Tears in court over children

THE Farquharson boys wanted dinner with their dad on Father’s Day because they knew it would be KFC, their mother told the Supreme Court yesterday.

She dropped them off at their father’s, stayed while he opened his presents from them, and gave them a goodbye cuddle: “That was at three o’clock. That was the last time I saw my children.”

About 7.30 that night, a soaked Robert Farquharson appeared at her house saying something about the three boys being in a dam. She rang her new partner, Stephen Moules, and got into her car.

She now estimates she must have raced down the Princes Highway at 145 km/h trying to get to them. She has no memory of reversing down her driveway.

In the back seat of her car was her wet and incoherent former husband. In the front seat was Zac, her new partner’s eldest child. Zac had wanted to catch up with her boys and was at her house waiting for them to return.

Yesterday, Ms Gambino recalled: “Zac started getting upset, saying, ‘Cindy, you’re frightening me. Can you slow down?’ And I said, ‘I’ve got to get to the kids, got to get to the kids!’ And I kept … saying to Rob, ‘Where? Where? Where?’ And he said, ‘Keep going. Keep going.”‘

She rushed through much of her evidence yesterday. Her eyes were full of tears and her voice was often strangled but the story of that night poured from her with almost no help from her questioner, prosecutor Jeremy Rapke, QC.

She said that when they got near the dam, “we couldn’t find where the car was and we couldn’t see the dam.

“It was so dark, we couldn’t see anything. Rob tried to comfort me at one point and I pushed him away. By that time Stephen was on the scene.”

She cannot remember much after that: “I was too hysterical. I remember Stephen being very angry with Rob because Rob … asked him for a cigarette, and Stephen said, ‘What! Where are your kids? Get out of my face before I kill you! Where are your kids?”‘

Farquharson, 38, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his three sons, Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, who drowned in a dam seven kilometres east of Winchelsea on September 4, 2005, after the car he was driving ended up in the water.

Farquharson has claimed he had a coughing fit that made him black out, and the car careered across the road and into the dam. Witnesses have told the court that he said he tried to get the children out of the car but failed.

That night, Mr Moules took off his jacket and boots and dived into the dam to look for the children. The water was so cold it took his breath away, he told the court. Ms Gambino noticed Farquharson standing with his arms crossed: “He wasn’t doing anything, he was just like in a trance.”

She said she was at the scene for about an hour. “The paramedic walked up to me and I said, ‘How long has it been?’ He said 40 minutes since they’d got there and I said, ‘What are their chances?’ and he said, ‘Very slim.”‘

Ms Gambino said the marriage had been difficult off and on since her first pregnancy. She had trouble “giving my heart” to her husband because of unresolved grief over a former boyfriend who had died and because she suffered from depression after Jai’s birth.

There were financial problems, she said: Farquharson wanted to work for himself and they sank most of the money he received from a redundancy payout from the local shire into a franchise of Jim’s Mowing. They lost $40,000 on it.

She said Farquharson became depressed after his mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2000.

Ms Gambino said he was devastated when she ended the marriage — “I guess it was a case of you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” — and that he did not react well to her relationship with Mr Moules, which developed only after the separation.

Farquharson feared Mr Moules would take his place as a father to the boys. She told him this would never happen.

She said Farquharson was also angry that she had kept the better car and over the level of maintenance the Child Support Agency required him to pay.

She said that on the Wednesday before the boys died, she had told him to cut back on the money he paid her because she would prefer him to set himself up in a nice home for the boys’ sake.

He told her it would not be legal to reduce the payments.

Under cross-examination by Peter Morrissey, Ms Gambino agreed that her husband used to get bad coughs that interfered with his breathing.

She said she had never seen him pass out from a coughing fit.

The children’s discipline always fell to her, she agreed: “Rob was a bit of a softie.”

The trial continues before Justice Philip Cummins.

First published in The Age.