Murderous Men like Kemalettin Dincer
During the course of the past week a man has walked into a police station and allegedly admitted strangling his ex girlfriend, and a young mother has been shot dead by a man known to her. Whilst the guilt or innocence of the men charged in relation to these killings is a matter for the courts not the media, we’re entitled to ask why so many women die at the hands of men they know.
This is a question I’ve been asking ever since the day Peter Keogh stabbed my sister, Vicki, to death in 1987 was found guilty only of manslaughter. While poring over the court transcripts I’ve uncovered some of the most bizarre explanations for the killing of a woman and some truly confounding decisions by judges. So often the murder of a woman has been a killing just waiting to happen. If only someone had told my family about Keogh’s propensity to hurt women how different it might have been.
Throughout his violent life Keogh was treated with kid gloves by judges. Acquitted after lunging at a policeman with a knife on Preston Railway Station as a 15-year-old. Sent to gaol for approximately twelve moths for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl when he was 26 years old. Such sentences pale into insignificance with the three years and eleven months gaol sentence he received for murdering my sister.
How could a man be granted a defence of provocation after waiting, armed with a knife outside the kindergarten where his ex girlfriend worked and stabbing her to death? And how could he be released from gaol less than four years after the murder? I’ve asked these questions a million times. It might be unpalatable to some men, but the way our criminal justice system has a dealt with women killers, and our inability to protect women in danger from such men, is a national disgrace.
Zerrin Dincer was three months short of her 17th birthday when her stepfather, Kemalettin Dincer, plunged a knife into her heart in February 1981 in the house where she had taken flight. Two months before the murder Zerrin and her sister had sought refuge at Western General Hospital. Here they told a social worker their father had ‘attacked and threatened them’ for talking with boys. The next morning Mrs Dincer arrived at the hospital bearing scratches and bruising to her neck. She claimed her husband had tried to strangle her. The social worker that heard the story was never called to give evidence in court.
Despite telling police ‘I thrust it (the knife) very hard to kill her. She disgraced my honour’ Dincer was granted a provocation defence and the jury was told to consider whether an ordinary Muslim man, as Dincer was considered to be, might lose control and kill his daughter upon learning that she was sexually active. In an astounding decision the jury found Dincer guilty only of manslaughter. So much for poor Zerrin’s human rights!
As is the case with nearly every woman killed by the man in her life, the warning bells were ringing loud and clear for Zerrin Dincer. Yet there was no mechanism in place to stop her stepfather killing her. And whilst Police Commissioner Christine Nixon is to be commended for her part in putting family violence on the law and order agenda, all the goodwill in the world counts for nothing if we don’t have the strategies in place or the resources to protect women when those bells start ringing.
The house where Zerrin was stabbed to death
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Kemalettin Dincer was given a slap on the wrist for deliberately taking away a young girl’s life. The provocation defence has been abolished in Victoria and the police and the courts now treat family violence far more seriously. But the killings continue with depressing regularity. And a staggering number of women continue to tolerate violence in the home or are left isolated and vulnerable when murder is just around the corner, even after an intervention order has been taken out.
As long as women are treated as liars when they raise the spectre of sexual assault or violence many will continue to hide the truth about the danger they face from possessive, violent men. If violence in some indigenous communities is such that we need to send the troops in, then it’s time there was a national strategy to protect women from this endemic ‘white fella’ violence. What good man - ordinary punter, Prime Minister or football hero, - could argue with that?
Phil Cleary is a writer and former federal politician.