Again feeling like a pariah.
We all know who she is, but she does not know who we are. It is an unequal relationship. One where perhaps we hold more power. But then again there is always the truth and really only she knows that, or as much of it as can be known. No one knows more about what when on at 17 Harwood Street, Hilton, but her. Perhaps also she knows more than she can say to anyone, even to herself. If some how she were responsible for the boy’s entrapment – then who can she tell. Not a single soul. Not ever.
I suspect she guesses the ones with the notebooks are the reporters – with work to do. They can justify their prying, nursing an A5 spirax on their laps. I have no justification.
When she arrives she is surrounded by her family, once again. Grandma in pale green slacks and top. What an outing. Who I think of as her father has more white than grey hair. A comb’s made furrows through it. A big nose. He appears to have stepped from the set of East Enders. There are other blondes that could be sisters, cousins. She has run the gauntlet of the camera men. Now they simply wait outside the entrance for all this to be over with.
She greets her family with pecks on cheeks. There are smiles.
Even out here, in the foyer, I write down everything. A supporter watched Fast and Furious Six and loved it. Left work early to watch it.
As soon as the doors to the court are open, we all file in. Most of the lawyers are different to the ones that were in the court before. The washing machine that sat ominously in the court room during the proceedings has gone. Ten minutes till the coroner is expected to appear. The reporters next to me talk about the night before. Too many red wines have left her feeling tired. It’s just another day in the office for them. Kerry Murphy sits between her two major supporters – a woman and the white-haired man, who could be her adopted parents.
We stand on Mr Hope’s arrival into the court and bow.
He lets us know that he will read from his findings and that they will be available in hard copy at the end. Exhibits will be returned to the police, including the washing machine.
He is straight into it. Occasionally he looks up and seems to connect his gaze directly at the mother. He is brusque and unemotional. He is straightforward and logical. There is no other way to view the material he has dissected through. He makes his points clearly and forcefully. He declares the mother to be untruthful, but despite some of the ways the child and cat may have come to find themselves inside the washing machine being unlikely, they were not impossible. Unlikely things do happen, he said. He said that he needed to be absolutely sure that the mother was involved in the child’s death to make such a finding. He needed to have cogent and reliable evidence to make such a conclusion and, in the absence of such evidence, he could not do so.
He said of the mother; “she is a person who is prepared to lie whenever she considers the truth is unfavourable to her.”
But being a liar did not necessarily make her anymore than that.
In the end, as he delivered his open finding, and it settled on her that she was not going to be found responsible for the death of her son, her bottom jaw began to quiver and she fell onto the woman beside and wept silently.
Was she crying from relief? No doubt. Did she cry too for the loss of her son? Maybe.
Other family wiped tears from their eyes.
Mr Hope rose from his desk, as did the entire court room to acknowledge him, and then he turned and left. It was over. There was no lingering around. No one would be asking him any questions. I want to ask: Ok I get that you made an open finding, but what do you really think? Do you feel she was responsible? In your gut. But he does not make a personal judgement. He just looks at evidence and finds accordingly. There is no room here for sentiment, for feelings, for intuition. His sitting up high really does reflect some higher thinking. He does not cloud logic, like the rest of us might. Because you get the feeling that everyone, besides her supporters, thinks she was, in some way, responsible.
The journalists rushed to the assistant’s desk to get their hands on a copy of the report. The assistant rose and walked slowly around her desk, taking a copy of the report to give to the mother, still seated with her family crowded about her. Then she came back to her desk to hand out the remainder. Some people would not receive one, but at least the mother had been given a copy. The assistant had done her job.
Outside the building the reporters were in position. Two camera men could see through the glass and give a heads up to the others when the family were on their way towards the exit. Most of the reporters were at the bottom of the steps enjoying a moment in the sun. In a cold city street in winter any warmth is welcomed. Two camera men wait at the base of the ramp in case she chooses that rather than the stairs. She does. Despite being flanked by family, she is immediately surrounded. I feel sorry for her. They do not. She is like meat thrown to a pack of piranhas. I guess they can claim to be doing their jobs. I can’t hear their questions, but later, on the TV news, I hear them. Are you relieved? How do you feel? She says nothing. She keeps walking, close to the wall of the building. They are in her face, incredibly close. But they don’t pursue her for long. They give up by the end of the block. I am on the other side of the street. Just watching. Still feeling ashamed.
If she came across me and asked, “What are you doing here?” what would I say? I want to say, I am sorry for your loss. Can you tell me what happened to Sean?
I wonder how it is that the reporters think she is ever going to tell them anything with the camera and microphone rammed in her face.
The truth has shrivelled to a kernel locked inside her. It disappeared the moment Sean took his last breath.
They keep filming till she turns the corner and then they stop, as if a single city block is their limit. Perhaps they only need 30 seconds of footage. Outside Miss Maud’s the family stand in a huddle smoking cigarettes. I am fifty feet from them and all the reporters have gone. They can have their lives back now. Can they? How do you go on after this?
At home I read my copy of the report. Nothing tells me why the cat did not scratch the boy to pieces. Nothing explains how the toddler hung on to a struggling animal. The cat appeared to have died in the same way as Sean – entrapment and suffocation – but may have died slightly sooner. The only really clear thing to be decided was that the boy was dead or dying within the confines of the washing machine during one of the phone calls made that day. As Ms Murphy spoke to her then defacto at 1.36pm, supposedly about placing $5 down on a layby purchase, Sean would have been in the machine. They spoke for 326 seconds. Ten minutes later she rang triple zero to say, “My three-year-old climbed into the washing machine and he – I think he’s dead.”