'The Offender', by Emily Meller

Illustration by Marc Pearson.

When you study law, you end up reading a lot of cases. After four years and hundreds of pages, I found myself with more questions about the law—and the people who interact with it—than when I started. In criminal cases in particular, I began to notice patterns, bizarre ones, no matter whether the crime was corporate fraud, or aggravated assault, or petty theft. It all seemed to be driven by the same things: ambition, pride, splintered identity, jealousy. Ego.

What is it that makes someone an ‘offender?’ This is one of many questions I wanted to explore. I wasn’t sure what I’d find in the cases, but once I started reading them, more and more parallels emerged. I made a very professional table with categories like ‘car’, ‘stab’, ‘heavy fog’ and ‘weird face coverings and hats’ to sort some of it out. Apart from the factual similarites, I found a lot of really poetic, weird, and darkly funny moments in the judgments too. ‘The Offender’ is a composite portrait, drawn from these patterns and coincidences. It is a true story.

The offender wanted some drugs and he wanted some money.1

He was an experienced and accomplished lawyer;2 a good looking, successful and honest man.3

That fateful day was the offender’s 32nd birthday.4

He was wearing a black jacket, red hood under the jacket, blue jeans and black shoes, and a pair of pink gloves.5

The relationship between the offender and his wife was troubled.6

His offending was partly due to his escaping from a loveless marriage, which ultimately led to him losing touch with reality.7

They decided to try to resurrect their relationship.8

One of the reasons they arranged to meet that night was to have sex.9

She was facing away from him and she was dressed.10 He embraced her and they started.11

He wants her to be submissive.12

He was too tricky, too many different identities;13 he was using too much cocaine and it was costing him money.14

Drug use was so common in the circles in which the offender mixed that he had a distorted view as to the seriousness of drug use.15

It suggested that he was a person living an aimless existence.16

She was losing herself.17

She was romantically involved with another man18 and got into the habit of making New Year’s resolutions that she would not let it happen again.19

She and the deceased had been in a relationship for twelve and half years.20

He was not a “Harvard graduate.”21

His employment was mostly as a mechanic and in electronics.22

About seventy-five per cent of his body from the waist up to the head level is tattooed.23

His relationship with the woman ended on New Year’s Eve.24

The accused and the deceased were friendly with one another25 – they were mates.26

They had a few fall-outs over time27 – the conversations were heated.28

The cumulative effect of these disputes was the irretrievable breakdown of their friendship and business relationship.29

The offender intended to abduct and rob the deceased.30

She was upset and crying by this time.31 She loved the accused but she was afraid of him, that he could be a beautiful person but would turn and become angry.32

He believed the deceased made him a laughing stock of the Eastern suburbs.33

It is not absolutely clear what the reason was for those feelings.34

The offender drove35 a top-of-the-range CRV with leather upholstery.36

He was able to get a significantly discounted vehicle.37

Such a vehicle is embroidered with modifications so as to become an object of admiration by motor enthusiasts.38

Inside the wall panel of the rear left passenger door of the car39 is a .38 special calibre Smith & Wesson Model 36 five-chamber revolver.40

He retrieved the gun.41

He was aware of what he was doing, its seriousness, and the consequences.42

The accused, as already mentioned, was an inherently angry man, who clearly had a susceptibility to lose his temper quickly.43

The offender then set about following the deceased;44 driving a motor vehicle whilst his licence was cancelled.45

The two men drove in their cars towards that cemetery area.46

The road surface was wet from earlier rain. There was thick fog.47

Having seen him,48 suddenly the headlights of the offender’s vehicle appear to go into high beam.49

The light was reflecting back off the fog.50

He gathered speed and drove directly into the driver’s side door.51

The ute rolled three or four times before landing on its side.52

At about this time the offender exited the motor vehicle.53

The two men were close enough to speak without shouting.54

A suburban street became the venue for a showdown.55

“Mate. Don’t do it. Stop it mate.”56

The offender said “Sorry”.57

He then pointed the gun at the other man and shot him.58

The projectile passed through the left wrist of the deceased and then entered his chest.59

Death was instantaneous.60

Three teenage children, who were nearby and no doubt attracted by the commotion, saw what happened.61

The offender returned to his home on foot,62 striding purposively away from the direction of the crime scene.63

Their apartment was on the 15th floor of a block of apartments in Liverpool St.64

The offender was sitting on the lounge room floor, covered in blood.65

He was unable to reason about the wrongfulness of his actions with a moderate degree of sensible composure.66

The offender used his laptop between 6:26pm and 7pm to visit various websites and articles that included “Beginnings of a Serial Killer.”67

She did not immediately rush and complain.68

She wanted to get him in trouble with the police, but didn’t have enough evidence.69

She told him to leave.70

She went to bed. She covered herself with a pink and red blanket.71

The offender described the initial period of their separation as amicable.72

On the next day the offender attended the Wagga Wagga Police Station to report his car missing.73

This is one of those unusual cases where the offender’s commission of the offence was not suspected until a disclosure by him.74

Taking the life of another person is a profoundly serious offence.75

He wanted to confess to the murder.76

He was found to be alert and attentive; he was neat, tidy, pleasant and co-operative in presentation; he maintained good eye-contact and spoke spontaneously and expansively; his mood and affect, whilst restricted, were appropriate.77

The offence was captured on CCTV but the footage was later deleted by mistake.78

The offender was an unreliable historian.79

He had taken a lot of Xanax and it had affected his memory.80

He exercised his right to make no comment.81

It was not open to the Court to sentence the Offender for an offence to which he had not pleaded guilty.82

The offender is no longer charged with the murder of the deceased.83 The penalty is 12 months off the road.84

Perhaps these grave errors occurred as a result of a desire to do quick justice.85

The offender probably realises that he cannot continue to act as he has been.86 He is now a regular church goer.87

The offender also attempted to call his mother.88

He continues to suffer sleep disturbances, worsening depression and anxiety.89

He is unsure of the future, but hopeful.90

Emily Meller is a writer and law student whose work regularly appears in The BRAG and Vertigo. She has great music taste, according to her. She tweets at @EmMeller.

This piece was originally published in The Lifted Brow #23. Get your copy now.

  1. R v Hona [2013] NSWDC 300 [2]. 
  2. ICAC v Obeid & Anors, July 2013, Jasper Report [135]. 
  3. R v Sopronick [2014] NSWDC 12 [4]. 
  4. R v Fazah [2014] NSWSC 231 [8]. 
  5. Wade (a pseudonym) v The Queen [2014] VSCA 13 (14 February 2014) [6]. 
  6. R v Fazah [2014] NSWSC 231 [5]. 
  7. AB v R [2014] NSWCCA 31 [14]. 
  8. R v Robert Bretherton [2013] NSWSC 1036 (6 August 2013) [4]. 
  9. R v Meyn John Michael (No 6) [2013] NSWSC 243 (28 March 2013) [15]. 
  10. R v Copper [2012] NSWDC 304 [1]. 
  11. Ibid. 
  12. R v Gittany [2013] NSWSC 1737 [62]. 
  13. R v Panetta [2014] NSWSC 27 [13]. 
  14. R v Spiroulias [2013] NSWDC 292 [6]. 
  15. R v Sopronick [2014] NSWDC 12 [10]. 
  16. R v Phanekham (No 3) [2014] NSWSC 508 [44]. 
  17. R v Gittany [2013] NSWSC 1737 [24]. 
  18. Hughes, Jenna Lee v R [2014] NSWCCA 15 [12]. 
  19. KJS v R [2014] NSWCCA 27 [14]. 
  20. R v Phanekham (No 3) [2014] NSWSC 508 [33]. 
  21. ICAC v Maitland, Macdonald & Anors, 2013, Acacia Report [35]. 
  22. R v Kaine (No 2) [2013] NSWSC 1824 (6 December 2013) [23]. 
  23. R v Abdallah (No. 5) [2014] NSWSC 233 [2]. 
  24. R v Madden Neil [2013] NSWSC 710 (4 June 2013)[3]. 
  25. R v Iusi Afele [2014] NSWSC 366 (2 April 2014) [7]. 
  26. ICAC v Maitland, Macdonald & Anors, 2013, Acacia Report [28]. 
  27. Ibid. 
  28. ICAC v Obeid & Anors, July 2013, Jasper Report [124]. 
  29. R v Christopher Chafic Estephan [2014] NSWSC 450 [10]. 
  30. R v Panetta [2014] NSWSC 27 [13]. 
  31. R v Fazah [2014] NSWSC 231 [9]. 
  32. R v Gittany [2013] NSWSC 1737 [145]. 
  33. R v Christopher Chafic Estephan [2014] NSWSC 450 [9]. 
  34. R v Jermaine Bolt [2013] NSWSC 895 (5 July 2013)[5]. 
  35. R v DS [2014] NSWDC 7 [5]. 
  36. ICAC v Obeid & Anors, 2013, Indus Report, [11]. 
  37. Ibid, [12]. 
  38. R v Sutcliffe & Ors [2013] NSWSC 715 (7 June 2013) [3]. 
  39. R v Farrell [2014] NSWCCA 30 [8]. 
  40. R v Filippou [2011] NSWSC 1379 [79]. 
  41. Queen v Nesci [2014] VSC 67 [6]. 
  42. R v DS [2014] NSWDC 7 [25]. 
  43. R v Filippou [2011] NSWSC 1379 [108]. 
  44. R v Panetta [2014] NSWSC 27 [9]. 
  45. Director of Public Prosecutions (NSW) v Gatu [2014] NSWSC 192 [4]. 
  46. Sonnet v The Queen [2013] VSCA 2 (17 January 2013) [6]. 
  47. R v RMC [2013] NSWCCA 285 [7]. 
  48. R v DS [2014] NSWDC 7 [6]. 
  49. R v Ward [2010] NSWSC 304 [12]. 
  50. R v RMC [2013] NSWCCA 285 [7]. 
  51. R v DS [2014] NSWDC 7 [7]. 
  52. R v Stafford [2014] NSWCCA 6 [8]. 
  53. R v Ward [2010] NSWSC 304 [8]. 
  54. R v Jacobs (No 9) [2013] NSWSC 1470 [18]. 
  55. R v Phanekham (No 3) [2014] NSWSC 508 [78]. 
  56. R v DS [2014] NSWDC 7 [7]. 
  57. R v Christopher Chafic Estephan [2014] NSWSC 450 [54]. 
  58. R v Filippou [2011] NSWSC 1379 [55] 
  59. R v Jacobs (No 9) [2013] NSWSC 1470 [19]. 
  60. Milat v R; Klein v R [2014] NSWCCA 29 [3]. 
  61. R v Bugmy [2013] NSWSC 1885 (16 December 2013) [6]. 
  62. R v Antony Paul Hanney [2014] NSWDC 13 [12]. 
  63. Wade (a pseudonym) v The Queen [2014] VSCA 13 (14 February 2014) [8]. 
  64. R v Gittany [2013] NSWSC 1737 [2]. 
  65. R v Fazah [2014] NSWSC 231 [22]. 
  66. R v Lopez [2014] NSWSC 287 (21 March 2014) [96]. 
  67. R v Stani-Reginald [2013] NSWSC 567 (17 May 2013) [35]. 
  68. KJS v R [2014] NSWCCA 27 [43]. 
  69. R v Panetta [2014] NSWSC 27 [13]. 
  70. R v Madden Neil [2013] NSWSC 710 (4 June 2013)[3]. 
  71. R v Hassan [2014] NSWSC 280 (21 March 2014) [41]. 
  72. R v Meyn John Michael (No 6) [2013] NSWSC 243 (28 March 2013) [8]. 
  73. R v Antony Paul Hanney [2014] NSWDC 13 [12]. 
  74. R v Panetta [2014] NSWSC 27 [2]. 
  75. The Queen v Howard [2014] VSC 194 (6 May 2014) [16]. 
  76. R v Panetta [2014] NSWSC 27 [2]. 
  77. R v Kaine (No 2) [2013] NSWSC 1824 (6 December 2013) [32]. 
  78. Wade (a pseudonym) v The Queen [2014] VSCA 13 (14 February 2014) [7]. 
  79. R v David John Dunn [2013] NSWSC 237 (26 March 2013) [47]. 
  80. R v Abdallah (No. 2) [2014] NSWSC 111 (17 February 2014) [7]. 
  81. The Queen v Torun [2014] VSC 146 (4 April 2014) [33]. 
  82. R v Kaewklom (No. 4) [2013] NSWSC 504 (3 May 2013) [10]. 
  83. R v Christopher Chafic Estephan [2014] NSWSC 450 (30 April 2014) [10]. 
  84. Director of Public Prosecutions (NSW) v Gatu [2014] NSWSC 192 [7]. 
  85. Ibid, [37]. 
  86. R v Hona [2013] NSWDC 300 [10]. 
  87. R v Hadchiti (No 3) [2014] NSWSC 257 (18 March 2014) [131]. 
  88. R v Meyn John Michael (No 6) [2013] NSWSC 243 (28 March 2013) [22]. 
  89. R v Hadchiti (No 3) [2014] NSWSC 257 (18 March 2014) [132]. 
  90. R v Copper [2012] NSWDC 304 [12].