Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : Literature : Review : Just another little Murder Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

Phil Cleary

Just Another Little Murder

Allen & Unwin 2002

Arena Magazine

Issue 62, Dec 2002 - Jan 2003.

'Perhaps sticking up for a young woman from Melbourne's northern suburbs is too mundane, and does not guarantee the media spotlight reserved for one who Thinks Globally', Liz McCarthy.


According to recent judgements in our courts, sometimes when a man kills his daughter, wife or ex-partner, he is doing so at a time of loss of self-control, no matter how pre-meditated the deed. Perhaps the most spurious defence presently on offer for bad men caught doing terrrible things, the defence known as provocation appears to have enamoured judges, lawyers and psychiatrists when dealing with unconscionable acts of the domestic kind.

She made me do it, is the plea of the spurned ex when the woman he claims to have loved too much lies silent, slashed and ultimately obedient. In a court of law, this scenario inspires euphemisms that translate a murder into an 'incident', and a dead woman into an 'alleged victim'.

When Vicki Cleary was in her early 20s, she met Peter Keogh, a man with a heinous past, crammed mostly into one page of the Melways, involving rape, arson, and a stockpile of knives. After a couple of years, Vicki Cleary left Keogh. He told her he would kill her, as he had told every woman who left him - his former partners were invariably met with bashing, stalking, arson, rape.

Vicki Cleary was stalked and threatened on numerous occasions before she arrived at work one day to be greeted by Keogh brandishing knives, masking tape and wire cutters.

The tools of his established trade on hand, he subsequently informed a stream of psychiatrists, lawyers and jurors that he couldn't remember stabbing Cleary to death. She had told him to go away, but he couldn't remember what happened next. Keogh was found guilty of manslaughter and spent less than four years in jail.

In 'Just Another Little Murder', Phil Cleary, Vicki's brother, takes issue with this finding. He makes solid argument that in the rarefied atmosphere of the legal system, Vicki Cleary's pursuit of freedom from Keogh should not have qualified as an act which caused a purportedly ordinary man to behave badly, thereby implicating the murder victim in her own death.

With a police record of rape and violence since the age of twelve years, and
a family background that was short of cash but not emotional indulgence, exactly what drove Peter Keogh to spend a lifetime bullying others is not apparent. He hated women, was all. And he had little problem discovering a pedigree of psychiatrists willing to explain away his particular disease on an overprotective mother, alcohol-induced amnesia and exceptional emotional fragility.

Cleary alerts us to a breed of judge and defence lawyer who affect myopia at honour killings taking place over the back fence. It seems domestic murders bear a stigma of guilt by association, a smugness that decides what sort of woman would stay with a certain kind of man. A legal fraternity comfortable
with championing the rights of rejected men to kill their recalcitrant ex-partners was an alliance Keogh didn't have to contest. In psychiatrist's offices and in courtrooms, a highly educated succession of men and women were as eager to blame everyone else for his crimes as he was.

Whilst left-leaning lawyers savour newspaper opinion space to rail against burkas and detention centre despair, it appears that denouncing human rights violations in our suburbs hasn't captured the imaginations of professional grandstanders. Perhaps sticking up for a young woman from Melbourne's northern suburbs is too mundane, and does not guarantee the media spotlight reserved for one who Thinks Globally. The recent trend of feminism from afar is a perspective perhaps most comfortably experienced from an armchair.

Driving this point, Cleary revisits a number of domestic murders and assaults accross Melbourne over the past 25 years, and assesses the manner such
crimes are portrayed. He finds a mediascape transfixed by female victims' sex lives whilst male criminals are depicted as brutal but long-suffering in their lust. There is an strong suggestion that gender forgives criminal behaviour.

Heather Osland was dismissed as a malicious anomoly when she killed her husband after thirteen years of sodomy and rape. Frank Osland's relentless abuse was not found to be cause for retaliation, whilst Vicki Cleary telling Keogh to leave her alone was deemed provocative. These glaring inconsistencies of law, media and public interest have infuriated Phil Cleary.

The flagrant miscarriage of justice concerning his sister's murder has not been reconsidered by the legal fraternity or the mental health system, and
a recent Federal Goverment report that declared the provocation defence to be an excuse for men to kill women did not cite the Keogh case.

Cleary fantasised for a long time of seeking his own revenge against Keogh, and the suicide of Keogh last year has not placated his outrage. Cleary canvasses urgent points of crime and punishment, personal and social responsibility, a legal system that panders to serial thugs, and a mental health profession that can't differentiate between criminal and victim.


Refreshingly for the true crime genre, murder victims are depicted as real people, and there is an absence of revelling in violence. Cleary is not an advocate of increased police powers or draconian sentencing. Rather he wished his sister to be respected in court, for Keogh to be convicted of murder, and for reasonable justice to prevail. Instead, what transpired was a crude concoction of establishment subterfuge.


Elizabeth McCarthy is a Melbourne writer and broadcaster.
This review appears in Arena Magazine Issue 62, Dec 2002 - Jan 2003.


                     

 

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