HOW PETER KEOGH - BECAME MY ENEMY
BY PHIL CLEARY
SUNDAY AGE - AUGUST 29 - 2001
The sound of the foreman declaring Peter Keogh 'not guilty' of
murder and the sight of my distraught mother crying 'do you know
what you've done? You've let a murderer go free' as she wandered
innocently into that procession of jurors changed my life forever.
There and then the man who killed my sister became my enemy.
All our family wanted was justice and whatever gaol sentence
the law prescribed. Instead, we watched in disbelief as Justice
George Hampel granted a man who I believe to be a iviolent killer
a defence of provocation and in a final act of humiliation banished
us from the court with the following sermon: `It is outrageous
a person can't stand trial and jurors can't do their job without
being abused…how little ordinary people are able to control their
emotions...it's most unfortunate that in a case involving a loss
of self control the family of the deceased should lose self control......'
'It was as bad as the day Vicki died' mum remarked as we
waited for Keogh's sister Dulcie to speak on behalf of her 'kindly
A refugee from the evils of Nazism, George Hampel should have
grasped the horror and profundity of Lorna Cleary's wail. Instead
he compared a mother's passionate defence of a woman's rights
with the vengeful violence of a serial woman hater. How a judge
in a civilised society could rule that an ordinary man, even one
with an alleged touch of depression, might draw a knife from a
homemade scabbard and stab his ex-girlfriend to death as she parked
her car for work was beyond belief. Entrusted with the wisdom
of Solomon, Justice Hampel delivered a ruling that cast Vicki
as a provocateur and reduced ordinary men to the embodiment of
Yet not a shot was fired in anger by those barristers who were
sure George Hampel was wrong. It was the last time I laid eyes
on Peter Keogh. 'Nothing but a fucking murderer' I said as I passed
him in the dock. The coward's eyes never rose from the violent
hands where they lay in thanks-be to the god of middle class male
justice that saved him. Yet he knew it was only the start of the
battle of wills that lay ahead. Justice Hampel had sentenced him
to death. For although Keogh killed my sister with virtual impunity
and emerged from court wearing the victim's crown he knew it was
only a matter of time before I unearthed his reign of terror against
a succession of women and girls. And when I did, what then?
Failed in life by those who knew of Keogh's violence but said
nothing, and damned in death by a judicial system blind to her
rights, Vicki became my inspiration and my hero. I promised her
I'd bring him to justice and tell the world what really happened
outside that kindergarten and thereafter in a Melbourne court.
Hardly a day passes when I don't cry about Vicki's fight for life.
'Please don't let me die' she implored Ambulance Officer Ivano
Forte as he bound her wounds in a Coburg gutter.
Only a blink of an eye earlier she'd swept my young daughters
up in a burst of joie de vivre outside the Coburg Ground and told
me all was well. I believed her. The relationship with Keogh finished
we were becoming mates. If only she'd told us that Keogh and housemate
Brian Freake and sidekick Brian Watson, driver of the stalker's
car, were secretly conspiring against her we'd have been great
|Vicki at mum and dad's property in Broadford not long before
Freake didn't ring Vicki or tell the police how his vengeful
mate left 5 Highview Road, Preston threatening to 'get the bitch'.
It had been different a few days earlier. 'Vicki, ring Brian
Cooper (Freake's alias), Urgent' read the note I found among
her possessions. When Vicki did ring it was the killer who was
by the phone. And when she took a call from Freake at the kinder
two days before her death it was Keogh's voice that brought her
to tears in front of the staff. 'If you're not here on Tuesday
night you'll be hearing from me. I've had you followed by Brian
Watson', he snarled.
Heeding her mother's words Vicki stayed clear of the killer that
night. By 10.30 am the next morning she was dead. Where people
of experience saw macho power and revenge engulf Vicki that morning
Justice Hampel imagined love gone wrong. Did the build up during
the previous couple of months right up to the evening and the
morning before and the words uttered, the whole situation, did
all that cause him to lose self control and did he commit the
act which killed her in such a state? he asked the jury.
Described by Judge Rapke as a 'man of violence who committed
outrageous indecencies' during the kidnap and sexual assault
of a nine-year-old girl in December 1974 Keogh intended to bind
Vicki with the masking tape stowed in his overalls and kill her
out of sight. It's exactly what he'd have done to ex-girlfriend
Judy McNulty if the garbos hadn't arrived in St David Street,
Northcote on a summer's morning in 1981. With no one to save her
Vicki chose to fight her kidnapper. From the driver's door across
the kerb to the passenger seat she fought for her life. I still
cry when I visualise her courage. Is it any wonder Justice Hampel's
use of the law of provocation sticks in my craw? Is it any wonder
time hasn't erased the anger and the pain?
|The pillow lies where Vicki fell.
Fourteen years after he killed Vicki, Peter Keogh chose suicide.
Some might think he deserved pity. That's what the mother of his
9-year-old victim said. And without the verdict of manslaughter
in 1989 we might have said the same. The verdict changed everything
and demanded I expose the depth of his evil. He was no victim.
And yes I was still on his case. The only suspect in the March
arson of his former girlfriend Julie McAllister's house, and with
his alibi riddled by lies, the liar who refused to say 'sorry'
felt the noose tightening. Now the last of 'The Boys' responsible
for Vicki's death - Freake (murdered), Watson (suicide) and Keogh
- is dead. It's not the way Vicki would have wanted it but then
she loved everyone.