JANE Ashton remembers the first flash she had that her twin sister, Julie Ramage, was dead. She says it was lunchtime on the fatal day and she suddenly found herself shaken by a dreadful feeling: “It was to do with understanding grief, and why people do awful things to each other.”
Later the same day police confirmed that her sister was dead, killed by her husband at the family home. But long before then, Mrs Ashton had filed a missing person’s report on her sister. “It’s in the statement. Three or four times, I told them that he’s strangled her and put her in the boot of the car. They thought I was being a bit dramatic and ignored my intuition. I just knew she was dead.”
She says another policeman told her later that “it’s not unusual for there to be a prophetic vision in cases like this, especially if the relationship was between twins, or a mother and child”.
Mrs Ashton knows that the law could not bring her sister back, but she remains appalled at the outcome of the trial of her brother-in-law, James Ramage, who was last week found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
She is angry at the way her sister’s name was tarnished, with an emphasis by the defence on her sister’s extra-marital affairs. “No mention was allowed of a broken nose Jamie gave her 15 years ago and how she had lived in fear of him ever since.”
She is also outraged by what she saw of the legal defence of provocation and how it was used to argue that Julie Ramage had provoked James to kill her.
“I’m just devastated that in this day and age, provocation can still be used as a defence to murder, and that women cannot leave their partners in a safe and civilised way. I really hoped that the ‘ordinary man’ (the test juries use to judge behaviour) would have been able to help us. I don’t see how the ordinary man could do this.”
Mrs Ashton says that she and other witnesses were traumatised by the restrictive laws of evidence that meant that some of Julie’s experiences of abuse in the marriage could not be revealed. “None of Julie’s story was coming through,” she says.
See also: Honour Killing in the Suburbs
First published in The Age.