Since the beginning of 2015, the number of women killed at the hands of males known to them (ie ‘domestic violence’) has hit the unprecedented all time high of “two per week”. The normally quoted statistic is “one woman per week killed by male partner or ex-partner”—of course, this was rounding down, as the generally known figure is around 60-65 per annum.
If Australia keeps going at its present rate, then this year’s figure will likely reach triple digits.
But that is not even the true toll.
In the UK, Refuge started a campaign to highlight the number of suicides of women who are victims of domestic abuse. Three women per week in the UK, commit suicide, and many more attempt suicide. Women’s Aid have some additional statistics.
In Australia, there is no such collection of suicide statistics connected to domestic abuse, that I am aware of. If we were to extrapolate from the UK figures (two women per week killed by partners/ex-partners, and three women per week suicide), then Australia’s (previously) one woman per week killed by a partner/ex-partner, would be an estimate of between one to two Australian women suiciding to escape domestic violence.
However, this post is not primarily about the number of actual suicides, even though suicides are rarely investiged to any large extent. This post is about a number of suspicious deaths, quickly ruled by the authorities as suicides, accidental deaths, or not even properly investigated.
Before getting into those deaths, a quick look at a current case of this past weekend. The 52-year-old Derek John Sharpley, appears to have killed one of his (pregnant) daughters, 27-year-old Kris-Deann, and her son, seven-year-old Jackson, although the cause of death could not be established for Jackson, the two probable causes were either suffocation or strangulation.
As it turns out, Kris-Deann had moved in with her father to care for him following the 2011 death of his wife, the Courier Mail reports:
Family members said Kris-Deann had spent time caring for her dad after her mother Elizabeth died in 2011 in bed next to her husband.
She [Kris-Deann] left her life in Toowoomba and moved back in with her father to support him.
Curiousity had gotten the better of me, as one of the suspected causes of death of Jackson was suffocation, in bed. I decided to do a search, which revealed nothing in news reports, but a transcription of her obituary (my emphasis):
SHARPLEY, Elizabeth Roslyn “Beth”nee Gainey Late of Biddeston and formerly of Garah, N.S.W. Passed away unexpectedly on 24th July, 2011, aged 54 years. Beloved Wife of Derek. Dearly loved Mother of Bobbie-Jane, Daryl, Christopher (dec’d), Kris-Deann, DJ, Daniel; Dylan and Tara-Jade and Families. A much loved Nanny to 11 Grandchildren. Dearly loved Daughter of Bob and Shirley. Loved Sister, Sister-in-law and Aunty to all her Family.Relatives and Friends are respectfully invited to attend Elizabeth’s Funeral, to be held at the T. S. Burstow Chapel, 1020 Ruthven Street (south), Toowoomba, Service commencing at 10.00 a.m. Tuesday, 2nd August, 2011, followed by Interment at The Garden ofRemembrance. “Forever in our Hearts”
Notices | Publication: Toowoomba Chronicle | Published 30 Jul 2011
Passed away unexpectedly. In bed, next to husband, who years later, is likely to have smothered/murdered his grandson in the same manner. Was there a coroner’s investigation into this “unexpected death”? Probably not, but I would be curious as to what the cause of death was determined as, and also, if extended family members had suspicions. I am just, as they say, putting it out there. One early report did say there had been previous ‘domestic incidents’, but to do with his sons.
As for obvious suicides (where the person has jumped off a bridge etc), I have seen this ruled as “non-suspicious death” (media and police code for suicide), within hours of finding the deceased. No further investigation, of what may have been the causes (such as years of abuse and unable to escape the situation), nor even much of a “did anyone throw her off that bridge?”. No. Neatly ruled “non-suspicious death”, case closed. As extrapolated, probably one or two women per week do commit suicide in Australia, because of a domestic abuse situation.
But it actually does get worse. There have been, in recent times, a number of highly suspicious deaths of women, that warrant a thorough investigation, particularly those involving falls from heights. Privately, those of us following such events have dubbed it “Clumsy Woman Syndrome”, but the reality is, Australian men (and probably in other countries too) are getting away with murder.
The family and friends of Melbourne woman Phoebe Handsjuk, 24, whom the Coroner ruled as an ‘accidental drug-induced sleep-walking state’ death.
Phoebe Handsjuk fell 12 storeys and was discovered at the bottom of the chute at a St Kilda Road apartment building in December, 2010.
Today, Coroner Peter White ruled out foul play and suicide.
Handsjuk’s body was found with bruising on her neck, wrists and right upper arm, and blood and broken glass were found in her apartment.
Police initially ruled the 24-year-old’s death a suicide, but family and friends called for further investigation amid concerns someone else was involved.
Suspicion fell on her partner, Antony Hampel, who also lived at the apartment.
Mr Hampel is the son of former Supreme Court judge George Hampel and the stepson of County Court Judge Felicity Hampel.
Yeah, enough said about that bizarre ruling by Coroner Peter White. The family and friends of Phoebe had several controlled experiments done, and getting into the shute, for a sober volunteer of the same build, was yes, possible, but extremely difficult. They do not believe she climbed in, in a drunken/drugged stupor, and neither do I.
The only reasons Simon Gittany was found guilty of the murder of Lisa Harnum, were due to the note found in her pocket, and him caught on his own installed surveillance camera (to watch her movements) outside the apartment door, whereby he was seen with his hand over her mouth, dragging her back into the apartment, about a minute before her “fall”. Lack of her fingerprints on the balacony also contributed. Otherwise, Gittany would have walked.
Or, 20-year-old Breeana Robinson, who “fell” from a Gold Coast highrise. The “boyfriend” had previously sent a barage of abusive text messages to her, and they were the only (minor) charges he faced. A neighbour came forward with her testimony:
‘I just heard her scream, something go past me fast, like a flash of light.’
‘I’m 100 percent sure I heard her saying ‘no’ or ‘oh no’. So I did hear her screaming and saying something when she went past me.’
Even though, those with Breeana just hours before, said she was not depressed or suicidal.
Note in these cases, the male was significantly older than the victim.
Perhaps 38-year old Megan Moody, who “lost her footing” according to the fiancé of two months. As it turned out, he was the one who had the AVO out on her, yet was so afraid of her, went camping with her, but she was the one who “lost her footing”? Abusers taking out AVOs out on the victim is an old trick, Lundy Bancroft covers that.
What about South Australian woman 44-year-old Kerry Michael, who “fell” to her death while on Tasmanian holiday with former Darwin Hospital General Manager husband? Well at least he was charged with her murder, but as we have seen, it is a hit and miss affair.
Australia has a case of the Clumsy Women, falling over balconies, falling over cliffs, falling down difficult-to-climb-into garbage chutes; you name it, they have fall down, off, or into it. Or perhaps just “unexpectedly passing away” at home.
What is the real toll of domestic violence on Australian women?
Australia is still nowhere near answering that question. Australia has barely come to grips with ‘one woman per week’ (when in reality already two), and that is the accidental/suicidal, tip of the murderous iceberg.
If I were to do an educated guess, taking into account uninvestigated suicides, “falls”, and completely unsound accidental/suicide verdicts—it would be already in the region of at least three to four women per week.
I actually had forgotten to do the round up of this weekend.
Saturday: ACT. Tara Costigan, 28, bludgeoned to death by 40yo male ex-partner (12 year age gap). Tara had just given birth the week before to a baby girl, and took out an interim restraining order the day before she was murdered. The perp injured two others in the attack, one was her sister. Tara had two older sons as well.
Saturday: The body of a still-unnamed woman in her early 20s was found in the boot of a car at the Otway Ranges (VIC). The body of a male (also early 20s) found in the car. No identities or further details have been released, but one report indicated they were from Melbourne. Police have ruled it a murder-suicide, and it is unknown how long she was dead.
Sunday: QLD. As outlined above, 27yo Kris-Deann Sharpley, “heavily” pregnant, and her seven year old son were murdered by her father at approximately 10:30pm (shots were heard at this time).
Non-fatality; Friday, Darwin NT, but likely to be future fatality if this young woman stays with him—a 28yo unnamed bride was strangled and head-butted on her wedding night. This is a high risk case, with a high probability of a future fatality.
These are, just the cases we know about from this weekend. Most of the serious assaults are not even reported. How many other near-fatalities were there?