Critical Overview Of The Robert Farquharson Homicide Case
The Robert Farquharson case was one that shocked the entirety of Australia. Robert Farquharson was convicted of the murder of his children, Jai aged 10, Tyler aged 7 and Bailey aged 2 in Melbourne, Victoria on the 17th of December 2009. An unjust ruling to some and the right conviction to others, it was highly debated. The incident occurred in 2005 on Father’s Day when Robert Farquharson was driving his children back to the care of his ex-partner Cindy Gambino. Instead of driving his children to back to their mother, it was implied that he drove them into a dam that was on the side of the Princess highway on the way to Winchelsea in Victoria. As result of the incident Jai, Tyler and Bailey all died in the car from drowning while it was in the dam, and Robert Farquharson managed to get free from the car. This turned into one of the most publicised and controversial cases for the four years it was in the legal process. This review will summarise the crucial elements of the investigative processes and will explain the errors and flaws in these procedures. It will then provide some recommendations to hopefully prevent these issues in the future and to possibly be avoided. Finally, the review will discuss the way in which the media may have influenced the outcome of the case.
On the day that it occurred, which was the 4th of September 2005, when the first responders went to the scene of the incident at first glance it had appeared to just be a tragic accident. But after further investigation by police investigative staff, they were suspicious to what had occurred, and it had quickly became a homicide investigation. The first responders to the scene included the ambulance, police and investigators from the Major Collison Investigative Unit. The scene was believed to just be an accident where a car had just swerved off the road and the children were trapped, but other evidence pointed to this being a deliberate act. On the scene, Robert Farquharson was noted by responders that he had an unusual persona about what had just occurred and had been identified in court as his “Dam Side Conduct”. While his children’s deceased bodies were being removed from the car, Robert Farquharson made no attempt in the effort to retrieve his children from the car and the dam. Robert Farquharson got both medical attention and a medical assessment of his ‘cough syncope’ to determine if this incident was an accident. Police investigators did what was normally done at a crime scene which was collecting evidence, analysing tyre marks, and other geographical disturbances and other relevant aspects of investigation for this case. The Major Collision Unit arrived on scene and took observations as well. The bodies of the children were all sent away to the coroner to determine the deaths. Overall, police investigators during this investigation followed basic procedure in analysing a crime scene and majority was done correctly.
Although investigators followed basic procedures and majority of the investigation was done correctly, there were several inconsistencies apparent in court, not just due to dodgy investigation work. There were some inconsistences with the reconstruction of the crash as well as a nondisclosure of a witness’s criminal history. These factors and misconduct may have led to the final prosecution and sentencing of guilty and 33 years in prison for Robert Farquharson.
The misconduct of the reconstructive analysis was most damning to the police investigation and to the final prosecution. The crash analysis and reconstruction were done by investigators of the Major Collision Investigative unit, Sergeant Geoffrey Exton and Sargent Urquhart. The reconstruction was done on a computer program “PC Crash” and was done to analyse the possible pathway that the car took into the dam to determine if the crash was deliberate. In this analysis the evidence provided show that it was deliberate, and that Robert Farquharson was not unconscious at the time of the incident. This analysis was said to be done through the observations of Sargent Glen Urquhart, photographs taken by other police members and plans of the area. Several issues regarding this analysis was brought up about the misconduct and incorrect analysis that was done. Sargent Urquhart credentials came into question because the trial did not use the right scopes of measure to determine the expertise and whether Urquhart’s opinion was reliable. Urquhart concluded with the crash analysis, that after the experiment the car needed input from the driver to make the direction into the dam. However, it was also proven that the car took a smooth arc into the dam using the evidence that Urquhart gave. Although, this result was not used in court and Urquhart’s position on the movement of the car was weighted more. In this case it was also suggested that police incorrectly did not identify relevant tyre marks which would prove that the car was moving in a smoot arc, and in investigation the police did not take into that the car hit a wire fence which would alter the movement of the car making it an accident (ABC News, 2015). The crash analysis was a complete unjust to the investigation and to the outcome of the case for Robert Farquharson.
Another issue within this case was the nondisclosure of criminal history of a witness. Although this was not an investigative procedure mishap it was a fairly damning mistake made. Gregory King was a witness that stated that Robert Farquharson had told him that he was going to kill his children to get back at his ex-partner Cindy Gambino. Cindy Gambino was the partner in the relationship to end the marriage and she was known to have gotten together in a new relationship with another man. Gregory King had a current pending court date for a charge of lawful assault when being a witness for the case. This was not disclosed to the court which it should have been. If it had of been the court may have dismissed the evidence. This case shows bias against Robert Farquharson by not disclosing this information as this evidence makes him look fairly guilty of committing the act deliberately and not how claims how it was an accident.
Flaws within an investigation can jeopardise a case’s integrity and can influence the outcome. The crash analysis and the non-disclosure of criminal history play a large part in influencing a decision which show bias and unjust towards Robert Farquharson. These issues should not have arisen if the investigative procedures were done correctly before the court trial. No doubt on what they were trying to prove should have been cast with the evidence given.
Errors should not have occurred in a criminal case especially in one which is proving guilty or innocence in a homicide investigation. Small mishaps which were very integral, and a major part of the investigation should not have happened if the proper processes were followed. All the issues with the crash analysis and the non-disclosure of criminal history of a key witness was all due to perception and tunnel vision. This perception and tunnel visions can lead to set judgments when looking at evidence and incorrect analysis due to the investigator or coming to a conclusion. This can end up causing a lack of relevant judgment among the correct and most ethical ways to do things regarding an investigation. Also, faulty evidence can also stem from a lack of confidence which will then not provide accuracy in judgement. Both the crash analysis and nondisclosure were both aspects of this perception.
For the car crash analysis better processing should be done involving the reconstruction of the accident. Car crash analysis involves photos and observations that need to be taken of skid marks, direction of travel - pre and post, friction values of the car, points of impact, impact angle and weight dimensions of car and also the geographical disturbances made. During the court case it was noted that the Major Collision Unit used a different car in the analysis and reconstruction. Therefore, friction values and weight dimension which are integral parts to the reconstruction as it can the change movement was not taken into consideration for this incident, which in turn made the analysis incorrect. Instead of the Major Collision Unit using photos and markings by the police they should conduct their own investigation into the crash which then it may be done properly as they are more experts in the area. Within the court process a less experienced individual made the analysis into the way in which the car took into the river (R v Farquharson, 2009). Questions in regards was made into the relevance of the evidence and the expertise of the individual giving the evidence in that it was not correctly done. Therefore, to improve this the relevant experts should be conducting the investigation as well as the analysis to reduce error.
For the non-disclosure of criminal history, obviously next time the criminal history of a witness should be disclosed. It is a legal requirement as people in pending trials could have something to gain from being a witness in the prosecutions side of an investigation (Lawrence, S., 2012). This was perception in that this was done purposefully as this evidence given would not hold much weight in that it was given by a criminal and the prosecution have much else which would prove that Robert Farquharson was guilty.
The case of Robert Farquharson was majorly publicised among all aspects with print media, online media and social media. Not only during the case and even after court proceedings it still got mass media attention. It became a national case because nobody could believe that a father could be guilty of murdering his three children on Father’s Day. There were people outraged and people that supported Robert Farquharson. Media may have tragically influenced the outcome of this case in that the case of Robert Farquharson murdering his own children made good headlines in the media. Media is a powerful source of getting the information out and swaying people’s opinion, it can influence with its stories. Throughout his entire case most media output has put Robert Farquharson in a negative light. Some examples of headlines which highlight this is “Father’s Day Child Killer” from the ABC and “Why did Robert Farquharson take an evil turn” from the Australian. These are just a select few which highlight the medias bias towards Robert Farquharson. A media story was even banned due to its bias opinions and the judge for Robert Farquharson’s case said that it had a possibility to sway the case. There were also individuals who supported Robert Farquharson with a website being created even after the case which also highlights the flaws within his case and court trial. It may have also played a part in the narrow perception of the investigators of the case. A lot of errors that were made were in prosecution against Robert Farquharson and so was the media. Media had an impactful part on the case of Robert Farquharson and was clear in the beginning of the case due to the media output that Robert Farquharson would be found guilty.
The Robert Farquharson case was one that shocked the entire nation, from the heinous crime to the faulty police investigation. The car crash analysis and the un-disclosure of criminal history was most damning to the case and most likely the reason for the guilty verdict. Media also had an integral part in the unfair case against Robert Farquharson. There will always be media input and faulty police work in some cases however they are ways to prevent it. Robert Farquharson did not get the fair trial which he was meant to.