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

 

 

 

VICKI CLEARY

CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION

There has been no shortage of Australian Stories on ABC TV dealing with injustice or chilling reconstructions of callous murders since my sister Vicki was murdered in 1987. And although I've written about it in newspaper articles and books and taken Nine's Current Affair to the scene for a re-construction, eventually the whole story will be told on film.

The following photos illustrate why.

The house where Keogh was living with his mate Brian Freake when he murdered Vicki.

Although Pam Duggan, an aquaintance of Freake and Keogh, received a phone call from Freake after Keogh left the house around 7am in which he said Keogh was going after Vicki with a knife, she never gave evidence. Freake simply lied when examined in the court.

Keogh as he looked on the day

Wearing overalls and carrying a knife in a homemade scabbard Keogh was seen loitering for nearly an hour before Vicki arrived in her car around 8 am, travelling south down Cameron Street.

The street as it looked some years later.

Keogh appears to have been hiding in the driveway alongside the fence when Vicki drove past and turned into a parking bay juts north of where this pole now stands. He crossed the road and confronted her before she could properly park the car.

Vicki's car in the aftermath of the murder

Vicki had turned sharply into this park and was set upon almost immediately by Keogh on the driver side. How she came to be on the passenger side was never properly explained. It was here that the fatal stabbing occurred.

The cushion marks the spot where Vicki fell after being stabbed..

 

The police drawing of the scene.

 

Looking towards where Bernie Bell had parked in front of the terrace house.

His work done Keogh sauntered across the road and had a coffee in Sydney Road.

The evidence presented in court suggests the flowing sequence of events:

Darren Scheggia, Stephen Docherty and Bernie Bell parked one after the other in that order in Cameron Street opposite the angle parking for the Kindergarten.  Darren described how he (driving South) passed Bernie Bell driving north. Bell saw Keogh near the kinder before U-turning, probably at about the time Vicki parked. 

Darren says he was walking towards work - ACP - when he heard the first set of screams.  So in the time that he parked and walked some 80 metres (Supreme Court Transcript Page 75) Keogh had already reached Vicki’s car.

According to Maree Matthews-Jessop (Kindergarten Director) Vicki had parked two down from the Kinder alongside Tina Trajanovski's car which was in Bay One.  Strangely, Maree discovered Vicki in the gutter near Tina’s car and believes no-one else was there when she spoke to Vicki.  Vicki said ‘it was Peter Keogh…it hurts’.

Ambulance officers Stephen Moody and Ivano Forte attended Vicki.  Forte said ‘I cut her clothes…..four stab wounds to her chest and abdomen, a slash across her face and cuts to her left hand……we put her in shock stand position in the MICA Unit…..she was conscious and coherent on the trip in.  She didn’t mention anything of the assault but continually said not to let her die.  In fact that was (sic) the first words she said to us on arrival’.
 
Vicki’s car was opposite the single-fronted terrace house.  The first two bays have been removed to accommodate the expansion of the kinder. 

Keogh made reference to being in driveway - opposite the kinder gate - and to have crossed the road.  Bell says he only spotted him at the gates to the kinder but not crossing the road.  Keogh admitted opening the door.  As he had the keys at Russell Street it appears he grabbed them.  This might be why Vicki got out of the car and left her bag behind.  Bell admits to seeing them ‘grappling’.  Although he uses the word ‘argument’ he never says he heard Vicki speak. 

All of this is consistent with Vicki trying to retrieve her keys.  How she came to be at the passenger side is unclear.  It does seem however that she didn’t scramble across the front seat.  Bell saw them standing next to the driver’s door.  Docherty  saw Vicki pushed in the passenger seat and Sandra McKay saw Vicki dragged towards the passenger door.

The Screams

Darren Scheggia

After hearing the first set of screams Darren turned to see ‘Bernie Bell standing near his car’.  After walking a little further Darren then heard a second series of screams (page 76 SC).  He then ‘saw a man and a woman on the edge (the rear of the car) of the angle carpark’.  Keogh then walked away with Vicki bent over.  Obviously Darren heard the first and second screams but only saw the conclusion of the attack.  He then watched Keogh walk down the street holding the leg of his trousers, where the knife was positioned.

This evidence confirms several things.  If Bell ‘was on his feet’ by the time Keogh ‘pushed Vicki into the car’ (Inquest Statement) and had seen them at the driver’s door (Page 142 SC) and struggling prior to Vicki ending up in the car he’d seem most of the attack.  His evidence should have been critical.  It wasn’t because at the trial Prosecutor Bruce Walmsley failed to explore the evidence relating to Keogh ‘coming from the Kindergarten area’ (SC- Page 141) and dragging Vicki around the car.  All of this would have ridiculed the argument that Keogh lost control and stabbed her immediately. 

Intent and purpose

The fact that Keogh dragged Vicki kicking and fighting from the front door to the passenger door and began stabbing her only when she was in the car indicates clear intent and purpose and is inconsistent with a loss of control.  His actions were consistent with a kidnapping/murder (get her in the car and take her away) or a considered killing (kill her in the car out of view). It’s instructive that in Keogh’s pocket was a length of packing tape.  This wasn’t even mentioned at the trial.

When Vicki first screamed, Bell says he took no notice (Inquest P40 - Kriss) as he was parking and ‘it could have been children’.  As he’d already seen ‘a male person approach the grey Ford’ (Inquest Statement) this scream must have occurred between the front driver and front passenger door.  Bell first saw them at the driver's side door (Bell-SC Page 142) after which there was the initial scream.  But by the time of the second scream he says ‘the passenger door was open…(and)…they were struggling in the car’ (SC 142).  When the ‘male pulled the female out of the car ……lot of blood’ (Statement).

Bell however saw more than this.  In his Statement tended at the Inquest Bell says ‘I then heard a woman scream (the second scream), I was still in my car…(and)…the passenger door was open…(and)....the male had his arms around the female ……she tried to move around to the front of the car……..I looked away for a few seconds…(and)…I saw both people lying across the front seat….’.

In the Supreme Court Bell didn’t describe the struggle that preceded Vicki being pushed into the car.  Instead he describes seeing them ‘in the space created by the driver’s door being open…(then says)…the passenger door was open and they were struggling inside the car’ (SC-PAGE 142).

It appears that Keogh grabbed Vicki immediately he got her out of the car or she got out.  She didn’t finish parking her car.  Why?  Because he had the keys?  Given Stephen Docherty 'heard a scream of help' after an initial scream as Bernard Bell parked behind him and then saw 'someone push someone into the front seat of the car’ (page 125 SC) it appears maybe Vicki began screaming early on.  I suspect she quickly realised the danger then tried to escape.

Although Piccolo made no mention of seeing Keogh he says that ‘within about a minute’ (page 110) of passing the kindergarten he heard the screams.  Obviously her attempted flight and the ensuing struggle preceded the screams.  Prosecutor Walmsley refers to the ‘one minute’ but doesn’t detail the sequence of events.  First Piccolo had to pass Vicki’s car, which was slightly ahead of him.  Piccolo says he heard the screams after ‘about a minute’ but was it 30 seconds after passing Vicki? 

This is important because Keogh claims that Vicki swore at him.  This was used to support the provocation argument.  Notwithstanding the absurdity of claiming that the alleged words of a woman confronted at her car by an armed man might be responsible for him killing her, it’s instructive that no one heard the words attributed to Vicki and all the evidence suggests Keogh assaulted her immediately. 

I’m staggered the prosecution didn’t hammer the fact that the knife attack didn't start until after the struggle.   That the keys were found in Pat Cole’s car (she drove him to the solicitor) suggests that Keogh grabbed them either from the ignition or from Vicki’s hand when he grabbed her.
 
The fact that Bernie Bell spotted Keogh near the kindergarten fence as he drove north (told to me by Bell and mentioned in the evidence (Page 141 SC) but not elaborated on) and slowed to allow Vicki to turn right into the car park is crucial.  It adds weight to the argument that Keogh marched to the car and caught Vicki by surprise.  Keogh equivocates when asked about whether Vicki saw him when she drove up. 

Whether she saw him is a moot point.  She did park suddenly but I don’t think that was because she saw Keogh.  The angle parking is difficult to execute when driving from the north.  Maybe she had hoped to park and run.  But I doubt it.  Keogh had the keys.  That’s the clue.  He also mentions the car rolling back.  (See Walton in Pentridge)  This suggests Vicki hadn’t seen him.

Given Keogh would have spotted Piccolo walk past he had to wait until he (Piccolo) was sufficiently out of sight whilst not losing the chance to trap Vicki in or near the car.  This is consistent with Keogh waiting (20 seconds?) for Piccolo to pass and Bell driving the 150 metres to the Grove, U-turning and parallel parking slightly south or the rear of Vicki’s diagonally parked.  Bell would have been just past the kinder when Vicki nosed the car into the kerb, and would have arrived back at the spot just as Keogh began his assault. 

Bell says ‘that at that point there were two people beside the grey Ford..the woman was driving (and) the man had come from the area of the kindergarten (and initially) they were both beside the front door (and) on the driver’s side when I first heard the screams (SC-page 141-143).

Piccolo’s Evidence here is critical to this assessment.

Piccolo says he was 10 metres short of the swings (SC - page 110) when he heard the second series of cries, which came only seconds after the first.  After the first set of screams he looked back saw nothing and kept walking.  If I’m right about the struggle and Keogh dragging Vicki to the passenger side area it’s a little surprising Piccolo saw nothing.

Then again it’s quite possible Keogh either had Vicki in the car by the time Piccolo first looked back or they were at the front of the car and therefore out of his line of vision.  In his statement he says ‘I heard further screams….(and)….walked to the grass area…(and)….saw a male in yellow overalls……between the silver Ford and another car and they moved towards the path….(and)…saw the male walking across the to the opposite footpath.

Of relevance here also is the line of vision from the path.  If you look straight down the path you see the middle and rear section of the car with the front section obscured by trees.  That’s why Piccolo had to walk west on to the grass to have a better view.  It appears that when Piccolo looked back up the path Keogh was dragging Vicki across the front of the car or had her in the front passenger.

 Summary

As a result of a previous accident Vicki's front driver’s side door did not lock.  Once she spotted Keogh her options were limited. This would have meant, either:
 

  • Keogh ‘pushed Vicki into the car’ on the driver’s side.

Or

  • He ran around the front and caught her as she tried to climb out the front passenger door

Or

  • He grabbed her at the driver’s side and dragged/frogmarched her around the front and onto the footpath en route to the passenger door.

 

After reading the Coroner’s report Scenario 3 looks the most feasible. Both Geoff Berlowitz and his passenger Sandra McKay spotted Keogh on the path near the passenger door as they drove south down Cameron Street.  Given Bell first saw them at the front door this is consistent with Keogh grabbing her (maybe as she tried to escape past him or the moment she got out of the car) and dragging her around to the passenger side.  Bell describes the man as having ‘come from in the area of the kindergarten’.

The push into the car coincided with the second scream (help, someone) heard by Docherty (SC - Page 125) and Bell (SC - 142) as they parked across the road facing south.  Both state that there was a first and second scream.  This is consistent with with her being dragged to the passenger door.  No doubt there would have been an exchange as he grabbed her and she tried to evade.  Again it’s highly likely she only screamed after she realised how serious was the predicament and she was aware she couldn’t get away.  The facts are she screamed only after Keogh confronted and occupied her space.  Read that as ‘assaulted her’.

A CLEAR PICTURE

In the approximate 40-60 seconds that transpired after Piccolo passed by Keogh had reached the car, Vicki had jumped from the seat and attempted to evade him, he’d grabbed her, she’d screamed several times and eventually been forced into the passenger seat.  Piccolo was now near the swings, Bell and Docherty had parked and Scheggia was probably 60 metres down Cameron Street.

All except Bell had lost sight of Vicki for some thirty seconds to a minute.  Bell’s recollections include more telling ‘frames’ than anyone else’s evidence.  All however indicate that the stabbing started when Vicki was ‘pushed into the car’.  This doesn’t preclude the possibility that Keogh had the knife out earlier.

What happens next is well documented.  He was seen to ‘push her into the front seat’ (Docherty 125) and to be striking her (His arm was seen above the seat via the back window) with the knife. There were only a few drops of blood on the driver’s side.

After the second set of screams Piccolo stepped on to the grass (page 113) to get a better view.  He claims to have seen ‘a struggle between two cars…(and)…the man at that stage had his hand over the woman’s mouth’ and that ‘the male was sort of on the footpath…they were on the passenger side, the door was open, so they would have been in between the two cars……sorry between the Blue Datsun’.  (SC - page 114). 

Piccolo says it looked like the man was punching the girl in the stomach while holding his hand across her mouth. We know from the evidence that he was stabbing her and the words ‘it looked like he was punching her in the stomach’ indicate that Piccolo saw the conclusion of the attack. 

Bell related how Keogh ‘was holding the knife in his left hand…and…wiping the blade with a handkerchief or tissue and (how he was)...struck by the callousness of it’.  Inquest page 43.

Piccolo doesn’t mention the struggle in the car and didn’t see a knife but did see Keogh walk across the road.  It was then that he saw the blood on Keogh.  Piccolo’s evidence also indicates that due to the angle of the parking bay and Vicki turning sharply (she was tooted from behind) her car was not perfectly in line.  Again this indicates that Keogh had arrived before she had time to re-position the car.

Again it’s quite plausible that Keogh threatened Vicki with the knife either immediately or once he had her en route to the passenger side.  Keogh had been at the Kindergarten since 7.00am.  Because Vicki arrived at about 8.10 am it was more difficult for Keogh to execute his plan in secret.

I’m now less inclined to the view that the paucity of blood on the driver’s side (a couple of drops) was because she shielded herself and grabbed at the knife as she fled across the seat.  Some years later Keogh allegedly told someone (in among a raft of lies) that Vicki grabbed the knife.  No doubt she did.  But just when it was produced is unclear.  The fact that the driver's side door was slightly ajar after Keogh left suggests that as he grabbed her he pushed the door shut.

Geoff Berlowitz/Sandra McKay

Geoff, who was driving south down Cameron Street says he U-turned then drove his car alongside Vicki’s Ford after hearing the scream as he passed the Kindergarten.  His version is that Vicki and Keogh were struggling on the bitumen and the footpath when he looked after hearing the first scream.  His ‘first scream’ may have been equivalent to the second scream heard by Piccolo.  He says they were near the open door, which I presume means the passenger door.  It seems that when he pulled his car to a halt (the police photo and drawings shows an unoccupied bay between Vicki's car and the blue Datsun) Keogh was about to deliver the final assault on Vicki, whom he said, (mistakenly?) had been in the back seat.  Piccolo makes no mention of seeing a car drive towards Keogh and Vicki. 

Berlowitz’ passenger Sandra McKay (Inquest) describes how Keogh ‘was trying to get her into the car’ as they drove past.  After U-turning south at Allen Street and returning to the scene ‘they were both covered in blood……(and) it was obvious he was stabbing her….(and) I didn’t see the knife but I did see him stabbing at her five or six times’.
 
Mrs Seirlis watched the attack from 30A Cameron Street.  She saw Keogh punch Vicki into the car, pull her out then stab her (page 67).  The events she saw appear to be the final events that took place on the passenger side.

Do you think all this makes a mockery of the provocation defence and the sentence of three years and eleven months?

Postscript

In late 2003 I met a bloke by the name of David at the Victoria Market who claimed to have been in the street at the time of the murder. And within a few days I spoke with barrister, Len Hartnett, who was representing two Lebanese boys who claim to have seen the murder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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