Sunday, June 6, 2010

When relationships go bad.

Earlier this week Melbourne was horrified by a public display of domestic violence. 

A woman who was stabbed and set on fire at Bayswater in Melbourne's south-east on Tuesday morning has died in hospital.(Link)

Police say a man and a woman were seen arguing about 8:30am (AEST) at a petrol station before the woman was stabbed and the car was set alight.

A two-hour standoff followed between the man and police in a nearby church yard.

Capsicum spray and a non-lethal weapon were used to arrest the man, who is now under police guard in hospital.

The woman died yesterday about 6:00pm (AEST) in the Alfred Hospital after suffering burns to 100 per cent of her body.

Horrified onlookers earlier spoke about how they tried in vain to help the woman, but were prevented from doing so by a man wielding a knife.

Truck driver Beau Fleming heard an explosion at the petrol station on the Mountain Highway and says he then ran over and saw a car on fire, with a woman inside.

"It was completely engulfed. She was completely engulfed. There was just black smoke pouring out from underneath the servo," he said.

"I was just trying to get her away because we didn't know if they had shut the valves off to the pumps or anything."

Mr Fleming says he grabbed an extinguisher so he could help put the fire out.

He told Fairfax radio there was a man preventing bystanders from going near the car.

"There was of lots of other stuff going on... at this stage she was still rolling around, laying near the car," he said.

"Then one of the other people on the scene, he went running over and he said that she's actually bleeding and stuff like that.

"That's when we realised she had been stabbed as well."

Mr Fleming says before bystanders could go to the woman's aid, a man used his car to intervene.

"The male was running around, waving knives and everyone was trying to help the female obviously ... it all went pear-shaped real quick," he said.

"[I] tried to put her out. Me and a few others eventually got her out and another person who was there had one of those Hummers.

"He jumped in that to try and run him over so we could have access to her - and then when he got up he just fled."

The man was taken to hospital for the treatment of minor injuries before being questioned by police.

Other reports stated that the man shouted "let her burn" at the people trying to assist the victim.

This attack has triggered a multitude of emotional responses from Melbourne residents, as these events often do.

Meanwhile in Queensland there has been an equally emotional response after Susan Falls, a 42 year old woman, who had suffered years of domestic violence, was found not guilty of murder in the death of her husband Rodney in 2006. (Link)  The Crown Prosecutor said that she did not have to kill him, she could have just left him.  She had left him before, but he had tracked her down and threatened her until she reunited with him.  Susan testified that Rodney had told her to pick which one of their children he should kill on her mother's birthday, which was to happen three days after she shot him.

Maybe he wouldn't have done it.  Or maybe he would have stabbed her and set her alight at a petrol station, and she acted to save the life of her and her children.  We don't know what would have happened, but we do know that Susan Falls believed her husband would carry out his threat.  She believed it enough to kill him.

Domestic violence seems to be a throw back to the days when a woman was the property of her father, and then her husband.  In most places, many years ago, rape was not a personal crime, but a property crime - you had stolen or soiled the property of a man, ie the father or husband. 

I'm sure in many of these cases the behaviour is learnt from the generation before.  It would be nice to think that eventually it will be a thing of the past, but with incidents such as the one in Melbourne this week, that may still be a while coming.


  1. susan falls' case reminds me of the movie "provoked" where the female protagonist kills her husband, sick and tired of his abuse. in the end she's let off because the court recognises her actions as a result of "battered wife syndrome". the hot topic in india at the moment is the killing of couples that marry within their own village ("gotra" or clan), which is looked upon as incest. it's amazing how one thing is linked to another.

  2. Good to see you writing here as well. I dropped you a line some months back on Facebook about how big a fan I am. Amazing how a person can have two blogs that are so riveting yet so hugely different at the same time! :)

  3. Rima - it always amazes me how cultures which seem so different, actually have so much in common - I guess it is the universal unconscious at work!

    Dhruv - thanks! I'm a a complex little being!!