The tragic story of a Winchelsea family culminated yesterday in a man being found guilty of murdering his three sons.
CINDY Gambino saw her three boys alive for the last time when she dropped them over to their dad about 3pm on Father’s Day, 2005. She had separated from her husband, Robert Farquharson, but she wanted things to be friendly between them for the sake of the children.
She stayed while Farquharson opened the boys’ presents. The oldest boy, Jai, had forgotten one of his, a back-scratcher he had bought at the Father’s Day stall at his primary school, so they were going to bring that another time.
She said goodbye: “I gave them a cuddle, and (two-year-old) Bailey said, ‘I love you, Mum.’ ”
The boys wanted to have tea with their dad because they figured it would mean KFC. They were right. Farquharson took them to Kmart in Geelong, where he bought a cricket ball for Jai and videos for Tyler and Bailey. Then they went for fried chicken, sitting outside in the car for a while because Bailey was asleep, and dropped in to their uncle’s for a visit. It was on the Princes Highway, about 7.30pm, on the way home to Winchelsea from that visit, that their car went off the road.
In a few mysterious moments, unwitnessed by anyone other than its occupants, the car crossed into the wrong lane. It went into a wire fence, travelled on through long grass, clipped a tree – and went into a dam. A day for celebrating family ended with the death of this family. Farquharson escaped. His boys did not.
Jai, 10, was the sporty one who loved his footy, cricket and karate. He also loved acting out jokes from the movies – the adult ones that he shouldn’t have understood. He was happy to earn money mowing his Poppy’s lawns but preferred the winnings from the “Tattslotto chair” on Sunday visits to his grandparents’ house, where he would raid his grandfather’s armchair for the change that had fallen from his pockets. Jai was travelling in the front of the car and would be found face down across the seats, part-way out of the driver’s door.
Tyler, 7, had his mother’s grin and loved hot dogs and mudcakes and his grandma’s vegie soup, strained. His mother said of him, “Have food, will travel.” He was a joker too, best known for his cross-eyed faces and the plastic dog poo he hid in his grandfather’s bed. He was found lying on the driver’s side of the back of the car. His head was near the door and his legs were between the two front seats, with his knees resting on the centre console.
Bailey called the family dog “Woofy” and the family cat “Puss”. The cockatiel was simply “my bird” and would sit on his shoulder while he fed it cereal. At two, Bailey was old enough to protest against anything he didn’t like with, “This is quack, Mum!” When told that was naughty, he would play his strongest card: “But me just a baby, Mum!”
Bailey, tangled in the straps of a childseat on the rear passenger side, would now always be a baby.
This was a tragedy that would make parents hold their children close. It would also make people wonder. Was Robert Farquharson a loving father struck down by the dreadful mischance of a moment – or a vengeful man with ice in his veins who drowned his three children like a litter of unwanted kittens?
That night, Shane Atkinson, then 22, and a friend were driving past the dam, seven kilometres east of Winchelsea, when a man leapt onto the road waving his arms. They could get no sense out of him until his babble took a new turn: “He just kept on saying he’s killed his kids, he has to go home and tell Cindy he’s killed his kids, and he just kept saying, ‘F—, what have I done?’ ” The man, whom Atkinson would later recognise as Robert Farquharson, said he had had a coughing fit and blacked out; maybe he had “done a wheel bearing” – somehow, his car had ended up in a dam.
Atkinson was perplexed. He didn’t believe the local dams were deep enough to swallow a car. He looked over at the nearest one, just visible in the darkness: “The water looked like glass, like nothing even had happened there.” Atkinson finally said, “Well, I’m not going anywhere if you’ve just killed your kids. Do you want to ring the ambulance or the police?”
He would later say that he kept pushing his mobile phone towards the man and asking him to use it. “He wouldn’t. He just kept on saying that he wanted to go back to (his former wife) Cindy’s . . . He just wanted to tell Cindy before he called the police or before anyone else had known.”
Gambino was just drawing her curtains against the darkness when she saw the car pull up. She thought, “There they are now.” But it was not her boys. When she heard the news, garbled as it was, she became distraught. She shouted and pummelled Farquharson, demanding to know where the children were and why he had left them. But she wasted little time; while Atkinson went for help, she rang her new partner, Stephen Moules, and screamed, “The boys are in the water! Meet me on the highway!” Then she bundled Farquharson and Zac, Moules’ son, into her car. She doesn’t even remember reversing out the driveway. She does remember looking down at the speedo and realising she was doing 145 km/h.
She pulled over at an overpass near the dam and Moules arrived shortly afterwards. Farquharson asked Moules for a cigarette. Moules, furious, said, “What! Where are your kids? Get out of my face before I kill you! Where are your kids?” Moules stripped off his jacket and boots and began diving for the children in the cold, black water. Gambino ran up and down in the long grass with her phone to her ear trying to call 000. Others came in a jumble – the fire brigade, ambulances, the State Emergency Service truck, police cars; lights, noise, people. So many people, so much activity, and all of it too late.
Gambino remembers at one point sitting in the front seat of Moules’ parents’ car and seeing Farquharson. “Rob was standing in front of the car with his arms crossed . . .. There was no movement, no nothing . . . He wasn’t doing anything. He was just like in a trance.” Eventually, Gambino’s brother came to take her away. Later that night, he called a doctor for her. The doctor drove her slowly through gathering fog to the local hospital. She remembers the journey seemed to take forever. She remembers she had wet socks. When she arrived in the emergency ward, Cindy Gambino was sedated against the horror of it all.
Farquharson was taken to Geelong Hospital. At 10pm, lying in emergency bay No. 1, he told his story into a police tape-recorder.
“I think I just went over the overpass and – um – I just started coughing and then – um – don’t remember anything and then all of a sudden I was in this water and my son (Jai) screamed out and he opened up the door and we nose-dived and I – I – shut the door on him and I tried to get them out and I tried to get out to help, thinking I’ve only just (gone in) off the road, not realising I was – Tried to get up to the road to get people to . . . help and people just drove past and I don’t know exactly whereabouts it was, and it’s just a big blur, like, you know, everything just happened so – so quick.”
He said that when Jai opened the door, “I just sort of leant across and shut it and I tried to unbuckle them ‘cos they were screaming and I’m trying to get the other two in the back and – ‘cos he done that we must have done a nose dive . . . It’s just a nightmare.”
A policeman asked him gently, “Do you realise that the children are – are – not made it out of the car?”
“Ah, I gathered that,” Farquharson said.
He said he got out thinking the water was only “foot deep” and that he could get out, run around to the other side of the car, drag Jai out and then drag the other two out. He said he went under the water three or four times trying to save the children and then decided it would be better to try to get help.
He had been on antibiotics and had had about eight days off work over a throat infection that had left him with a troublesome cough. In the car, “I think the kids were a bit cold so I put the heater on, and of course it must have warmed up and I started coughing.” He vowed his honesty – “That’s exactly as it happened; I mean, I got no reason to lie or anything of that nature.”
When the car was retrieved from the bottom of the dam, police found its heater, ignition and headlights turned off. They were not able to find any evidence on the road or the grass that supported Farquharson’s claim of a car out of control. At a meeting at 8am the following Tuesday, the major collision squad handed the probe over to homicide.
On Tuesday afternoon, the police took Farquharson to St Kilda Road headquarters for a video interview. After a long exchange of questions and answers, they zoomed in on the fact he had not repeated his earlier claim – made in hospital on the night – that he had dived down to look for the children.
He now said he dived down but could do nothing because of “the pressure”. Queried again, he said that was what the “SIDS lady” who counselled him in hospital had said: “She goes, ‘You wouldn’t have been able to do nothing because of water pressure and everything.’ ”
They returned to the subject of his marriage. He had found breaking up traumatic. “I used to be the one who’d bath ’em at night and tuck ’em into bed, and I’d wait till they were all asleep and I’d go and tuck ’em back in, you know. So it was hard for me at first, but I’ve learned to live with it.”
“Were you jealous of Steve being where you should be?”
“No, because Cindy’s always maintained that ‘You’re their father and that’s it.’ She’s got photos of me there with the kids and all that . . . I’ve never been pushed to the side.”
Questioned about time-frames, he told the police the anniversary of his separation was coming up, and in another week or so his divorce was due to be finalised.
On December 14, three months after the car went into the dam, police charged Robert Donald William Farquharson with three counts of murder.
FARQUHARSON is a small man. He stands only a little over 150 centimetres tall. Now 38, he has soft brown hair, deep-set brown eyes and a slight paunch that seemed to shrink over the six weeks of his Supreme Court trial. At his trial he wore the knot of his tie pulled away from his collar, as if its formal embrace choked him. He also wore a worried expression. It gave him a look of meekness, the air of a little boy lost. He was often tearful and wiped his nose or his eyes with a large cotton handkerchief.
His former wife, Cindy Gambino, has big brown eyes and an open manner. Her hair is long and glossy but her face is worn and etched with grief. Sometimes, when listening to the evidence of others, she would sob quietly into her handkerchief and then scrub her face fiercely as if to eradicate all trace of the tears. In court, she and Farquharson would exchange glances and sometimes remarks. In her statement to police after the deaths of the children, she had said, “I believe with all my heart that this was just an accident and that he would not have hurt a hair on their heads. I don’t believe this is murder.”
Gambino barely held herself together as she gave her own evidence. Her face crumpled and her voice wavered and, at times, sank to a whisper. She walked out of the court afterwards at a funereal pace, eyes cast down, like someone walking behind a coffin. When she reached the stone-flagged ante-room outside, she broke into wails that floated back into the hushed courtroom. The following day would be the second anniversary of the deaths of her children.
THIS is a marriage and a family that ended in sorrow. They also began in sorrow and, for much of their existence, lurched from one trouble to another. The couple met in 1990 when he was 22 and she was 20. Farquharson had grown up in Winchelsea, 37 kilometres past Geelong, and lived in his parents’ house there. She was living in Birregurra, halfway between Winchelsea and Colac, and worked at a supermarket in Winchelsea. They were friends for a while before they became partners. She became pregnant with Jai in January 1994, and the following month they became engaged.
But Gambino would tell the court that she had trouble “giving her heart to Rob”. She was preoccupied with the death of an earlier boyfriend who had died in an accident. Then, when Jai was born, she developed post-natal depression.
Farquharson, meanwhile, was restive under the yoke of an employer. He wanted to work for himself. In 1996 he took redundancy from his job at the local shire. A few months later, he bought a Jim’s Mowing franchise. It went badly and they lost $40,000. He later told police, “I got sick of chasin’ people to pay me.”
He gave up on his dream of independence; Gambino had resented it, anyway, because of the financial hardship it had caused. He took a job as a cleaner at Lorne’s Cumberland resort. They sold their house and built another. In 2000, they married.
By 2002, they had two children and she wanted a third. She recalled, “Rob was unsure, he didn’t know if he could cope with three children. But Rob was pretty much a softie and always gave in to what I wanted.” Bailey was born on the last day of the year.
She also wanted a third house. They did not like the one they were in, Gambino told the court. She wanted to build, while Farquharson wanted an established house. She won: “Like I said, I usually got my own way.”
Meanwhile, Farquharson had back problems and was depressed over the death of his mother, who had been sick for two years with cancer. “He was always down and out,” Gambino told the court. “I think he grieved for his mum before she died.”
By the time he agreed to accept help for his depression, in October 2004, the marriage was over for Gambino. She had emotionally moved on: “I guess I was over it before it was over . . . I just didn’t want the marriage any more. I asked him to leave.”
For Farquharson, it was not as simple as that. He suspected his wife had feelings for a tradesman who had been working on their new house. Stephen Moules was working as a concreter. He and Gambino were platonic friends while she was with Farquharson. Moules initially pushed her away because he feared being made a scapegoat for the break-up of her marriage.
Moules said Farquharson had told him “he felt like she wanted her marriage over with him so as she and I could initiate a relationship”; that when it came to the marital problems, Farquharson had said, “It’s got to be your fault. I can’t understand any other (reason).”
Soon after Gambino separated from her husband, she and Moules developed a romantic attachment and they are now engaged. Gambino knew that Farquharson was angry about the marriage break-up. He feared he would be pushed out as the father of his children and that Moules would take his place, Gambino told the court.
He was also upset over the level of child maintenance he had to pay: “He felt very angry towards the Child Support Agency because he felt like they didn’t give the guy a fair go – you know, he had to try and get his life back on track (but) because the mother had the children she would get the benefits from Centrelink.”
Farquharson also resented the fact Gambino had the family’s more expensive car. She thought that was only fair because she did more driving with the children. In fact, according to his old friend Gregory King, Farquharson’s bitterness ran much deeper than he let on to his former wife. Murderously deep.
THE EVIDENCE in this case would be complex and exhaustive but would come down to three strands: the car, the cough and the man. Farquharson’s car, which had 350,000 kilometres on the clock, was not a shining example of its kind, his mechanic, James Jacobs, told the court. It had a habit of cutting out and showed a lot of wear and tear.
Jacobs had taken the car for a test run a couple of months before Father’s Day 2005 – he noticed that, on the stretch of road near the dam, it wandered to the right. The car had got close to the centre white line before he put his hands back on the wheel.
Acting Sergeant Glen Stewart Urquhart, of the major collision investigation unit, drove a car of a similar make and model along that patch of road and noted what happened when he took his hands off the driving wheel. At a speed of 64 km/h an hour, the car veered not to the right, as Farquharson’s had, but to the left. At 82 km/h and 101 km/h the car held its line, continuing straight inside its proper lane. In court the jury watched as, in each case, the film showed the dam in the background, slipping harmlessly by.
At the lowest speed, 64km/h, any tendency by Farquharson’s car to steer right would simply have counteracted the tendency he found of the test car to steer left, Urquhart maintained. As for the higher speeds: “There is an enormous difference between a tendency to want to drift to the right . . . and a sharp angle off the road to the right.”
Urquhart claimed it would have taken a 220-degree turn of the steering wheel to make a car turn as Farquharson’s had. He said computer modelling suggested three separate steering inputs would have been required that night: a sharp turn to the right to get the car off the road, a straightening as it progressed towards the dam, and then a second turn to the right to avoid the tree.
David Axup, a traffic analyst and former chief superintendent commanding the Victoria Police Traffic Support Group, had a different opinion. He said that if a car’s steering wheel turned 220 degrees, the car would spin out, leaving yaw marks until it became side on, at which point they would become sideways skid marks. There were no such marks from Farquharson’s car. He estimated that its steering wheel turned only 23.5 degrees, and that it left the road in a gentler arc. The defence argued this wider angle was consistent with Farquharson having been unconscious.
The second major issue was whether a coughing fit made Farquharson black out in the car that night. On the Thursday before the car went into the dam, Farquharson told an old friend that he had had a coughing fit while driving that had made him pass out.
The evidence of the experts was contradictory. Thoracic physician Professor Matthew Naughton, head of respiratory medicine at The Alfred hospital, was sceptical about the existence of “cough syncope” – coughing that leads to fainting – in otherwise healthy people. He said he had never heard of it in someone who has normal heart, lung and neurological function. Naughton said it was “extremely unlikely” in Farquharson: his heart and lungs were healthy, he had not appeared on the night to be disabled by breathlessness, and he had not begun coughing when exposed to cold air while in wet clothing.
Farquharson’s supervisor at work had told the court that, two days before the children died, he had a paroxysm of coughing so severe she feared he might be having a stroke. Would this information affect Naughton’s opinion?
He replied, “It would affect my opinion because the witnessed episode of severe coughing did not elicit syncope.” In other words, why didn’t he pass out that time?
Two other specialists, one a neurologist and the other Geelong thoracic physician Dr Christopher Steinfort, did believe the syndrome occurred in otherwise healthy people with the flu. Steinfort searched his own database of 6500 patients and found 15 cases of people who had had cough syncope, most of whom did not have lung disease. He concluded it was “highly likely” Farquharson had had cough syncope that night. Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that the accuracy of his diagnosis depended on Farquharson having been a truthful historian.
The third strand of evidence related to what had been going on inside Robert Farquharson’s head. GP Ian McDonald told the court that he saw Farquharson in October 2004, when his complaints “included anxiety, mood swings, paranoid feelings, sleeplessness, dwelling on things, teary, emotional, ups and downs, no interest or motivation; tiredness, being stressed, irritable and finding it hard to cope with his children”.
Farquharson said he thought he might have depression. McDonald agreed and prescribed an anti-depressant. Farquharson returned on November 3 saying he and his wife had separated that day: “He stated that she could not cope with his moods and he felt that coming to see me previously had been too little, too late.” McDonald referred him to a psychologist and later to a psychiatrist.
On December 13, Farquharson told him that his wife had ended the marriage and had found religion: “She was having a close friendship with a member of her church and that was upsetting him. He had been hoping that (their) relationship could be reconciled.”
Farquharson did not consult McDonald again until May 2005, when he told the doctor that “he was aware that his wife was manipulating him . . . I know he was annoyed about having to finish the house they were building prior to selling it.”
Farquharson’s psychologist, Peter Popko, said his client had had mild depression. He did feel despair at times at the blended family situation and the fact Stephen Moules would be influencing his children: “At one point (he) had thought of entering into an argument with Stephen and having Stephen throw a punch at him, and then he would be able to take him to court . . . He did entertain thoughts of, I guess, retribution towards Stephen.”
Popko agreed under cross-examination that Farquharson’s attitude to his children was protective, caring, enthusiastic and encouraging; he was particularly proud of Jai.
The most favourable witness regarding Farquharson’s behaviour at the dam was Gregory Paul Roberts, a social worker and grief counsellor who has had more than 70 consultations with Farquharson since the deaths of the children. He was called by Peter Morrissey, Farquharson’s lawyer. Roberts said Farquharson’s behaviour on the night was normal for someone who had been through what he had. Adrenalin would have caused Farquharson to babble and shock might have caused him to sound robotic, appear emotionless or fail to take in information.
Roberts argued that, regardless of whether parents are together or separated, when one partner is present at the death of a child, that partner will have a strong urge to contact the other parent. “After emerging from the dam, that would be the next focus and, at times, people in trauma can actually become what’s referred to as ‘hyper-focused’. Because of the overload of information they lock into what they feel they need to do next and that becomes very single-minded.”
By the time he returned to the dam with Gambino, a person in Farquharson’s position would also have been exhausted “and starting to move into more what we refer to as dissociation, where the person actually starts to block out part of what’s happened. Other people might be running around but they seem quite detached and will actually step back”.
And the significance of Farquharson asking Moules for cigarettes?
“In stressful events the body will actually crave stimulants, and it’s not necessarily a rational or a conscious thing, it’s actually a physiological fact. It’s obviously particularly so if the person is a smoker or a heavy coffee drinker.”
THE MAN who painted the darkest portrait of Farquharson was one of his oldest friends. Gregory King is a bus driver, a lean, tanned man with a bony face. He wore jeans and a loose shirt and stood tensely in the witness box; much of what he had to say was difficult.
He and Farquharson grew up in Winchelsea together and got to know each other better when they both started working for the local shire. They played footy, went away together, socialised at the pub. He tried to see Farquharson about once a week when he was gloomy over the marriage break-up but sometimes it was hard; King’s wife and four children also had claims on his time.
Once Farquharson told King he had thoughts about driving off a cliff or running into a tree. King told him, “Don’t be stupid.” In early 2005, King saw him sitting in his car by the side of a road. Later, he asked Farquharson what he had been doing there. “He said, ‘I was thinking about lining a truck up’. . . Just the look on his face, he was serious.”
Two or three months before Father’s Day 2005, King ran into Farquharson outside the fish and chip shop in Winchelsea’s main street. It was about 6pm on a Friday. King’s account of what was said next would be vigorously challenged by Farquharson’s defence lawyer. Here is what King told the court: Farquharson was inside the fish and chip shop. He came out and stood beside King’s car door for a chat. Cindy Gambino pulled up two lanes over to the right. She got out of her car and greeted both of them; King said hello to her. She went into the shop.
King reproved his friend for not having returned her greeting: “I said to Robert he had to say hello, and he said, ‘No, you don’t.’ (He) got very angry.”
Farquharson was furious about Cindy pulling up in the good car and said, “I paid $30,000 for (it). She wanted it and they are f—ing driving it. Look what I’m driving, the f—ing cheap one.” Farquharson “went on about the house and said that Cindy wanted the best of everything and they couldn’t afford it.
“Then he said, ‘And now it looks like she wants to marry that f—ing d—head. There’s no way I’m going to let him, her and the kids live together in my house and I have to f—ing pay for it and also pay f—ing maintenance for the kids. No way.’
“He just said , ‘I’m going to take away the most important things that mean to her’ (sic). I asked him what would that be, and he nodded his head towards the fish and chip shop window . . .
“I said, ‘What? The kids?’ ”
Farquharson said yes. “I said, ‘What would you do, would you take them away or something?’
“He then just stared at me, into my eyes, and said, ‘Kill them.’
“I said, ‘Bullshit. It’s your own flesh and blood, Robbie.’
“He said, ‘So? I hate them.’
“I said, ‘You would go to jail.’
“He said, ‘No, I won’t. I’ll kill myself before it gets to that’.”
King told the court that Farquharson said the event would be close by; there would be an accident where he would survive and the kids would not. It would be on a special day.
“I said, ‘What kind of day?’
“He said, ‘Something like Father’s Day so everyone would remember it. When it was Father’s Day and I was the last one to have them for the last time, not her. Then she looks up and for the rest of her life, every Father’s Day . . .’
“I said, ‘You don’t even dream that stuff, Robbie.’ ”
When King went home, he told the court, he told his wife about the conversation. Mary King testified that she did not recall this exchange. There was a lot of noise from the children and bustling over dinner. “(We) didn’t do anything about it,” King told the court. “We just thought he was talking shit again.”
At 11pm on Father’s Day, King got a phone call saying Farquharson had had an accident and the boys had drowned in the dam. “I was just – I was speechless . . . It just all came back to me, the conversation . . . I was shattered.” He broke down at work in front of his boss, who contacted the police. King was asked to wear a secret recording device and try to talk to Farquharson about the fish and chip conversation. He agreed. The recordings were later played to the jury.
The first taped exchange was at the house where Farquharson was living with his father. It took place on September 15, 2005, 11 days after the dam. King spoke in anxious undertones.
He said urgently, “Rob, it’s been eating me up . . . Remember when you said, when Cindy pulled up and you said to her, ‘I’ll pay you back big-time’ – I hope it’s got nothing to do with it.”
Said Farquharson: “No. No way . . . No no no no no. And then you know I would never – no.”
Police had interviewed “her”, Farquharson said: “They’ve said she said, ‘No way known would he do anything like that.’ And I wouldn’t. What, I’m not a mongrel. And I’m not a bastard, and I’m not an arsehole, and I’m not a c—. I would never ever, ever. That has never ever entered my mind. What I meant by paying her back was, when ‘One day I’ll stand here with a woman in front of you and see how you like it’. That’s what I meant.”
Farquharson several times urged King to tell police he had been a good father: “All you say, you say you know me, I’ve always been a good bloke. ‘He’s always spoiled his kids, used to see him riding around on the bikes with the kids, and taking them to the footy, playing footy with them . . .’ Always say all the positive things that you know.” Of the children, Farquharson said to King: “I loved them more than life itself.”
Police sent King on one more covert mission. On October 13, 2005, almost a month after the first taped conversation, King presented himself at the home of Farquharson’s sister, Kerri Huntington. He was again wired for sound.
In the conversation that was to follow, King’s breathing became ragged and he several times came close to tears. He sounded tortured by what he believed he had heard.
After initial chat about work and the weather, King again broached the topic of the fish and chip shop conversation. He said it was eating at him like a cancer – why would Farquharson have said that to him?
“I was just angry,” Farquharson said. “I just turn up and she is throwing her nose up. Like, you know, ‘Look, I’m driving this good car and look at you,’ and I just meant, ‘One day I’m going to be better than you, one day I’m going to have a house.’ ”
He absolutely denied ever saying that there would be an accident where he survived and the children did not. He said that the “payback” he had meant was that he would start a successful business and then Gambino would regret having let him go.
At one point he said, “I’m begging you not to mention anything what you think of that (sic).” The prosecution would later argue that Farquharson was exhorting King not to tell the truth to police.
In the witness box, King said he was 80 per cent confident that his recollection of the talk at the fish shop was accurate. He had tried hard to recall it: “I was distressed, traumatised. I was scared.” It came back to him in pieces “and after that . . . last taping, I was 100 per cent sure”.
King admitted that he had not rung Cindy Gambino and let her know of the alleged threats; he had not rung the police, or a teacher at the school. He did not ring Farquharson the next day to see how he was. He also agreed that since the children’s deaths he had been troubled by bad dreams and intrusive visions of the children drowning, had suffered crying bouts and lost his ability to sleep.
Defence lawyer Morrissey suggested his memory had been distorted by his emotional trauma: “Your memory is playing you tricks because of the terrible situation you’re in?”
“No,” said King.
ON TUESDAY October 2, the jury of five men and seven women retired to consider its verdict. Just after 2pm yesterday the word went out that there was a decision. Cindy Gambino was weeping even before she entered the courtroom. She sat between her mother and father, each of her hands holding one of theirs, her eyes closed, murmuring incessantly.
Justice Philip Cummins had asked those present to restrain their feelings until the jurors had left. But at the first blow – “guilty” – Cindy Gambino let out a strangled cry. By the third “guilty”, she was sobbing. Court officers surrounded her and led her from the court. Even so, everyone present could hear her unearthly howls.
Her mother Beverley, her rock, the woman who had sat beside her every day that she came to the trial and held her hand as she ran the media gauntlets, now collapsed. She was lifted unconscious from the pew and carried out of the courtroom. Mother and daughter left the court complex an hour later in an ambulance.
Robert Farquharson, the silent eye of this storm, had paled as the verdicts were announced. He glanced over at his former wife. Later, he looked at reporters and raised his eyebrows, shaking his head from side to side in disbelief, as if to say, “How did it come to this?”