During the course of the past week a man has walked into a police station and allegedly admitted strangling his ex-girlfriend, and a young mother has been shot dead by a man known to her. Whilst the guilt or innocence of the men charged in relation to these killings is a matter for the courts not the media, we’re entitled to ask why so many women die at the hands of men they know. This is a question I’ve been asking ever since Peter Keogh stabbed my sister, Vicki, to death in 1987 and was found not guilty of murder.
While poring over the court transcripts, I’ve uncovered some of the most bizarre explanations for the killing of a woman and some truly confounding decisions by judges. So often the murder of a woman has been a killing just waiting to happen. If only someone had told my family about Keogh’s propensity to hurt women, how different it might have been. Throughout his violent life Keogh was treated with kid gloves by judges. Acquitted of all charges after lunging at a policeman with a knife on Preston Railway Station as a 15-year-old. Sent to gaol for approximately twelve months for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl when he was 26 years old. Keogh led a charmed life.
Such sentences pale into insignificance with the three years and eleven months, gaol sentence he received for murdering 25-year-old Vicki Cleary. How could a man be granted a defence of provocation after waiting, armed with a knife, outside the kindergarten where his ex-girlfriend worked and stabbing her to death? How could he be released from gaol less than four years after the murder? I’ve asked these questions a million times. It might be unpalatable to some men but the way our criminal justice system has a dealt with women killers, and our inability to protect women in danger from such men, is a national disgrace.
Zerrin Dincer was three months short of her 17th birthday when her stepfather, Kemalettin Dincer, plunged a knife into her heart in February 1981 in the house where she had taken flight. Two months before the murder Zerrin and her sister had sought refuge at Western General Hospital. Here they told a social worker their father had ‘attacked and threatened them’ for talking with boys. The next morning Mrs Dincer arrived at the hospital bearing scratches and bruising to her neck. She claimed her husband had tried to strangle her. The social worker who heard the story was never called to give evidence in court.