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Robert Donald William Farquharson (born 1969) is an Australian killer, convicted of murdering his three sons on Father's Day in 2005 by driving them into a farm dam.

About 7pm on September 4, 2005, as Farquharson was returning his children to their mother after a Father's Day access visit, his white 1989 VN Commodore vehicle veered across the Princes Highway between Winchelseamarker and Geelongmarker, smashed through a fence and came to rest in a farm dam where it filled with water and submerged. His three children, Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, were unable to free themselves and drowned. Farquharson managed to escape and alerted another driver who took him to nearby Winchelsea . Police divers recovered the boys' bodies about 2am the next day. They were still inside the vehicle and unrestrained by seatbelts.

Farquharson maintains his innocence and is planning to appeal his sentence .

Early life

The murdered Farquharson children, Jai, 10, Bailey, 2, Tyler, 7
Farquharson met his future wife, Cindy Gambino, in February 1990. In 1996, he took a redundancy package from his employer and bought a lawn-mowing franchise servicing his local area, a venture that lost him AUD$40,000.

He married Gambino in 2000 and had three children together by 2002. The pair separated amicably in 2004 . Farquharson suffered bouts of depression and sought the assistance of a psychologist and later a psychiatrist to deal with the separation. He was prescribed with the antidepressants Zoloft and later Avanza .

Arrest

Police prepared murder charges against Farquharson and went to his Winchelsea home on December 14, 2005. He was not there at the time but presented himself at the Geelong police station in the presence of his lawyer. He was arrested and charged with three counts of murder. Farquharson requested and undertook a lie detector test, the results of which are inadmissible in court He later appeared in the Geelong Magistrates Court, where he was remand in custody and ordered to appear before the court on April 7, 2006..

Gambino told the court she did not believe Farquharson intended to kill their children deliberately, saying "I believe with all my heart that this was just an accident and that he would not have hurt a hair on their heads. I don't believe this is murder .

Police alleged Farquharson was in control of the vehicle in the moments before it crashed into the dam, and that he earlier told a friend, Greg King, he had intended to kill his children to get back at his wife . He was later granted bail and released from custody to appear at his trial scheduled to begin in August 2007.

Trial

Farquharson's trial for the murder of his sons began in the Supreme Court of Victoriamarker before Justice Philip Cummins, on August 21, 2007 . A total of 49 witnesses appeared during the six-week trial .

Prosecution

Sargeant Glen Urquhart gave evidence that the steering wheel of Farquharson's vehicle would require a 220-degree turn to veer as it did on the highway to leave the road. There was no evidence of braking before the car entered the dam . The vehicle's headlights, heater and ignition system were all in the off position . However Urquhart later conceded that he had failed to take important measurements that would influence the outcome of his tests, so they would be flawed.

The body of the oldest child, Jai, was found protruding half way out of the vehicle's front door. The other boys were discovered in the back seat.

Police video re-enactments of the crime scene played before the court showed the car veering left, not right, towards the dam, at the exact position on the highway the accident happened.This test was also flawed in that it did not take into consideration the pull to the right that Farquharson's car had.

King, a bus driver, testified that he recalled a conversation with Farquharson two months before the accident outside a fish and chip shop. He said his friend spoke of seeking revenge on his ex-wife and of wanting to "take away the things that mean the most to her", meaning the children. King recalled Farquharson complaining how his wife had taken the newer of the two cars. But King's wife could not recall her husband relaying this conversation to her that day.

Another witness, Shane Atkinson, who discovered Farquharson on the side of the road, said Farquharson twice refused to call the 000 emergency number, preferring instead to travel to Winchelsea to tell his wife of his children's fate . The court transcript reveals Atkinson had to borrow a mobile phone to call police from the Winchelsea police station, which was closed for the night. This backs up the evidence given originally at the committal hearing that no mobile phone was available.

Associate Professor Matthew Naughton, a specialist in sleep and respiratory medicine, told the jury it was highly unlikely Farquharson had suffered a coughing fit in the moments before the accident . He further testified that coughing to the point of blacking out is an extremely rare condition, known as cough syncope, and that Farquharson was unlikely to have suffered such an attack while driving given the warmth of his vehicle . However he later conceded he had never seen Cough Syncope, would not know how to take a history to determine it, and was skeptical even of its existence, a consideration not backed up by others in the same sphere of medicine.

Defence

Farquharson relied upon the defence of losing consciousness due to a coughing fit, and told police he woke up in the dam. The car begun to submerge when son Jai tried to free himself by opening the passenger door .

Cam Everett, the owner of the property where the dam was located, told the court a total of seven vehicles had crashed through his farm fence in eight years. No vehicles other than Farquharson's had ended up in the dam in that time .

Former police superintendent David Axup contradicted the prosecution's arguments about the path and steering of the car as it left the road, believing it had probably travelled on a 53-degree arc. He said this could be explained by the right camber of the road towards the dam, and the fact the car had poor wheel alingment, meaning it would move uncontrolled to the right. Galbally bemused.

Farquharson's Thoracic specialist Chris Steinfort, also concluded it was 'highly likely' his patient suffered from cough syncope on the night. Steinfort has seen cases of cough syncope and believed the symptoms suffered by Farquharson were a 'classic' example .

Verdict

The day before the verdict came in, Farquharson arranged for flowers, three red tulips, to be laid at the grave of his children. Attached was a card reading 'Dear Jai, Thinking of you on your birthday. Love you, Dad'. Jai would have turned 13 that day .

After three days of deliberations, the jury found Farquharson guilty on 5 October, 2007. Gambino broke down in court when the verdict was announced; her mother collapsed and was taken to hospital by ambulance. Justice Cummins allowed a recess of 15 minutes for the court to compose itself before proceedings resumed .

On November 16, 2007, Farquharson was sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment without parole. He has announced he intends to appeal his convictions..

Media offers

Harpo Productions, the company of American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, is reported to have offered Gambino $1 million to appear on the program and tell her story . Gambino has told her story to Australian magazine Woman's Day, saying she does not believe Farquharson killed their children .

References

  1. Dad guilty of killing sons, The Age, 5 October 2007.
  2. 'Dumbfounded' dad to fight murder charges The Age, December 15, 2005
  3. Dad to appeal conviction, The Age, October 5, 2007.
  4. In the name of the father, how could he?, The Sydney Morning Herald, October 6, 2007.
  5. Oprah $1m offer to 'dam' mum, The Daily Telegraph, 7 October 2007
  6. Drowned brothers' father takes lie detector test The Age, September 21, 2005
  7. Court told of plan to kill three sons The Sydney Morning Herald, August 15, 2006
  8. Father was in control of car before dam plunge, court told Australian Broadcasting Corporation, August 16, 2006
  9. Dad on trial over Father's Day drownings, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, August 21, 2007
  10. Farquharson jury considers verdict Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 2, 2007
  11. Killer father's daze, Herald Sun, October 06, 2007
  12. Expert hits dam dad's blackout plea, Herald Sun, September 13, 2007
  13. Father found guilty of killing three sons, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 5, 2007
  14. 'Dad, we're in water', The Age, September 14, 2007
  15. Blackout behind car wheel likely: doctor, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 20, 2007
  16. Flowers from Robert Farquharson to his children victims, Herald Sun, 8 October 2007
  17. Father found guilty of killing three sons, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 5 October 2007
  18. Mum in agony as day of judgment arrives, Herald Sun, 6 October 2007
  19. Farquharson internet campaign starts, Geelong Advertiser, 23 October 2007



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