The details of the brutal death of a mum in front of her children shocked even an experienced Supreme Court judge.
The details of the brutal death of a mum in front of her children shocked even an experienced Supreme Court judge.

The savage murder that shocked Australia

JUDGES make suppression orders for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it looks to the public - and the public's watchdog, the media - as if the courts value a wrongdoer's privacy or comfort over everyone else's right to know.

The fact that Victorian courts impose a higher rate of suppression orders than interstate courts does suggest that our judges are willing to dilute the concept of open courts by muzzling reporting of them.

But there are crimes so evil, so disturbing, that the people involved are not identified publicly because of the extra anguish to already terribly distressed victims.

The Queen v RB is one of those cases.

It shocked the experienced Supreme Court judge condemned to sit through it.

It shocked everyone in court including the accused man's defence counsel. It shocks anyone who reads the sentencing remarks.

** WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW **

Young children watched their father torture and kill their mother then mutilate her body with a savagery and depravity that defies belief. The effect on them cannot be imagined, let alone be described in full and published alongside their names.

But the rest of us should not turn away from the nightmare, because that only makes it more likely someone else will get away with murder.

The dead woman was in her late 20s. Her short life and appalling death two years ago this month is a potent argument against arranged marriage anywhere - let alone in Australia.

It is an indictment, some might argue, of militant Islam and barbaric cultural practices and possibly of drug abuse.

When she was in her late teens, the doomed girl was sent to Australia from Lebanon to be looked over by the man who would eventually butcher her.

The marriage was arranged and carried out within two weeks. This is the live meat trade - of defenceless women, not sheep - allowed by our morally bankrupt system.

From the moment she was effectively sold into slavery, as the judge wrote later of the killer husband, "you totally dominated her. Dictating who she could see … what clothes she could wear and what domestic work you required her to do."

Three years later, after the birth of the first of three children, the future murderer took a second wife "in a ceremony presided over by a local sheik".

By "local", the judge is referring to a sheik in Melbourne's northern suburbs, not some Taliban village.

The second wife, too, was "the target of your domination, emotional abuse and physical assaults".

The women were treated worse than animal cruelty laws allow Australians to treat animals. But this man, though born here, apparently believed himself beyond mere Australian law - and, of course, for far too long he was.

The law did not halt his grotesque and methodical cruelty until it was far too late for "TZ", the initials by which the court identifies the murdered woman.

"You attacked your wife in front of your three children with a knife; repeatedly slashing, stabbing and cutting her to her face and body," the judge wrote.

Two children watched as their father ripped out their mother's right eye and threw it down a toilet.

One child later told sickened police that the father had cut off two of her fingers and placed them in her body cavities.

The same child had to describe the savage cuts to her face, body and genital area.

How does anyone recover from that?

"Two of your children … described you as having 'slaughtered' their mother," the judge writes.

The killer manhandled the disfigured body on the blood-soaked floor and wrapped it in plastic and a doona and bound it with electrical tape, watched by the oldest child, who was eight. Then he carried it to the family's Toyota Corolla and put it in the boot.

He put the children in the car and drove to a spot near a house occupied by "known associates", a notorious middle-eastern family involved in crime and terrorist offences.

He dumped the body in open grassland around 4am.

On the way back to the place of slaughter he stopped and bought pastries from an all-night store.

When the body was found the next day, the first police at the scene could not identify what gender it was because of the extent and number of knife wounds.

The pathologist found many of her injuries had been inflicted over time: she had been tortured and beaten for weeks or months before the final, murderous acts.

Her ribs and teeth were broken, she had been cut many times, her small bowel was damaged. The experts knew she had probably died of blood loss but they still did not know who she was.

Can such a story be any worse?

The police didn't go to the house for another 17 days and then presumably only because some anonymous person had suggested a welfare check on the children.

At that stage no one knew their mother was missing, let alone dead. After all, one female slave hidden in a face veil looks much like another to the outside world.

The police found three small children with serious injuries from being assaulted and who were malnourished and dehydrated.

One, a little girl, had apparently been deliberately burned as if with a hot iron.

It wasn't for another two days, when police ascertained that the abused children's mother was missing, that it became clear it was probably her body that had been found more than two weeks earlier.

It took DNA tests with the children to make sure.

There is no way to sugar coat other things the pathologist found.

When the police showed him weapons from the murder house - knives, cleavers, an axe and scissors - he concluded all or most of them had been used to inflict wounds over weeks before the final attack. It wasn't just one act of maniacal rage.

There's more. It appeared her eye had been torn out while she was still alive.

And he had raped her as he killed her. A husband's prerogative in some cultures, apparently.

The judge could not decide whether the crimes were "purely the result" of "extreme Islamic beliefs" or whether the defence claim of possible drug-induced psychosis had any merit.

"There could be little doubt … that you leaned towards extreme Jihadi thinking," the judge concluded.

Perhaps the fact the wife-killer had spent more than two years in custody for a terrorist conspiracy speaks for itself.

It is almost inconceivable an Australian judge would impose a suppression order because of cultural or religious sensitivities.

Surely it would be motivated only by concern for the children's welfare.

andrew.rule@news.com.au


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