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

 

 

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 brother'.

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 evil.

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 friends today.

Vicki at mum and dad's property in Broadford not long before her murder.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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