Carly Ryan’s killer had only just begun his life sentence when a person stopped me in the street to ask: “what’s so wrong with lying about your age on the internet?”
It was January 2010. Garry Francis Newman – a balding, overweight paedophile – had been found guilty of Miss Ryan’s 2007 murder. Jurors had been rightly disgusted by the months Newman spent masquerading, online, as a 20-year-old “emo guitarist” named Brandon Kane to win the teenager’s trust and love. Equally appalled, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon had proposed what I’d considered inarguably sensible new legislation. He wanted an eight-year jail term for those who lie about their age, online, to a child. He called it “Carly’s Law”.
“What’s so wrong with lying about your age on the internet?” the passerby asked. There was, they said, no rule requiring you “be yourself” online. And besides, we already had “plenty” of laws police could use to catch paedophiles.
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A man, enraged, kicks his pregnant partner in the stomach until she miscarries. A baby he didn’t want. Later, she dies.
It’s a horrific image, a terrible crime. But should it be a double homicide?
The debate about the rights of the unborn is set to rev up – again – as South Australian Family First MP Robert Brokenshire prepares a Bill that declares it a crime to “destroy the life of” or do “grievous bodily harm to” a foetus.
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James Holmes, the alleged gunman in the Colorado shooting massacre, will be formally charged with multiple counts of first degree murder this week.
Prosecutors, in consultation with the victims’ families, must then decide whether to seek the death penalty.
They should not. Killing Holmes will not bring back the victims of this atrocity. His state-sanctioned death would merely perpetuate a reckless, ineffective and immoral method of punishment.
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When a small group of elite US Marines gather next year for their long overdue, 30 year reunion, they will be minus one. Sergeant Walter Marsh, in Goulburn Supermax, NSW, is unable to attend.
The Marines have watched from afar, appalled but not surprised, as Marsh was arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison earlier this year for the 2010 stabbing murder of Sydney nurse Michelle Beets.
Members of the Marine Security Guard, who served with Marsh at the Beijing Embassy during 1983 and 1984, remember him as a complex and difficult young man, narcissistic, sometimes personable but also spiteful, lacking empathy and untrustworthy.
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The least they could have done is shackled the maleficent beast so he couldn’t proudly give his right-wing salute.
If we have to witness Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik’s trial – and the victims’ families are surely hoping to see justice done publicly – then truss him up and treat him as he deserves. As a morally void demon.
The court may find he was psychotic when he killed 77 people, but the latest reports are that experts reckon he was sane.
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In July 2008 I was shocked when I received a call from the police telling me that my parish church of Saint Mary’s, in Maryborough, Queensland, was a crime scene.
A man was found dead by parishioners as they arrived for a morning communion liturgy. It was devastating and shocking. I and my parishioners followed the case closely. Very soon, two suspects were caught. Our church security cameras caught the events of the terrible bashing.
I was appalled when it was claimed that an alleged homosexual advance was a reason given for the man being bashed and left lying overnight in the church grounds. I was likewise appalled when I found that an alleged or perceived homosexual advance (of even the most minor gesture or touch) can be used as a partial defence in a murder case in Queensland (and also to an extent in NSW). What reason could justify a bashing that leads to someone’s death?
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Amanda Knox’s looks shouldn’t matter, but they do.
In court, it wasn’t just the university student who ended up in the dock, it was her image.
From the minute she was dubbed ‘Foxy Knoxy’ - the juvenile, nudge, nudge, wink, wink nickname given to her early on in her trial - to the fact that her boyish prison haircut made news, her whole trial has been read through the prism of her gender and appearance.
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The murder of 10-year-old Zahra Baker was horrific. No surprises there. Homicides are rarely known for their rainbows, fluffy puppies and happy endings.
But there is one aspect of the killing that is especially shocking – not because it reflects a particularly perverse aspect of criminality but because it exemplifies a family problem that is so prevalent it’s rarely seen as a problem.
I’m speaking here of absent fathers.
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I grew up on the edge of a World Heritage region. It’s a twisted irony that these rainforests proved an ideal place for criminals to hide their activities. Where better to dump a dead body than in a remote wilderness?
This horrible truth was discovered by two little girls, who 40 years ago found the decomposed remains of a child in the bush. Vicki Barton was an eight-year-old local, snatched from the steps of a Blue Mountains shop in 1970.
Like murdered Queensland schoolboy Daniel Morcombe, there was a massive hunt to find the kidnapped girl. Grim-faced police spoke to us at school, well before the phrase ‘stranger-danger’ existed. Vicki’s body remained hidden for 18 months until the two girls, about Vicki’s age, made their gruesome discovery.
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The savage, blood-soaked massacre in Norway might seem like the act of a deranged madman. But the perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, was nothing of the sort.
In fact, he appears to have been an intelligent, well-educated individual and a competent businessman, who owned a successful farm. Nothing in either his life story or even in this unprecedented atrocity smacks of wild insanity.
Just the opposite. He planned the whole operation with utter ruthlessness and precision, from using fertiliser from his farm to make the bomb that was planted at the government’s offices in Oslo, to disguising himself as a policeman to gain access to the island summer camp.
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It hasn’t been a good week for disaffected fathers. Most weeks aren’t. Since Mick Fox disrupted half of Sydney to protest his custodial battle, we’ve seen the shocking case of Paul Rogers, who fatally gassed himself and his daughter Kyla, while the awful case of Ramazan Acar goes through the courts. Read the gruesome details if you dare.
As we all know, custodial battles over children are the common thread in these and many similar cases. But why do men snap? At what point does frustration boil over into mass scale public nuisance… or even to murder?
Let’s take a small picture view and a big picture view. The small picture, with a focus on the ass that is family law, comes from Barry Williams, president of the Lone Fathers Association. The wide view comes from social analyst Richard Eckersley, who regularly measures Australia’s pulse through a thing called the Wellbeing Index.
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It was the most sickening, traumatic moment any journalist could ever live through – waiting for three little boys, in the depths of a cold, black dam, to rise from the darkness.
“C’mon, c’mon,” I yelled, as I frantically waited for the news that the boys, aged 10, 7 and 2, would emerge from the dam near Winchelsea, about 100 kilometres south-west of Melbourne.
It was Father’s Day, September 4, 2005 and I was working the night shift on police rounds at Melbourne’s Herald-Sun. I got the dreaded call from Victoria Police that three boys were stuck in a car, deep in a dam.
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