‘You wiped out your entire family in one act. Only the two parents remained: you because you had always intended to save yourself, and their mother, because you intended her to live a life of suffering.’
THE courtroom was packed and buzzing, the public gallery full, but everyone instinctively fell silent when Robert Farquharson was led in to face his doom.
The first part of Justice Philip Cummins’ address offended no one. He talked about the need for the law to protect vulnerable children. “If the law fails there, the law fails,” Justice Cummins said.
Then he turned to Farquharson’s conviction three weeks ago for killing his children: Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, who drowned when they were driven into a dam on Father’s Day 2005.
He said to Farquharson: “You wiped out your entire family in one act. Only the two parents remained: you, because you had always intended to save yourself; and their mother, because you intended her to live a life of suffering.”
At this, Farquharson shook his head. His two tearful sisters and half a dozen other relatives stood up and filed out of the courtroom in silent protest. They were not there to hear the quiet gasps when Justice Cummins finally came to his decision – a life sentence for each life taken, with no chance of parole.
Failing a successful appeal, Farquharson, 38, a man who was said to have dearly loved his children, will spend the rest of his life in jail for their murders.
Farquharson has always claimed he suffered a coughing fit and blacked out, resulting in the car veering off the road and into a dam.
He claimed he tried to dive in for his children but was unable to save them.
The prosecution at his trial alleged that he had planned the killings in revenge against his former wife, Cindy Gambino, for leaving him, finding a new man and making his life financially difficult.
An old friend, Greg King, testified that Farquharson had told him he planned to do something to the children, and that an accident would involve a dam and a special day, such as Father’s Day, so that their mother would suffer on the anniversary for the rest of her life. As Justice Cummins repeated these claims yesterday, Farquharson looked shocked, as if he had not heard them before. He shook his head, puffed out his cheeks, and muttered over and over, “bulls–t!”
The judge pointed out that Farquharson had refused offers of help that night from others who wanted to dive for the children, and that he stood by while his former wife’s new partner dived for them alone.
The judge said he believed the evidence of Mr King about Farquharson having formed “a dark contemplation”.
He told Farquharson: “You had love for your children, but it was displaced by vindictiveness towards your estranged wife, which led you to these crimes. I do not find that you had a fixed intention over months to kill your children, but you contemplated it over months . . . You have no remorse for these crimes, although you do regret their consequences for you.
“You breached in the most profound way the trust which the law, and your children, placed in you as a father.” Justice Cummins said it was most unusual not to set a minimum term and of no service to the community for the law to crush people.
But Farquharson had abused the trust of his children; had killed three; had killed victims who were unable to defend themselves; had planned the crime over time, and had done it all to inflict punishment on their mother.
“In all the circumstances, it is not appropriate to set a minimum term of imprisonment after which you will be eligible for parole.”
Outside the court, Farquharson’s brother-in-law, Ian Ross, read a prepared statement from Farquharson that said: “The court has found me guilty but I did not murder my children. I received a life sentence on the night my boys died, so I don’t care much about what other people think about me.
“I do care about how people remember or think of Jai, Tyler and Bailey, because they are three special boys and their lives were very important to me and all their family.
“I will appeal the verdict because I will not have the public believe that Jai, Tyler and Bailey were anything less than the most important part of both my life and the lives of their family. I will fight to clear the names of my three boys.
“They are what keeps me going because there is nothing much else more important to me.
“I cannot change what people think of me now. But with all my heart, I ask you to respect my children, Cindy and both our families.”
Farquharson’s family walked away from the court wearing badges supporting his innocence. A young female relative’s badge said simply, “Robbed”.
One of Farquharson’s sisters, Kerri Huntington, had one that said “Fact before theory”.
His other sister, Carmen Ross, wore the one that best summed up the stance of his distraught family, a family described by the judge as good people. The green letters on her round black badge said: “In Rob we trust.”
SENTENCED TO LIFE
Murdered Mersina Halvagis, Nicole Patterson and Margaret Maher.
BANDALI MICHAEL DEBS
Murdered Sergeant Gary Silk, Senior Constable Rodney Miller and 18-year-old Kristy Harty.
LESLIE ALFRED CAMILLERI
Murdered two Bega schoolgirls.
DEREK ERNEST PERCY
Suspected of killing up to nine children. Arrested for the murder of Yvonne Tuohy
First published in The Age.