Top positive review
Sad account of a true crime
Reviewed in the United States on January 4, 2016
In 2005 an event occurred that horrified all Australians. Robert Farquharson, estranged from his wife, was returning his three young sons, Jai, Tyler and Bailey, to their mother after an access visit on Father’s Day when his car swerved off the road, through a fence and across a paddock plunging his car into a seven metre deep dam. While he managed to escape and swim to safety his three children drowned. He claimed to have blacked out after a coughing fit and came to as the car was filling with water. Both he and his estranged wife asserted he loved his children and would never hurt them, let them kill them. However, the police were less convinced as several factors didn’t seem right, including the path travelled by the car and Farquharson’s behaviour during and after the accident and he was eventually charged with the murder.
Helen Garner sat through the entire six week trial in 2007 and then an appeal and retrial in 2010 hoping to learn the truth. Was this a dreadful accident or a horrific murder carried out as an act of revenge on his wife for dumping him and taking a new partner? Perhaps it was a planned murder/suicide but Farquharson failed to go through with killing himself? Perhaps it wasn’t premeditated at all but happened in an instant in a fit of rage? Throughout the trial Garner doesn’t take sides, she prevaricates between thinking this can’t have been an accident and feeling sorry for the sad, downtrodden man on trial.
While showing us the human faces of this trial, the accused and his estranged wife, their families, the witnesses, the lawyers and judges Garner takes us through the anatomy of a criminal trial. She carefully describes the way in which evidence is given by witnesses and picked apart by the lawyers with the microscopic examination of tiny details often taking up long stifling days. She further shows us the human side of the trial as she watches the unspoken interactions between the accused and his family, listens to the banter and opinions of the journalists and observes the jury’s response to the witnesses and evidence.
Did the jury make the right decision? You’ll have to read the book to see what you think. In the end however, no amount of punishment or retribution can make up for the death of three innocent young boys. As Garner herself concludes
”Every stranger grieves for them. Every stranger’s heart is broken. The children’s fate is our legitimate concern. They are ours to mourn. They belong to all of us now.”