Meagher husband 'humbled' by support

Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 01:00

A man charged with the rape and murder of Irishwoman Jill Meagher has appeared in court in Melbourne.

Adrian Ernest Bayley (41) sat in the dock at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court just metres from Ms Meagher’s husband Tom, her brother Michael McKeon and homicide squad detectives.

Nine hours before the court appearance, police had discovered Ms Meagher’s body in a shallow grave beside a dirt track in Gisborne South, 50km from where she had gone missing in the early hours of last Saturday morning.

Ms Meagher (29) had been walking the short distance to her home after a night out with work colleagues in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, when she was allegedly abducted by Mr Bayley.

Police do not have any other suspects and said that it was an opportunistic, random attack.

Mr Bayley, from Coburg, had earlier came before an out-of-sessions court hearing at the St Kilda Road police complex and was remanded in custody to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.

Before the hearing started, deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic greeted Ms Meagher’s relatives and told them the matter would take only a couple of minutes.

Earlier, Ms Popovic, noting there were “grief stricken” relatives in court, asked if the police and the prosecutor, Luke Exell, would like to talk with the family members before the hearing proceeded. The packed courtroom was then cleared for a private meeting. Tom Meagher and his brother-in-law Michael McKeon held each other’s hand in court as Mr Bayley briefly appeared.

The accused replied “Yes” when Ms Popovic asked him if he understood that she could not grant him bail due to the gravity of the charge. He will next face the court at a committal hearing scheduled for January 18th.

Following the hearing, Mr Meagher thanked the public and the police for their support. “Despite the fact that this is the worst thing that we will ever go through in our lives, I’ve been really humbled by the support of the Australian public, the tireless efforts of the police and all the friends and families who’ve put their lives on hold to help us out,” he said.

Mr Meagher also urged people to consider what they posted on websites such as Twitter and Facebook. “While I really appreciate all the support, I would just like to mention that negative comments on social media may hurt legal proceedings, so please be mindful of that,” he said. “I would also like to say that if the press, if the media could respect the privacy of the Meaghers and the McKeons at this time, that would be brilliant. Thank you.”

A Facebook page established last Sunday to help find Ms Meagher attracted more than 120,000 supporters and hundreds of messages.

In response, Victoria police posted a message on its Facebook page warning users of their legal responsibilities and warning that “it is inappropriate to post speculation or comments about matters before the courts”.

Yesterday, Ms Meagher's family said they were “devastated and heartbroken” by her death. A statement released by Ms Meagher’s uncle Michael McKeon last night said her aunts, uncles and cousins were “powerless to describe their loss”.

Police have said CCTV footage made public on Wednesday played a major role in the arrest of Mr Bayley. In the footage, Ms Meagher is seen talking to a man wearing a blue hooded top as she walked along Sydney Road after a night out with friends from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), where she worked in local radio.

ABC managing director Mark Scott says Ms Meagher “was widely known, universally respected and much loved, with a great career ahead of her”.

Sara Brocklesby, who lives up the street from Jill and Tom Meagher’s apartment, said it was “devastating” to wake up to the news that her body had been discovered. “It’s been a pretty sad day after a very tense week,” Ms Brocklesby told RTÉ Radio.

Brunswick was a “really tight knit community” and one which felt like “a very safe area to live in” it was "very commonplace for locals to “walk the streets at night,” she said. There was going to be a community gathering this weekend “to offer people in the area a chance to share our grief” she added.

ABC News reported that police went with Mr Bayley to a location where her body was found. A Victoria Police spokesman said officers were continuing to conduct forensic analysis of the scene.

Several other women have come forward to say they had been attacked in the Brunswick area.

Speaking from Drogheda last night, Ms Meagher’s family said: “We had hope yesterday when there was no evidence of foul play but when the man in the CCTV footage was arrested we feared the worst”.

The family thanked the public “around the world” for their help and acknowledged the role that social media had played in the search. They said that while it had helped them to reach a conclusion, “it is not the one we had hoped and prayed for”.

Jill Meagher’s uncle said that both the McKeon and the Meagher families would have to plan now to grieve. “This is going to be one of the hardest things, given that only three years ago we came together for the marriage of this lovely couple.”

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