discussed with the chemist, who knew him well, the use of chloral hydrate, in particular how it was used for a child of three, as it was known to have an unpleasant taste. The doctor enquired about rectal use, and them bought a box of six ampoules of sodium pentathol.

Eventually the girl recovered in full from both the drug and the pneumonia.

When Dr Basto was admitted to hospital he was described as being delirious, as well as being in an irritable state. He was extremely difficult to examine, and was very noisy and unco-operative. He was diagnosed as recovering from a barbiturate, most likely sodium pentathol, an injectable barbiturate found at his flat. It was also found in the remaining liquid in the suspended bottle, the tube that led from it, and the hypodermic needle. There were also phials of morphine sulphate, including another hypodermic syringe that had been recently used, and contained a residue of morphine sulphate.

Dr Basto gave a long unsworn statement at his trial, stating that he was so overwrought with his domestic troubles and the loneliness that he felt, that on the Sunday afternoon became determined to take his life. He decided to do this by asphyxiating himself with gas from the stove, but decided against this because he did not want to kill his child. What he wanted to do was die with his child in his arms, so he decided to use sodium pentathol. While he was making his preparations he saw the bottle of chloral hydrate on the table and took a dose. It began to take effect on him and he was hazy. However the child would not stay quiet in his arms, so he mixed some chloral hydrate with icecream and gave it to her, with the idea of making her drowsy so that she would stay in his arms for his last moments. He said he had no intention of harming her.

The main issue at Dr Basto’s trial was whether he gave the child the poison with intent to murder her, as he was charged. The Crown case pointed to the evidence of his secretary, who said he was barely conscious when she found him. She said he was largely unintelligible, although she said he asked for a tourniquet and a syringe. He would not answer the questions of the doctor who came to the flat, except to say that he would not tell what happened. At the hospital he also refused to answer questions except after some repeated badgering about what drug he had given the child, he eventually said ‘morphia’. When his wife came to visit him just after midnight at the hospital and asked him what he had done with their child, he answered “oh she will be better off”. His wife described him as anything but normal - he was raving a lot and saying stupid and incomprehensible things.

The following morning the doctor was described as excitable but rational, but could not remember what had happened. The police came to see him at around 7am:
“The accused was lying in bed. I said to him ‘Are you Dr Basto?’, he said ‘Yes, who are you?’, I said ‘I am Detective Sergeant Holmes of Darlinghurst and I have come down to see how you are and try and find out what happened last night’. He said ‘You are my friend, I will tell you. I took poison to kill myself and kill my little girl and take her with me’. I said ‘What kind of poison did you take?’ He said ‘I will tell you later if I live. I do not want to talk about it now. Please go away and let me die’. I said “if you tell me what poison you gave the little girl the doctor might be able to save her life’. He said ‘I won’t talk anymore’. I then left him.”

Detective Sergeant Holmes then visited the doctor’s flat, then returned to the doctor’s bedside at about 10:45 that morning:
“I said to him ‘I have been down to your flat and I am going to tell you certain things and ask you certain questions which you need not answer unless you desire’. He said ‘I do not want to hear anything, let me die’. I showed him the morphine phial produced and said ‘Is this what you gave your little girl?’ He said ‘I want to die, let me die’. I repeated my question to him and he kept repeating the words over and over again ‘I want to die, let me die’. I was of the opinion it was useless trying to carry on a conversation.”

He was released from the hospital that afternoon, and having been ‘deemed insane’, was lodged in the police reception for a week. He was visited by his solicitor who advised him to make no statement to police. When he was discharged, he was interviewed once more by police, but gave the same answer to every questions - that he had been advised by his solicitor not to make a statement. Det. Sgt. Holmes finally asked “Don’t you want to give any explanation of why your room was set up in the manner I have described, and why you attempted to take your own life and the life of your child?’ He said ‘I do not want to make any statement’.” Det. Sgt. Holmes gave evidence of this in court:
“Q: Then did you show him the morphia phial which has been made an exhibit?
A: Yes, I showed him that and I said ‘Is this what you gave your child?’
Q: Then you said ‘I found this on your kitchen sink drain board. Is that what you gave to your child?’
A: Yes.
Q: After the accused said “I do not want to make a statement’?
A: Yes.
Q: What followed that?
A: I then said to him ‘Do you remember speaking to us at St Vincents Hospital on the morning of the 14th of this month?’, he said ‘Yes. That is when I wanted to die’. I said ‘Do you remember saying to us that you had taken poison to kill yourself and kill your little girl, to take her with you?’ and he said ‘Yes’. I said ‘Remember me asking you what kind of poison you gave the little girl and you said you would tell us later, if you lived? Dr De Meyrick has informed me that you told Dr Maguire that you gave the child morphia. Is that right?’ He said ‘Yes, I have been through time with my relatives and I would not care if it was all ended. I have nothing to live for now’. I said to him ‘You are going to be charged with the attempted murder of your daughter and attempted suicide’. He said ‘I understand that’.”

The defence argued that Dr Basto had only given the child chloral hydrate, which was commonly used as a safe child sedative, and therefore he never had the intention to kill his child.

Dr Basto was convicted of the attempted murder of his daughter, and his own attempted suicide. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and all his appeals failed.

The rule of law that it is a crime to commit suicide, or attempt to do so, was formally done away with in 1983.

26 June, 2010

One fight too many...

Dale and Sharon Barry were married in 1992, following a short relationship, in which he’d been found guilty of assaulting her two months before the wedding. Dale against assaulted his new bride on her wedding night. He was convicted again, and given a community service order (despite being on a good behaviour bond for the previous assault). Dale and Sharon separated, but began living together again within a few months.

Sharon already had two other children by two other men: Tara, born in 1985, and Benjamin, born in 1991. She also had two daughters with Dale - Jaimyn and Ashlee, born 1993 and 1995 respectively.

The marriage continued, with disagreements, and at least one further episode of violence. In 1996 Dale struck Sharon on her jaw, resulting in a restraining order (AVO) being taken out against him, and the couple separated once more.

During this time Dale still had access to his children and step-children. In 1997, he accompanies them all on a holiday to Bateman’s Bay. Sharon and Dale began living together once more after that, despite the AVO still being in place. This lasted until October 1997, when there was a further episode of violence, this time involving Sharon’s son Benjamin. Another AVO was imposed and Dale moved out, seeking access to his kids.

During this time Dale admitted himself to Nolan House at Albury Base Hospital for treatment for his alcoholism. After that, he stayed with workmates Arthur Milgate and Angela Harris. Two weeks after his discharge from hospital, he told Angela he intended to kill his wife. However Angela talked him out of it, or so she believed.

In December 1997, Sharon told Dale he was no longer allowed access to the children. Two days later, Dale was seen drinking at the Boomerang Hotel at Lavington. At 12:30am he was seen by the supervisor of the Hotel standing by his car, which was parked around the back. He then made his way to the family home at Springvale, arriving at around 2am.

There were no signs of forced entry, so it was not clear if he let himself in with keys, or if Sharon let him in. They immediately began to argue about access to the kids. The remaining evidence came from Tara, as Dale subsequently claimed complete amnesia.

Tara saw them both in the main bedroom, Dale on top of Sharon. Tara returned to her bedroom and stood in the doorway, where she saw Dale walk down the hall towards the kitchen. As he passed Tara, he turned to face her, and stabbed her in the upper abdomen. The wound was 2-3cm wide and 6-7cm long, penetrating her liver. Such a wound required significant thrust.

Dale then forced Tara and Sharon into the kitchen and forced them to the floor. He then stabbed Sharon four times - three on her right breast and one in her upper right arm. The main wound was in the middle of her right breast, 2cm wide and 16cm long. It penetrated a major blood vessel in her lungs, leading to blood loss and death.

Dale left the kitchen, leaving Sharon and Tara bleeding on the floor. He went to attend to the younger children, who had been disturbed by the noise. When he returned, he picked up a padded stool from the kitchen and began to beat Sharon around the face and head with it. She sustained about five blunt force wounds, plus lacerations to her face, nose and cheek, and defensive wounds.

While Dale remained in the house, Tara managed to make it back to her bedroom, where she lay on her bed until she heard him leave. She then made it to Benjamin’s room and told him to get help. Benjamin ran next door to Mrs Grelli’s house, who came in, saw the blood and called the police.

Dale pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sharon at his trial. He formally admitted to attacking her, with intent to at least do her grievous bodily harm, but claimed he had a defence of ‘diminished responsibility’ - i.e his mental state, his depression and possible mood disorders, caused him to lose control. The issue of provocation was also raised - with the aim of reducing the conviction to manslaughter.

The jury clearly rejected both defences.

Dale was convicted of murdering his wife Sharon, and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent to his step-daughter Tara. The Judge felt ‘grievous bodily harm’ did not do justice to Tara’s injuries, which were likely to result in significant morbidity in the future.

In sentencing Dale, his mental state was relevant in mitigation, however the Judge found there was no real ‘loss of control’. Dale came from an unfortunate background - his father was killed in a road accident when he was young, and he had a violent step-father. His biggest problem was alcohol, although he occasionally smoked pot and used heroin. He claimed to be remorseful for what he had done, and said he loved his own children very much, but this was diminished by his past episodes of violence against his step-children.

For the murder of Sharon, Dale Barry was sentenced to 24 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 18 years. For the wounding of Tara, he received a fixed term of 12 years, to be served at the same time.

He will be eligible for release in December 2015.

23 June, 2010

Calabrian conflict

Domenico Barca, his sister Grazzia and her husband Raffaele Petula were all born in the Italian province of Calabria. Domenico and his family had emigrated to Australia some twenty-two years prior, and has been a naturalized Australian citizen for fourteen years. He lived with his wife in Cambridge Park, NSW, and the Petulas lived in St Marys.

For most of 1973, Grazzia and her husband had been having arguments, not only about money, but also his personal behaviour, towards other women, and his children.

On the morning of 27th September 1973 Domenico was helping Raffaele build a shed on his land at St Marys. They all ate lunch together at around 11:30am. After, Domenico and Raffaele left in Domenico’s car. Domenico said he then dropped Raffaele at the train station at around 12:45, to catch the train to work. Domenico then said he went to two hardware shops to buy nails, and returned to Raffaele’s at around 1pm. He remained there working on the shed until returning home to Cambrige Park at around 5:45pm.

Raffaele was seen at a bar in St Mary’s at around 12:30 to 1pm that day, and had ordered a schooner of beer and a schooner of lemonade. He was not seen again.

On Friday evening, 28 September 1973, Raffaele’s body was found in a rubbish dump in a lonely area of bush at Llandilo, NSW. It was partially concealed by some branches, a mudguard and a sheet of felt. It appeared he had been shot twice in the head with a .22 rifle. His skull was fractured, and in the opinion of the doctor performing the post-mortem, this was most likely caused by heavy clubbing over and around the head with a blunt object or instrument. There were some marks on his limbs that suggested he might have been dragged by two persons, but there was also evidence that Raffaele had been shot at or near the place where he was found.

The doctor was of the opinion that death occurred approximately twenty-four to twenty-eight hours before the post-mortem examination took place, as rigor mortis had set in. This placed time of death between 7:30pm and 11:30pm on Thursday 27th September 1973. However, the Crown case was that the murder occurred between 1:00pm and 3:00pm on Thursday 27th, and that the doctor was in error in her estimation of the time of death. The contents of Raffaele’s stomach were an important factor in arriving at this determination. On the day, he had eaten a meal at 11:30am, of potato chips, olives, cheese, salami and capsicum or chilli. The state of digestion of the food indicated that he would have died at most an hour after eating.

Domenico initially claimed that he had an alibi at the time, namely that he was purchasing roofing nails at a local store. However there was some question that these invoices may have been altered. He was interviewed about this by police:
“Q: You will remember that on thr 4th October this year, you came to this police station.
A: Yes, I remember.
Q: At the same time you produced these two receipts to me: (Domenico is shown Receipt No. 36 from Gabriels Builders Hardware, dated 27.9.73; and Receipt No. 42461 from Homemakers Store dated 26.9.73) Are those the two receipts you showed to me?
A: Yes
Q: Do you agree that at the time you produced those receipts to me you told me that you were given them at the time you obtained the nails?
A: Yes
Q: And do you agree that at the time you handed me those receipts they were in a very crumpled condition?
A: Yes
Q: Do you remember that when you handed me those receipts I asked why they were crumpled?
A: Yes, I told you I had them in my pocket since I got the nail.
Q: Since 4th October, we have made enquiries at Gabriels Hardware Store, St Marys, and have been informed that Receipt No. 36 was not issued to you at the time you got the nails at all, but was issued to you on 2nd October, and at your request back-dated to 27th September 1973. Have you anything to say about that?
A: I went there on Tuesday and asked them to give me a receipt for the nail and the lady was there. I wanted to see the one that served me, but he wasn’t there, and I say I bought four pound of nail and they didn’t give me the receipt. I said ‘Do you remember the time I left here was about five to one?’. She say ‘I can’t remember’.
Q: Why did you go back to Gabriels on Tuesday and ask them for a receipt dated 27 September?
A: It was very important to me to have the receipt.
Q: Why was it very important to you?
A: So if anyone ask me I could say that’s my receipt where I bought the nail.
Q: Why was it important to show anyone where you bought the nails?
A: If someone ask me it handy to have.
Q: And do you say that is the only reason why you went back to Gabriels and had the receipt back-dated?
A: The only reason.
Q: We have also made enquiries at Homemakers Store at St Marys, and have been informed that on Tuesday 4th October, you also visited that store and asked for this Receipt No. 42461 for two pound of nails to be back-dated to 26th September 1973. Why did you do that?
A: If anyone ask me for the receipt it handy to have it.
Q: And do you ask for receipts for everything you buy?
A: Yes.
Q: Do you normally get the receipts at the time you buy the articles?
A: It never worry me if I get or not.
Q: If it does not worry you if you get the receipts or not, why did you go back and especially get these receipts back-dated?
A: When I been here first I did not have the receipt with me, and then I better go back and ask to give me the receipt, to show to you where I been that days.
Q: Why didn’t you tell Detective Sergeant Sawyer that you did not have a receipt for the nails, but if he went to the store the people would remember you?
A: No one ask me, I not worry about it.
Q: But you did worry enough about it to go back to the store and ask them to back-date the receipt for you?
A: Yes.
Q: And do you agree that you asked the woman at Gabriels Hardware to write on the docket that you purchased the nails about one o’clock?
A: I ask her to put a time on the receipt and told her I was there about five t one and she told me they don’t put time on the receipt.
Q: When you asked her to put a time on the receipt, was that to try and show that you were at Gabriels Building Store purchasing nails about one o’clock on the Thursday 27th September 1973?
A: Yes.
Q: And do you agree that when the man at the Homemakers Store first wrote this receipt (Domenico shown Receipt No. 42461) that he put the date of the docket 2nd September 1973?
A: Yes, I agree.
Q: And do you agree that you asked him to alter the date to 26th September?
A: Yes
Q: And we have been informed that he overwrote the 26th over the date, and then you said to him ‘That is no good, I don’t want it written over, I will have to have another docket’?
A: Yes, I tell him that.
Q: Would you care to tell me why you didn’t want it written over?
A: To make him careful, he do it properly next time.
Q: I suggest to you that the reason you did not want the date altered was that you wanted anyone inspecting that docket (points to Receipt No. 42461), that docket, to believe that it was written out on 26.9.73?
A: Yes. Could I have a glass of water?”

Ammunition that matched the kind used to kill Raffaele was found under Domenico’s house, hidden in a sock. Domenico initially denied having a rifle, but the police told him were going to search his house for a rifle the next day. Immediately upon leaving the police station he returned home, and at 2am emerged carrying a large parcel. He put it inside his car and drove off towards the Nepean River. The police intercepted his car and found the rifle under the back seat, wrapped in material with a sock over the end of the barrel. This matched the sock in which the ammunition was found. Domenico later told police that he had found the rifle buried under his house:
“Q: How did you come to find this gun?
A: After I leave you last time, I was worried about the bullets that were found under my house. I couldn’t go to sleep, I got my lead light out and got under the house and found the gun.
Q: I find it difficult to believe that any person would make a search underneath their house at two o’clock in the morning on the off-chance that a gun might be hidden there. Further, from what you have told us, it is apparent that at the time you were spoken to by the Police, you were headed away from the Penrith Police Station, and in fact were driving towards the river or the gravel pits. Have you anything to say about that?
A: All right, I will tell you. When you told me last night that the Police would come back in the morning to look again for the gun, I knew they would find it, so I dig it up and put it in my car. I never tell my wife. She had a headache, so I told her I would go to the chemist to get something for her. I knew I had to get rid of the gun tonight.
Q: Is this the gun used to kill Raffaele Petula?
A: Yes.”

Later in the police interview:
“Q: We have been informed that during the morning of Thursday 27th September 1973, Raffaele and your sister Grazzia had a very big argument at the house, in your presence. What do you have to say about that?
A: I can’t answer that question.
Q: We have been informed that during the course of this argument your sister Grazzia accused Raffaele of misbehaving towards his daughters. Have you anything to say about that?
A: I can’t answer that.
Q: As at the morning of Thursday 27th September 1973, did you know that Raffaele and your sister Grazzia had had many fights about money, land, and Raffaele’s conduct towards his daughters?
A: That is their business. I won’t answer that.
Q: Di you know that Raffaele is well known in the public bar of the St Mary’s Hotel?
A: I wouldn’t know this.
Q: We have made inquiries at the St Marys Hotel, and we have been informed that Raffaele did not go to the public bar of that hotel on the afternoon of Thursday 27th September. We have also made enquiries at the St Marys Railway Station and have been informed that Raffaele did not catch the 1.03pm train or the 1.18pm train from that Railway Station on that day. Have you anything to say about that?
A: I dropped him there and he go to work.
Q: We have made inquiries at the shops in Queen Street, and from the taxi drivers operating from the taxi rank at the St Marys Railway Station, and not one person saw Raffaele in Queen Street, or near the St Marys Railway Station on the afternoon of Thursday 27th September 1973. Although he was seen in the area by a number of people on the preceding Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Have you anything to say about that?
A: I still say I left him at the taxi rank at twelve forty five.
Q: We have caused the photograph of Raffaele to be published in the local newspapers, and requested that any person who saw him in between the time you say you left him at the St Marys Railway Station and when he was found in the bush at Llandilo, to contact the police, but not one person has reported seeing Raffaele after you say you left him. Have you anything to say about that?
A: No, I have nothing to say about that. I left him at the station, that’s it.
Q: If you had left him at the station as you say, would you expect some person to have seen him somewhere after you had driven away?
A: Oh yeah.
Q: We have been informed that between 12 noon and 2.30pm on Thursday 27th September 1973, two persons saw Raffaele in the public bar of the Waggon Wheel Hotel, which is situated in the Great Western Highway, St Marys. Have you anything to say about that?
A: Well, look, I have nothing to say about that.
Q: We have been informed that Raffaele was served with a schooner of beer and a schooner of lemonade which he carried from the hotel into the street. Do you know anything about that?
A: I know nothing about that.
Q: Do you deny that you were the person to whom Raffaele took the schooner of lemonade on that day?
A: I have nothing to say about that.
Q: Do you agree that when I interviewed you on 4th October 1973, that you told me that you did not like beer very much?
A: Yes, I agree with that.
Q: And do you also agree that during the course of the same interview you told me that you often preferred to drink a schooner of lemonade?
A: Sometime.
Q: Have you been to the Waggon Wheel Hotel at St Marys with Raffaele?
A: Yes, on Wednesday night I go there with him from my sister’s place. I was to go home and he say to me ‘You drop me at the pub’. I drop him at the pub, and he say ‘You come in’. I go in with him and I had a lemonade and he had a beer. Then he said ‘You have another one’. I say ‘No, I go home now’. He say ‘All right’, and I drive him back home to his place, and I reach my place at ten o’clock. That was a late night I had.
Q: On that occasion which bar did you have the drink?
A: We had the drink in the bar on the corner of the street.
Q: Did you drink the lemonade on the bar?
A: Yes.
Q: And how many beers did Raffaele have on that occasion?
A: He had only one.
Q: Did you and Raffaele drink your drink whilst you were standing at the bar?
A: Yes.
Q: When you drove Raffaele to him home on Thursday 27th September 1973, did he have his coat with him?
A: I don’t remember.
Q: We have been informed that when Raffaele went to the Waggon Wheel Hotel and bought the glass of beer and the glass of lemonade he was wearing his coat, that is on Thursday 27th September 1973. Have you anything to say about that?
A: When I drop him at the station at twelve forty-five, he no have a coat. He have the shirt with the sleeve rolled up.
Q: Are you absolutely sure of that?
A: Oh yeah, sure.
Q: What makes you so sure?
A: I remember it.
Q: What makes you so sure?
A: I remember it.
Q: Do you remember being interviewed by Detective Sergeant Sawyer at the Penrith Police Station on 30th September, this year?
A: Oh yeah
Q: Do you remember Sergeant Sawyer saying to you ‘Can you tell me what clothing Raffaele was wearing when you last saw him?’, can you remember him asking you that?
A: Yes.
Q: And do you remember telling the Sergeant ‘I know he was wearing a shirt with squares, I didn’t much notice’.
A: Yes.
Q: Well, do you agree that there is no mention there that Raffaele is not wearing a coat?
A: Well, he probably not ask me.
Q: Do you know that Raffaele’s coat was found back at his house after he was found dead?
A: No.
Q: Were you at the Petula home all day Friday 28th September 197u3?
A: Yes.
Q: And were you there on Saturday 29th September 1973?
A: Yes
Q: Were you there on Sunday 30th September 1973?
A: Yes
Q: Were you there on Monday 1st October 1973?
A: Yes.
Q: And do you still say that you have no knowledge that Raffaele’s coat was found in the kitchen of his home after he was found dead?
A: I don’t know.
Q: If Raffaele was wearing that coat when he was served with the lemonade and beer at the Waggon Wheel Hotel on Thursday 27th September, can you tell me any way it could get back into his house if he did not return to the house or leave the coat in your car?
A: I can’t answer that.
Q: When you were last spoken to by the Police, you did not say anything about seeing Francesca going to the school at the time you arrived back at your sister’s place. Can you tell us why you did not say this before?
A: Probably I forgot.
Q: We interviewed your sister Grazzia here today and for the first time since this inquiry began, she informed us that you arrived at her home on Thursday 27th September just when Francesca was stepping into the school yard. Do you think it unusual that both you and your sister though of this incident which set the time of your return to your sister’s place?
A: No, not unusual.
Q: Would you agree that this may suggest that you and your sister Grazzia have talked about this and decided to tell the Police that the time you got back to your sister’s place on that day was just when Francesca was walking back into the school?
A: Definitely not.
Q: We have been informed that since the death of Raffaele you had a conversation with Grazzia at her house, and she ask you why you did not return to the house until two o’clock on Thursday 27th September, and you said you were buying the nails, and not to mention it to the Police. Did that conversation take place?
A: Definitely not.
Q: We have been informed that between 28 September and 4th October 1973 you were at your sister Grazzia’s home, and you were overheard to say ‘For money or anything else Calabrians will let you go, but for honour they will kill you for sure’. Did you say that?
A: Yes, I did say that.
Q: And what did you mean by that?
A: What I said.
Q: Were you suggesting that Raffaele was not killed for money or anything else, but for honour and nothing else?
A: Yes.
Q: And did Mrs Petula say ‘That’s for sure. Whoever kill him, kill him for honour and nothing else. They put a cross on him by shooting him one in the nose and one in the ear’. Did she say that?
A: I didn’t hear her say that.
Q: Did you hear anyone say that they had put a cross on Raffaele?
A: No.”

Domenico was interviewed again in November of that year:
“Q: I am now going to ask you some questions in relation to the murder of Raffaele Petula on Thursday 27th September 1973.
A: You have got the gun and you have got me. What more do you want?
Q: From our inquiries, we believe that you did not drive Petula to the St Marys Railway Station as you have previously stated, but went with him to the Waggon Wheel Hotel at St Marys. Is that right?
A: You know where I went, I am the only one Raffaele would buy lemonade for.
Q: We believe that within one hour of leaving the Petula home, you drove him to an area of bushland at Llandilo where, after hitting him over the head, you killed him by shooting him twice in the head with that gun (points to rifle on table).
A: That’s the gun all right, but I don’t want to tell you what happened until after I see my father.
Q: Were any other persons involved in the shooting of Petula?
A: I won’t answer that.
Q: Would you care to tell us why Raffaele Petula was murdered?
A: Because he is a mongrel, that’s why.
Q: What time do you say you arrived back at your sister Grazzia’s place that afternoon?
A: What did she tell you?
Q: I am not prepared to tell you what your sister told me at this time.
A: After I have seen her I will tell you.
Q: We are satisfied that you were responsible for the death of Raffaele Petula, and you will be charged with his murder. Is there anything further that you want to tell us, or any statement you wish to make before we complete this interview?
A: (long pause… Barca starts to cry). I have lost everything. My wife, my beautiful children. It would be better if the mongrel was still alive. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I am finished with it. All I want to do is go home to my family.”

A fellow Calabrian, Salvatore Manna, was called as a witness by the Crown, and gave evidence of what he said was a Calabrain custom - if a woman was dishonoured by her husband, he was liable to be killed according to a special custom, called ‘putting a cross on him’. The husband would be shot twice through the head. One bullet was to be fired through the nose, and the other through the ear, so that the path of the two bullets intersected in the skull to form a cross.

Salvatore further stated that the first responsibility to vindicate the honour of a woman rests upon her father. He was cross-examined about this:
“Q: Do you know very much about this Calabrian custom that you have mentioned?
A: Only what I have heard and been brought up with, you know.
Q: Is this something you came to know about in the first twelve years of your life in Calabria, or have you heard it among people in Australia?
A: No, well, I have been brought up in the Calabrian custom way, and what I have heard amongst Calabrians.”

Grazzia and Domenico Barca’s father Carmello lived at Llandilo, not far from where Raffaele‘s body was found, however there was no evidence at all that Mr Barca Snr was implicated in the murder.

Although the Crown case was circumstantial, the evidence, when taken together, was compelling. The ammunition under the house, the attempt to dispose of the gun, the attempt to create an alibi with the hardware receipts, the sighting of the pair at the Waggon Wheel on the afternoon of the killing, and Raffaele’s coat somehow returning to his house without him.

The defence on the other hand contended that the time of Raffaele’s death was in the evening of the 27th, according to the post mortem report, and that Domenico was at home with his family by this time and could not have committed the offence. The defence asked the jury to reject the Crown’s argument that the killing occurred in the early afternoon, and pointed to evidence of other food in Raffaele’s stomach that were not part of the luncheon meal at Domenico’s. The defence also pointed out that the man who discovered the body had been in the area at the time the Crown say the killing occurred, and had not heard any shots.

The defence also argued that the evidence could just as easily point to Domenico’s father Carmello Barca having killed Raffaele, particularly in light of the Calabrian custom. Domenico was merely hiding the gun and ammo for his father.

It emerged during the course of the trial that Carmello Barca had in fact shot and killed a Mr Perri, the first husband of his daughter Grazzia Petula. Apparently he had also been incensed at Raffaele’s behaviour, and had threatened him on more than one occasion with dire physical consequences.

The defence suggested that after lunch, and a drink together on Thursday, Domenico had in fact driven his brother-in-law Raffaele to his father Carmello’s house and left him there, returning to Grazzia’s house.

Grazzia Petula initiall maintained that Domenico had returned to her house at 1pm that day. However, at the trial, she admitted that he had not in fact returned until around 3pm. She said that she had earlier given a false statement because Carmello Barca, her father, had threatened to stab her if she did not.

Nonetheless the trial judge directed the jury that there was absolutely no evidence that the father had been involved, despite the submissions of defence counsel, and that even if he had encouraged his son to follow out the Calabrian honour killing, this did not absolve Domenico’s guilt, as the mere executioner.

Domenico did not give evidence at his trial, but made a short statement from the dock:
“There are some things with reference to this case that I do not want to say. What I do want to say is that I did not see Raffaele Petula alive after Thursday. I did not kill him or take any part in his killing. I personally do not follow this custom, this Calabrian custom, to kill for honour. I cannot say anything else in reference to this, but please believe me, I am not guilty. That is all.”

The jury convicted and Domenico was sentenced to life. He immediately appealed his conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal, which dismissed it. He took his appeal further, to the High Court.

The High Court felt the trial judge was wrong to tell the jury that there was absolutely no evidence that Carmello Barca had been involved. Whilst it was correct that Carmello himself was not on trial, there was in fact some circumstantial evidence that pointed to his involvement, at the very least. Whilst the High Court acknowledged that there was insufficient evidence to charge Carmello with Raffaele’s murder, there was enough to put a reasonable doubt in the mind of the jury as to whether Domenico had in fact shot his brother-in-law. It would certainly go a long way to explaining Raffaele’s rather cryptic statements about what he could tell, and what he could not.

The High Court quashed Domenico’s conviction.

20 June, 2010

A brutal beating

In 1995 Blanch, Taylor and Matthews were all in prison together in Broken Hill, for various offences. In the months leading up to October they concocted a plan to escape together. Blanch covertly made three copies of the keys which would open the lock on the door of his cell, which he shared with Taylor. On October 26 he managed to break the latch system on the storeroom door, which went unnoticed by guards. By about 6pm, Taylor and Blanch were locked away in their cell, No. 13.

Matthews was not to be locked up until 9pm, as he had a 'C' classification that gave him much more freedom within the jail. Blanch and Taylor were still classified 'B'. All three men were aware that after the 'C' prisoners were locked away at 9pm, the guards did not come around again to check any of the cells by opening the doors, or checking the observation panel.

At about 8pm Matthews opened up the door of cell No. 13 using one of Blanch's keys. Blanch left the cell and hid in the storeroom. Matthews was then locked inside cell 13 with Taylor, and they made up the beds to look like they were both occupied. Not long afterwards Blanch left his hiding spot in the storeroom and used another key to let Matthews and Taylor out. They all went and hid in the storeroom together until about 9:20pm. Matthews grabbed some wire cutters and other tools while he was there. Blanch changed out of his prison greens into civilian clothes.

They made their way out to the back compound area and Blanch used the wire cutters to cut the razor wire, and pinned it back with a hook. They managed to get a rope that they had made out of a series of sheets tied together earlier by Blanch and Taylor up over the wall, and once it was in position they made it to the top of the wall and down the other side, to the outside of the jail.

They all headed straight to the Lodge Motel in Broken Hill. Blanch managed to check in, as he was not dressed in prison greens, after which Matthews and Taylor went out to get some civilian clothes, as well as some liquor. They came back to room No. 16 at the Motel and had drinks to celebrate their successful escape. Once that ran out, they tried to get the night officer of the motel to open up so they could gain access to another hotel room, which was occupied by two older people, including Mr Curran.

Mr Curran was a state public servant, who was also spending the night at the Lodge Motel for work. As it turned out, although he'd shut the door to his room, he had not locked it properly, and the three men managed to get in easily. They desperately needed money to continue with their plans. Mr Curran had very little cash on him, so they became determined to wring his PIN number out of him.

Although it was not easy to establish who exactly did what to poor Mr Curran, there was no doubt he was subjected to a brutal and terrifying experience. He was tied up, tortured in various way including having his eyes gouged, kicked and punched all over, and eventually stabbed several times. These assaults went on for a lengthy period of time, and left Mr Curran with permanent debilitating injuries. After being admitted to hospital, he had to undergo several surgeries in an attempt to fix some of the physical damage done to him. As for the psychological damage, needless to say that is ongoing.

Before the three escapees could finish their job they were discovered and again made their escape, seizing Mr Curran's car keys and making off in his car. However they were quickly caught by the police and returned to custody.

Simon Taylor was found to be the man who inflicted the stab wounds. He pleaded guilty to malicious wounding with intent to commit grievous bodily harm, robbery in company, escaping lawful custody and stealing a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to a fixed term of five years for the malicious wounding, two years for the robbery, and one year for stealing the car - all to be served at the same time. For escaping lawful custody he received a sentence of four years and nine months with a non-parole period of one year and nine months, to be served after the completion of the five-year malicious wounding sentence. So his total time in custody was nine years and nine months, with a non-parole period of six years and nine months.

Lance Matthews pleaded guilty to malicious wounding with intent to inflict GBH, robbery in company, escaping lawful custody and stealing a motor vehicle. For the malicious wounding he was sentenced to a fixed term of three years, for the robbery he received two years, and one year for stealing the car - again, all to be served at the same time. For the escape he received three years imprisonment, with a non-parole period. This sentence was also to start at the end of the three-year malicious wounding sentence. So the effective total was six years with a non-parole period of four years.

Peter Blanch pleaded guilty to malicious wounding with intent to inflict GBH, escaping lawful custody and stealing a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to a fixed term of four years imprisonment for the malicious wounding, and one year for stealing the car. For the escape he was sentenced to five years with a non-parole period of two years, to start at the end of the four-year malicious wounding sentence. The total was nine years with a non-parole period of six years.

The reason the wounding, robbery and car-theft offences are served at the same time is because they were committed at the same time, arising out of one set of factual circumstances. However, it is the law that sentences for escape are always added onto the end of any existing sentence.

Simon Taylor was due for release in July 2005, Peter Blanch in October 2004, and Lance Matthews in October 2002.

18 June, 2010

Korean clubs

Bae Shang and Chai Chong were business associates, who owned a number of restaurants and bars in the Sydney area, including the Ehwa Karaoke Bar in Kings Cross. They were both Korean Nationals.

In early 1997 a violent fight had taken place at the Beewon Restaurant in Kings Cross, involving another Korean national and known gangster, Duck Kim. Lee Sang, an employee at Beewon, fled the scene, hiding at the Ehwa Karaoke Bar. Concern began to grow among Korean businessmen in Sydney that Korean gangs were causing trouble at businesses owned by Korean nationals.

On January 30th, Duck Kim and Dok Kim arrived at Ehwa. Bae and Chai became worried about their presence. Bae announced “I will teach them a lesson”. Chai contacted Lee Sang and others, asking them to come to Ehwa, because there were gangsters present.

A trio arrived including Lee Sang, and they noticed Duck Kim and Dok Kim sitting outside Ehwa in a car. An attack swiftly followed, with Lee punching Dok twice through the open window of the driver’s seat. The other two dragged Duck out of the car, as Dok and Lee continued to struggle.

Chai and Bae emerged from the garage of Ehwa carrying broken pieces of a hatstand as wooden batons. They joined in the fight, and Duck and Dok were dragged back into the garage by all five. Bae was continually striking Duck with his home-made baton. Others also continued to attack Dok. Bae then stood back while the others dragged the pair upstairs to another room, and continued their assault.

Sang Lee eventually came back down and told Bae to arrange for Duck and Dok to be taken to hospital - they were driven to St Vincents and left there. Both died at the hospital.

The cause of death was found to be multiple blunt force head injuries.

Bae and Chai were arrested shortly afterwards, and Sang Lee, who fled Australia, was eventually arrested in New Zealand. The others involved were not found, having also fled the country.

Bae and Chai were charged with murder and stood trial together. As an alternative to the murder charge, they were also charged with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm. Bae acquitted of murder but found guilty of the alternative GBH charge.

Sang Lee similarly pleaded guilty to maliciously inflicting GBH.

Chai was convicted of manslaughter.

The maximum penalty for maliciously inflicting GBH is seven years imprisonment. Bae was sentenced to a total of five years, with a non-parole period of three years and three months.

Sang Lee was sentenced on two years, with a non-parole period of one year and nine months. The Judge found that Bae’s role in the events was much greater that Lee’s, who was only found to be responsible for punching and wrestling with Dok. Sang had also pleaded guilty, and gave evidence against Bae and Chai.

Bae appealed his sentence on the basis that it should have been similar to Lee’s. Bae submitted that Lee had started the fight by punching Dok through the car window. However the Appeal Court felt Bae had really started it by saying he would teach them a lesson and summoning Lee and his friends to the scene.

16 June, 2010

She stabbed herself... over and over again?

Mansour Aala was charged with wounding his wife, Mary Razi, with intent to murder her, or at the very least, cause her grievous bodily harm. He went to trial, but the jury only convicted him or malicious wounding. He was sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of one year and nine months. Despite this favourable result, Mr Aala appealed against his conviction, without legal representation. The Crown also appealed, stating that Mr Aala’s sentence was too lenient, in light of the severity of the offence.

Ms Razi’s account of events was basically that her husband attacked her, beginning with punches to the face and head, after which he took to her with a knife. She was found with multiple stab wounds to the head, chest, abdomen, and both arms and legs. One chest wound penetrated the lung, and the abdomen wound penetrated the liver. Surgery was required to treat the wounds, and in the course of the operation it was discovered that her diaphragm had also been perforated. In total there were five or six stab wounds to the left chest, five or six stab wounds to the upper abdomen, two or three stab wounds on each arm, more stab wounds on her right leg, and a wound to the ear, over the angle of the jaw. Ms Razi was hospitalised for ten to 15 days, and her scars were still visible some four months later.

Mr Aala, in his defence, stated that Ms Razi had in fact inflicted these wounds upon herself, or at least partly, and that she also stabbed herself by accident when she fell down.

The jury, by its verdict, found that the wounds were all deliberately inflicted by Mr Aala, but they were not satisfied that he intended to kill her, or cause her grievous bodily harm.

Mr Aala set out his appeal in a letter to the Principal Registrar of the Appeal Court, which did not contain any real legal principle, and instead amounted to a repetition of his case at trial, namely that Ms Razi’s wounds were all self-inflicted, and that she had lied about what had occurred.

In particular, he asserted that his wife had attacked him on many occasions in the past, and that she had a financial motive to lie about this incident, because she had demanded $300,000 from him that he had not paid.

These reasons were rejected by the Appeal Court. Putting aside any alleged prior attacks, or extortion attempts, the Court found that it was extremely unlikely that such extensive and serious wounds were caused accidentally, or even deliberately, by Ms Razi’s own hand.

Mr Aala’s appeal was dismissed.