Adrian Bayley sentencing: revulsion seeps out of every page of judgment

Background: Jill Meagher moved to Australia at the age of seven in 1990, the year Bayley committed his first offence


It brought 30,000 people onto the streets of Melbourne, prompted the opening of books of condolence in Irish towns and raised searching questions about how societies deal with those who commit the most serious crimes.

Judge Geoffrey Nettle’s response yesterday was emphatic: Adrian Ernest Bayley will serve a life sentence for the murder of Jillian Meagher and 15 years for “a savage rape of the worst kind.” By the time he is even eligible for parole, in 35 years’ time, Bayley will be an old man.

In setting out his reasoning for imposing one of the toughest sentences ever handed down by the Supreme Court of Victoria, the judge revealed new details about the circumstances of the Irish woman’s death and the multiple serious sexual offences on Bayley’s record. Behind his spare legal prose, a sense of revulsion at the appalling events of 22 September 2012 seeps out from every page of the court’s judgement.

That night, a Friday, Jill went to a birthday party for one of her colleagues from the broadcaster ABC. At 1.30am, after having one last drink at Bar Etiquette, a colleague offered to walk Jill home. She declined, saying she lived only five minutes’ walk away. She set off for home along Sydney Road.

Earlier that evening, Bayley said later, he had been out drinking with his partner. After an argument at a nightclub, his partner left and, realising this, Bayley caught a taxi home. When he could not find her at home, he decided to get a taxi to the Newmarket area to collect his car. In his version of events, he had had so much to drink that the taxi driver feared he would vomit in the car and so turned him out somewhere along Sydney Road. It was then that he saw Jill Meagher.

Jill’s father, George, had recently suffered a stroke. On her walk home that night she spoke by phone to her brother Michael, who was in Western Australia, about their father’s health. The connection was poor, however, and she hung up in the expectation that her brother would call back. Within a minute, he made three attempts to do so, but her phone rang out.

When he was arrested in connection with Ms Meagher’s death, Bayley first denied any involvement and told “a farrago of lies” about his movements, according to the judge. But later he confessed he raped the 29-year-old in a laneway off Sydney Road and then strangled her.

Having committed the murder, Bayley left Jill’s body in the laneway and returned home to collect his other car and a shovel. He loaded the body into the boot, drove out to the country and dug a shallow grave at the side of the road. Later, he destroyed Jill’s mobile phone and cleaned his car in an attempt to remove any forensic evidence.

These efforts to evade detection were inadequate. Using CCTV footage, telephone data and a host of witness statements, the police were able to identify Bayley as the killer.

This was not the first time Bayley had committed a serious sexual offence. Born in 1971 as Adrian Ernest Edwards, he grew up in Melbourne as the eldest of five siblings. In June 1990, while he was still only 18, and his then wife was pregnant with his first child, he raped a young woman in the bedroom of his home.

While on bail , in August of the same year, he attacked and threatened to kill a 17-year-old girl as she walked home from a bus stop. Four months later, he attacked a 16-year-old hitch-hiker before she managed to escape from his car.

In June 1991, he was sentenced for those offences to a total effective sentence of five years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years.

After separating from his wife with whom he had two children, Bayley changed his name and entered into a relationship with another woman, with whom he had another two children. In April 2001, while that woman was pregnant with their second child, he was arrested and charged with 16 counts of rape against five prostitutes. Even more disturbing than the violence, the judge in that case noted, was that Bayley deliberately humiliated each of his victims.

By the time Bayley raped and murdered Jill Meagher, he had already served 11 years in jail for a broad range of sexual offences, including multiple counts of rape with violence. He was on parole and on bail at the time of her killing.

A psychologist who gave evidence at the pre sentencing hearing last week said there was evidence of ongoing physical abuse against Bayley when he was a child. In a previous court appearance, his father admitting abusing his son, including one occasion where he smashed the boy’s head through a wall. Bayley also claimed to have been sexually abused between the ages of 9 and 15.

Although the psychologist, Prof James Ogloff, did not consider Bayley psychopathic, he displayed “numerous problematic personality traits”, of a severity uncommon in clinical samples, which were consistent with borderline personality disorder. The effects of that disorder - extreme mood swings and poorly controlled anger - were made worse by alcohol dependence, he added.

“I think it’s patently obvious... that Mr Bayley presents a serious risk, an ongoing risk of sexual offending and clearly violent offending as well,” said Prof Ogloff. He remarked that Bayley showed “a degree of sexual depravity that is relatively rare, thankfully, in our system.”

On the evidence before him, Judge Nettle saw “little reason” to suppose that Bayley will ever be rehabilitated. Since September, he has been on 23-hour lockdown in his cell with hourly checks for suicide.

Jill Meagher moved to Australia in 1990, the year Bayley committed his first offence. She was born and spent her early years in Drogheda, before her parents George and Edith McKeon decided to move the family to Australia. At the time, Jill was seven and her only sibling, Michael, was four. In her victim impact statement, Edith spoke of Australia as a “wonderful country” where her children thrived.

They returned for a time to Ireland, where, at the age of 19, Jill met her future husband Tom. He has since moved out of their home in Brunswick because of its proximity to Sydney Road, and said that since the murder he is “constantly confused, disoriented and unfocussed”.

“She was funny, intelligent and had huge empathy for others,” Edith said. “My life stopped on 22 September 2012.” Edith now suffers from insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks, she added.

George McKeon, Jill’s father, remarked to the court that every child he sees in the park across the road from their home in Perth reminds him of the daughter he lost.

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