18. Grim tales - bright future
The day of my appearance (15/6/05) at the Kapunda Road Royal Commission (KRRC) started with a bible passage that fitted the occasion. At the time I was following the Neukirchener Kalender, a daily bible-reading guide in my native German language. I was for the first time, on that day in June, speaking out in such an official institution, when the reading was from Acts Chapter 10. Verse 34 says: “Then Peter opened his mouth and said…"
It goes on to say that Peter became aware of this truth - the Good News of Jesus the Saviour was not only for the Jews, but for all people in all nations. All they needed to do was to accept the life-changing message of Jesus and run with it. The next sentence (Verse 35) makes it very plain: “But in every nation whoever fear HIM and works righteousness is accepted by HIM”.
A further fitting phenomena that Wednesday was heavy rain, not unusual for the month of June in Adelaide. However, as I boarded the bus to the city, there was a brief pelting down of hail, which is rare. I took it as divine message - I’m here, I’ll come with you”. On at least two occasions in my story had hail fallen. Both times I knew - it must be HIM. God loves hat-tricks.
A few days earlier it looked like my day at the KRRC was not going to happen. Originally I had chosen to make a written submission only. But an ever present suspicion, a caution that my papers simply may get lost or would be ignored, made me change my mind. After two years of training in a Public Speaker's Club there was no excuse to not verbalize what I had to say.
My caution was justified, even prophetic. My brief overview, which I had mailed into the administration of the KRRC, got lost. So did the second copy.
In the end I made the trip personally and handed the document to the policeman on duty. I liked his name - Derek. But there was another hurdle around the corner.
A few days later the following email arrived in my inbox:
Dear Mr Fischer,
Thank you for your letter dated 23 May 2005.
Mr Niemann, Counsel Assisting, has noted your written submissions and
questions. Unless you have something in particular to add to them, you are not required to make an oral submission. If there is something that you wish to add, please contact me on …
What a blow! I had researched the case for hours online. I had visited the Adelaide University to speak to a road crash investigator and visited bike shops. I had been to Mitsubishi dealers and carefully examined Pajero's bumper bars in showrooms. (I'm sure the salesmen thought, I based my decision to buy one on the bumper bar). Had I wasted my time? Should I just quit this circus, which our Advertiser Newspaper in a front-page headline had called Right Royal Farce?
I could easily have sat back right then and pulled back, giving a very scriptural, loser's explanation – “The door didn’t open, so God obviously didn’t want me there.” In certain circumstances this is true, but during my early morning prayer times, my mind did not rest with this pious logic.
I prayed some more, then decided to inform a few of my contacts, who I thought were on my side (State and Federal politicians, plus a media contact). I spelled out in clear language that if above email was an attempt to stifle the truth, it would come to light anyway. I sent of copy to the administration of the KRRC. My message ended with:
I find this puzzling, an insult almost. Unless my line of thinking, which would have been evident from my overview, is taking the Royal Commission into 'no-go' territory? Did I enter an area, which is too sensitive and subject to a suppression order?
How will the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, be revealed, if we keep shutting doors, which look too ominous to be opened?
If my voice is indeed suppressed, I would like all to know - when you are royally commissioned you do not need a Royal Commission to succeed.
A few days later I received a different email from the KRRC: "There was a misunderstanding. You are scheduled to appear before the Commissioner on ...
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A headline featuring 3 motorcars: THREE OF A KIND. A Pajero, a VW Golf and a Renault – Re: n au LT. What made me see 126 in the Golf’s registration plate?
In the transcript of the McGee trial I read about a black Astra (details are irrelevant). I thought to myself – there are not many black Astras around. Walking the dog at Gulfview Heights only hours later, a vehicle slowed and did a U-Turn. It was so near, I could tell - it was a black Astra.
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As mentioned I spent hours reading about the McGee court case online. (At the time there was a link from the KRRC website to the McGee trial transcript). I was surprised to come across missing pages. Even more contradictory is the fact that certain information was subject to a Suppression Order (For example: Day 9, Page 49). Why a no-go territory in this Royal Commission, which boasted at the start that it will be conducted in an open, transparent fashion?
The answer lay in a crucial point in a Royal Commission - the Terms of Reference. Let me explain how I understand this point: I say to my son - would you go into your sister's room and check, if she has any alcohol hidden anywhere. (Terms of Reference = look for alcohol). My son comes back after thoroughly searching my daughter's room. He found no alcoholic drink bottles or cans, full or empty. He can honestly announce, it appears my daughter does not have alcohol in her room.
If this was the end of the story, I could honestly boast to whoever needed to know, my daughter does not keep alcohol in her room. But it's only half the story. My son was going to continue telling me: "... no alcohol, Dad, but I found a little bit of white powder and a few syringes".
My Terms of Reference did not include drugs. Now I have two options: Ignore what I have heard and tell my son to suppress what he had found, or call my daughter to account for the needles and syringes found in her room.
A suppression order I compare to the key of a cupboard in my daughter's room. With the Terms of Reference, I can control, which keys I give my son, which cupboards I think should be searched.
Many people in South Australia, for a long time, have hoped for a Royal Commission into truth and justice, with all the keys they need. At the time of the PL (the Magistrate) and PL (the politician) debacle, the present Leader of the Opposition, Rob Kerrin, had called for a Royal Commission. So was I following my discoveries in what I perceive to be a miscarriage of justice in the Liddy case.
When I came across blank pages and Suppression orders in McGee court transcript, I couldn't help wondering - what is being kept hidden from the public. Does it have to do with drugs and syringes?
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Just the three colours blue, yellow and red did not warrant taking this photo. However, the location right opposite, which I also photographed, is a company - My L on the cross. Love it.
Driving past this spot I noted a number of times the letters ES in a business name nearby, were the only ones not illuminated at night. To me IT made sense. One day it all will be revealed.
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Anyone reading the trial of Eugene McGee did not have to read far to find an error. In his opening statement, right at the beginning of stating his case, the prosecutor deliberated about Mr. Humphrey's cycling habits. He says that Humphrey cycled five kilometers every day from his home in Evanston Gardens to his work in Pirie St. Adelaide. This is how I read it and it is plain wrong.
The distance from Evanston Gardens to Adelaide is more like 45 not a mere 5 kilometers. The victim’s wife, during the trial, stated that her husband cycled from their home to the nearest railway station 5 kilometers.
How can such basic geographical data get mixed up? A professional earning hundreds of dollars a day, if not an hour, should do better. Since Mr. Humphrey was killed while cycling long-distance, it is important to establish what kind of cyclist he actually was. Was he just opting for cheap transport or did he want to be super fit, nine times so?
My mind started questioning facts after seeing scenes of the crash on television and in the press. The more I saw the more didn't make sense. I had done some crash investigations in my amateur style, but reached a level of slight expertise. (Just like there are minor prophets in the bible, I was a minor expert in road crash investigations).
Because the police had been negligent in one of the main factors (not blood testing McGee) I wondered, if the physical evidence of the road crash was conducted in the same casual manner.
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MY NEXT HUSBAND WILL BE NORMAL
Since investing two dollars in this sign (to encourage me wife), I am fighting a war on another front: As soon as I put up the sign, it comes down again.
What happened to the good, Christian, submissive wife I married? And does not a German proverb say: They that tease each other love each other?
On the day of writing I surrendered. Isobel told me she feels uncomfortable about it. I see her point. Why should everybody see, how I have fun and she feels uncomfortable? The sign was removed.
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In preparation for my appearance before the KRRC I made an appointment with Professor Jack McLean in Adelaide. In his long-standing role as the head of the road crash investigation unit, attached to the University of Adelaide, he would know more about road crash investigations than anyone in South Australia.
On May 18th I was able to spent 15 minutes drawing information, which may be useful. He first made the point again that it had never been the practice for his team to investigate all fatal road crashes in South Australia. This was in contradiction to what I had believed to be the case, since I first make contact with a staff member in the same office soon after moving to South Australia in 1983.
I mentioned that there are a number of reasons, other than lack of road safety, why people crash cars (Suicide, insurance claims, willful or vicious attacks for all kind of reasons). I asked him, if his unit ever had to recommend a criminal investigation, based on findings, which look suspicious. In his 30 years experience this only happened two or three times, the professor told me.
I questioned, who decides and on what criteria, to get involved in a particular car crash, but not in another? There were no specific rules, Professor McLean said. Each case is considered at the time. A decision is made on the basis of staff availability and budget.
This was the point of my phone call to the radio station a few weeks earlier: No other authority, other than police investigated the Humphrey death crash. Had there been a one and all policy, Professor McLean's unit would have automatically gotten involved. In this case, I believe, the crash investigation into the Humphrey death would have been conducted more thoroughly.
My next question was directed specifically at the Kapunda Road crash. What is your experience regarding bicycles colliding with motor cars, I asked the professor. Over the years he found that bicycles do little damage to vehicles. The body of the cyclist hitting the windscreen does the major damage.
On leaving I realized that this bit of information was the most relevant and helpful. It confirmed that my questioning of the damage on the Pajero’s bumper bar was not so silly, perhaps.
I had watched the crashed vehicle pop onto the TV screen many times. It was hard to grasp, how the thin rim of the 10-speed bicycle wheel (shown in chapter 15) could have caused the deep, V-shaped indentation clearly visible on the Pajero's bumper bar. To my surprise, a Mitsubishi dealer told me that late model 4WD vehicles are fitted with plastic bumper bars. This raised another question: When hit by an object very hard, does plastic not split, rather than make a dent?
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The significance in these items was neither the Da Ninci factor, nor the timing. I photographed both items in our own home.
Is there a spy in the camp? Does somebody play along with the game, but in reality they know all about it? It would explain a lot. Nice word that: Lot.
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It was naive to think that I would have opportunity at the KRRC for this kind of detailed questioning. It turned out rather different. My 15 minutes of fame, where not much more than that - 27 minutes. Initially, there was a little confusion, as I sat on the desk, the witness box, without the box. (Just as well, I am an outside-the-box thinker!)
The confusion arose, when I assumed the Commissioner was referring to the same paper as I had in front of me. While he was referring to my original 1-page overview, I was quoting from my latest 6-page, 13 points latest findings.
I had only handed this document into the Commission minutes before my scheduled time. (This was bad. My excuse, if there was one, I waited for 20 minutes or longer for a bus. It was a day of heavy rain, no bicycle weather).
My appearance at the KRRC was over quickly. This may reflect the value placed on the importance of what I had to say. This didn't bother me in itself, only if I compared it to other witnesses, and how much time was spent questioning them on endless detail and often, in my opinion useless, information. This is why I went into more detail, as my 1 page turned into 6.
A good example is the testimony of Antoni Zisimou. He took at least 10 minutes or more to make this point: We were at a stop sign at the T-Junction of Kapunda/Freeling Rd. waiting to give way. As the questioning of this minor point dragged on, I should have put my driving instructor's hat on, moved forward as say, let me help out here. I didn't, of course.
After a few minutes of deliberation the witness’ lawyer, Ms. Connor, cross-examined Antoni, still unclear what position their car was at. She suggested the witness should draw a large diagram.
(Just thinking: One of my early inventions was a visual aid for driving instructors, called DRIVA - Driving Instructor's Visual Aid. At the time (going back to the late 1980's) I thought that it could be used by police. Instead of drawing diagrams of roads and cars etc. my invention was versatile, I used it a lot with difficult learners. As I write I am thinking, even courts dealing with road crashes could use it. The DRIVA slogan was: A picture speaks a thousand words.
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Letterbox Tale 1:
A picture speaks a thousand words. Approaching Christmas, just as it is now, I took this photo from our car, as my learner was at the wheel. This lady sitting by her letterbox was obviously waiting for the postman.
Very few sit by their letterboxes, but many are eager to hear from their son, their daughter, their husband, wife or friend. I get real disappointed when there's nothing more than a card, a flowery poem and a signature, scribbled in a hurry. They could at least include a note.
Letterbox Tale 2:
In chapter 14 (Mind) I told the story of driving with my wife and stopping at a garage sale. I bought a pair of Levi's 501 at these premises. In a short trip down memory lane recently, I discovered an interesting point - the street is called Langdon Street. The second word in Chapter 1 of Dan Brown's Da Vinci code is Langdon.
After writing about a strange twist in street names (two addresses had the name CAMERON) I uncovered a connection. At the end of Book 2 '... and of a sound mind' I write about a politician, who may have been framed, and who may have subsequently lost his seat in a Federal Election. I had called him CR. Guess his surname?
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Compared to other sessions I had attended at the KRRC, my moment of glory on June 15th didn’t pull the crowds. But I rather go for quality than quantity any day. In the room, which I estimate held a maximum of, say 100 people, I recognized a man sitting on his own on the far right. I had seen his face many times on the TV News, but never at this Commission - until my day.
Later in an Aha-moment, on the bus home I think it was, his name came to me – let’s call him MC. That’s strange, one of the main witnesses, one of the main players in the KRRC, has the identical name, both surname and Christian name*, as this MC. My mind in its playful way imagined that perhaps, not only this man, but many more in his circle of media colleagues, plus other heavy-weight's, were starting to accept my reasoning.
(*Correction - the gentleman's Christian name sounds the same, but is different)
Before returning to the KRRC and the details of the 13 points I made, let me give you a humourous, true story, which happened on the day of writing. It may explain, why my stories include so many grim tales.
A news item on the popular breakfast program Sunrise mentioned that a bird was to be rescued from a collapsing Apartment Block in Lane Cove, Sydney.
My wife told me, the host had said: "May be the bird's name is Sylvester", and chuckled.
I didn't get the joke and asked, why is that funny? My wife, who thinks I'm a little thick, asked: "Haven't you heard of Tweedy and Sylvester?"
"Sorry", I said, "I haven't, I wasn't brought up in Australia".
"No", she joked, "you were brought up on the tales of the Grimm Brothers".
Indeed, friends, my stories may sound rather spooky and grim. But while there is life there's hope. (The little story fitted well that morning. Before above incident, I heard an item announced, which was coming up later: Born overseas, but dinky-die Aussie).
Trust me, Sylvester (or Kevin or whatever the name of the little bird is) will be freed. It will survive, if it does not listen to the cat. If little Sylvester heeds what mother bird had taught him, he will not only be free to fly, it will be in the right direction.
My wife must think I'm thick, but I'm sure she loves me.