“Bye Ma, see you tomorrow. Love You”. We each hugged a tight hug and reluctantly let go. We eventually left turning to look back, at each step and smile with reassurance that we’d be back tomorrow but also, that Mum would still be there. Eventually we found ourselves walking out of the hospital at a slow melancholy pace.
The cold night air hit our faces. It was fresh. It woke us up. We remembered. We had to feed the possums in the park with the feijoas that we brought in a plastic bag from my beloved tree. Jesse was excited and this now took his mind of his sick Nana.
As we crossed the road, heading towards the park, the street was quiet even though we were in the city and it wasn’t late in the evening. The street lamps shed well needed light in our path so we could see where we were heading. It wasn’t far from the hospital, only a minute of two at the most.
So here we were, the four of us, Jesse, Rueben, Dad and I, across the road, on the pavement that met with the edge of the park. It was darker in there. People were walking through in dribs and drabs after a football match at the MCG. It was Saturday night. Then came the rustle of the possums and in we went. The four of us. Not too far, about six feet in. It was as if the possums had smelt the pungent feijoas. Ruben emptied the sweet, mouth-watering fruit onto the soft grass and a couple of hungry trusting possums scurried to them, grabbing them and shoving the feijoas into their little mouths.
We were so engrossed in the moment when all of the sudden two young males appeared to be coming towards us, hurriedly. The possums ran away up the trees disturbed, disgruntled. I grabbed Jesse and pulled him towards me holding him close. Ruben and my Dad drew in to us and Dad said, “What do these fellows want”? They stopped in front of us saying, “Don’t be afraid, we won’t hurt you. Have you seen a guy come past. We are looking for someone that has raped a woman.” But we hadn’t seen anyone. They seemed so sincere, so nicely presented, charming, handsome. Our encounter drew to an end with the possums. We decided to take our leave and headed directly out of the park back up the road to our car.
There was running and shouting coming from within the park. Two men were being chased towards the road ahead of us. The two charming young men were chasing them. When they got to the road one of the men being chased ran straight across the road to the other side, whilst the other ran to the hospital entrance. Each one being pursued by one of the two guys from the park.
As we watched it all unfold before our eyes, the taller guy from the park grabbed hold of the supposed attacker by the scruff of his neck, pressing him hard against a car bonnet. There was yelling and exchanging of words. Then punches. Only the alleged attacker was being hit. I was agitated. This can’t be happening. “Jesse don’t look”. I turned to Ruben, “Let’s go and help, we can’t stay here and watch”. But a short man appeared from nowhere asking us to watch his bag. We asked who he was. He identified himself as an undercover cop. We told him what was going on. What we’d seen, one man being bashed, across the road and one running towards the hospital entrance where he proceeded. As we turned to go help the man being bashed we saw him get hit again and drop just like an empty sack. He wasn’t tall anymore. No movement. No arguing. What were we seeing? The guy from the park then turned, chest puffed out, energized and punching the air headed to the corner taking big strides, almost skipping down the road. The police and ambulance had arrived. Lights were flashing and the guy was greeted on the corner by the police.
After some time had passed a stretcher with the injured man was loaded into the ambulance and taken away. We wandered over to the corner to hand over the bag to the short man. We asked if we should hang around to give a statement? That’s when he said, “You should go home. Take your son and go home. Forget what you saw.” This just added to our state of confusion and shock but home we went. Before leaving I could see the two young men from the park sitting on the low concrete wall, with the police, their heads in their hands in disbelief.
On Monday Ruben called Crime Stoppers. Mum was hearing all sorts from the nurses about the incident. She was worried. It was all over the media. And then came the call from the police. They wanted to question us. And in time they did. Two officers came to our house. They took very detailed statements of that night. It seemed like hours that they were over. I wondered about Dad’s heart and how this stress would affect him. The injured man had died after eleven days in a coma in hospital. It was a murder case now. We asked who the short man was who claimed to be an undercover cop. They said they didn’t know, maybe he was an informant and asked us to leave him out of our statements. Of course, we did have to go to court to be witnesses.
We attended court. We were told by the police not to walk past the two guys from the park, when going into the courtroom, nor to look at them whilst inside the courtroom. But I couldn’t help myself. I was like a deer in the headlights. I didn’t want to look but I did look. And it threw me for a few seconds, just as the police said it would. But once Ruben and I gave our testimony a weight had lifted off our shoulders.
The verdict: These two young men in the park were charged with murder. But because they pleaded guilty to manslaughter they only got a 2-year sentence. But after serving time even that was reduced. But the public and I objected because this wasn’t right. An innocent man was murdered, was his life worth nothing? At the appeal, they were sentenced to 6 years’ jail. Better.
These two young men, one 28 and one 24, murdered a nice man. He was gay. He was in the park, walking with his boyfriend minding his own business. Earlier in his life he’d fallen and had to have pins in his arms and legs, so when he ran his boyfriend said,” … he ran like the Tin man.”
That night the two young men had been to the footy. They had been drinking and had a good time. They were coming home through the park. But because one crazy, demented woman falsely yelled rape, after a fight with her boyfriend just to get back at hi,m she dragged all these men into a night of unimaginable horror.
The gay man was murdered. The two young guys went to jail. We still think about that fateful night. And the woman, the main instigator of all this, well, she literally got away with murder.