The Murder of Allison Baden-Clay, by David Murray, is a well-written book that contains a lesson for everyone concerned in any way with that dreadful, totally gratuitous ailment in the community, domestic abuse. It appears the abuse she suffered was not the violence of physical threat so much as the violence inherent in control. No visible bruising, but bruises that go perhaps even deeper again, right to the core of her being, bruises that never heal.
I am a male of the species, and yet effectively able to feel this lovely young mum’s pain through Murray’s words. Incidentally, I must say right here the author does not actively champion the issue but the comprehensive research and coverage obvious behind his writing leaves little doubt that Allison’s life was hell.
I offer a quote from the last few pages of the book. It is not a spoiler, as the outcome of the investigation and the subsequent trial is well known. The following are non-contiguous excerpts from Justice John Byrne’s sentencing statement to Gerard Baden-Clay:
“The killing was not premeditated but it was violent… your violent attack caused (Allison’s) death. Her fingernails scratched your face, the act of a desperate woman, fighting for her life. Those marks are only consistent with your guilt. The community, acting through this court, denounces your lethal violence. You took a devoted, loving mother from her three girls, blighting their lives. The law provides but one penalty for your willful crime. I impose it. You are sentenced to imprisonment for life.”
Murray sums up: Justice Byrne, like almost everyone else, could not ignore the scratches on Gerard’s face. In her final act, Allison had caught her own killer.
Most people will be familiar with the disappearance of Allison Baden-Clay and the ten days of intense activity searching for her, until the accidental discovery of her body on the banks of Kholo Creek by a canoeist. Familiar, too, with Gerard continuing his day-to-day life in real estate rather than showing any real interest in the search for his wife. What will be less well known – although readily understood – is the extraordinary effort made by Queensland Police.
The police not only had to put together every aspect of the case before it could go to court, they had to negate other possible causes of death, including suicide or an accidental fall. The amount of detail provided is comprehensive but never so much as to cause loss of interest. At no time is there information overload.
Especially interesting is the work done by specialists other than those more commonly associated with police work, including Gordon Guymer. Doctor Guymer is a director of the Queensland Herbarium. He determined that leaves and material from six plant species found in Allison’s hair came from the Baden-Clay home and the combination was unique to that location. Only two of the six plants existed near the Kholo Creek site. Part of the resolute man’s work in establishing this was to inspect hundreds of other gardens, all on his own time.
One strange happening was that Gerard Baden-Clay wanted to give evidence, an unusual situation in a capital case because the defence has to prove nothing. It is entirely conditional on the prosecution to prove guilt ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’ But Baden-Clay, the consummate sales professional, obviously felt he was the one best able to defend himself. His evidence in main went well enough, as would be expected, but of course opened him up to cross-examination.
Murray summarised: “The jury had wanted to see (Gerard) declare his innocence, but the salesman had failed to close the deal. They had wanted to see a broken, remorseful, loving spouse. They saw a confident and boastful man, equally happy to betray either mistress or wife as it suited. He was comfortable with deceit… and performed like a shonky property spruiker rather than a sincere and likable widower.”
He failed in his task and, although it took several days’ deliberation, the jury of everyday Queenslanders found him guilty.
Ensure you have a box of tissues close by when you sit down with the book. A great deal of it is quite harrowing, especially details of an arrogant man’s disregard for and treatment of an evidently loving wife and mother; over and above this is his deceit in having a number of extra-marital affairs. Sometimes they were concurrent but, to use his own words, they were “…only for the sex.” Just how callous an attitude?