19. Flying the flag near and far
I remember the first words Commissioner Greg James said to me, after I had sat down to answer his questions, regarding my submission: "You were here on the first day." I think he meant May the 12th, 2005. (Note the numbers).
Had I been given free reign in exploring all aspects of the McGee case, I would have persuaded the Commissioner to open certain doors. However, I was aware, before risking dismissal or replacement, and to get a paycheck, the Commissioner would first apply for a broadening of the Terms of Reference. As a nobody, who just had walked off the street, I had no Terms of Reference to worry about. I took advantage of that.
The more time I spent studying the case, the more I discovered, and still do preparing this. I am glad of the tool, called the internet, which also knows no Terms of Reference. Using this modern, miracle tool, a writer such as myself, is not subject to any editors striking out whatever displeases them, or is encouraged to window-dress, if a story needs a spin in order to sell more copies.
My approach to the McGee case, and subsequently the KRRC, has been the same as in the Liddy saga. I observed and asked questions. Thankfully, in Australia we are allowed to express our views without fear. Or are we?
Two days ago I removed a dead bird from my front lawn – should I say no more? An even more subtle hint at retiring, unless I was seeing things (I was seeing things) was a dead dove across the park, near where I create my annual cross, by watering a huge cross into the dry grass.
Beside the bird lay a garden stake. The square stake had a pointed end. This part pointed directly from the dead dove towards our house. How exciting. This little clue reminded me of another fact - the perfect anti-dote for anyone alarmed.
My office in our house is rather small. (My Muslim reader's will love the following). To give me some space, I turn my chair slightly to kneel when I pray every morning. So every time I pray kneeling, I am facing exactly in the direction of my cross. Every Easter for the past two years my large, green cross tells the Good News story.
It would take more than a dead bird to frighten me off the miracle that happened on that cross almost 2000 years ago. While I have breath and my fingers can navigate the button on the keyboard, I will tell the world - what that cross, the core of the story of Jesus, is all about.
Whoever chose a dead dove for this little spiel, didn't think much. The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the creative power inside every believer, who surrenders to HIM. No bomb, no bullet, no poison or murderous lies can kill this Spirit of Power.
Please, write this down somewhere, so you don't forget.
Top: The author handing out literature at the Royal Adelaide Show in early September 2005. Every year there is a 'JESUS' stand. Many different denominations get together to make a stand for Jesus.
Bottom: During the month of August 05 Adelaide was the first state in Australia to see billboards about Jesus, backed on radio, television and the printed media. As I understand it, the main aim is to start people thinking.
The campaign is scheduled to move across Australia. If people only would realize that it's not about marketing a product - it's about waking the nations to the most important message this world has known. There is none more important - that's worth thinking about.
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The following outline covers point by point, what I had hoped to bring before the Commissioner at the KRRC. As explained elsewhere, I only submitted these detailed, written notes minutes before my appearance. This may be one of the reasons, the Commissioner either didn't, couldn't or thought irrelevant to discuss some of my points.
The transcript of the KRRC is on their website. http://www.service.sa.gov.au/krrc. Click on June 15 to read word for word of our exchange of thoughts.
Here is an abbreviated overview of all 13 points I had prepared in writing. Where the font changes to italic I have added information or made comments, which are not included in the original document to the KRRC:
To the Kapunda Road Royal Commission, 26 Flinders Street, Adelaide. June 15th 05, 10 AM:
1. Introduction: I thanked the Commissioner for the opportunity. I mentioned who I was, a driving instructor, interested in road safety and road crash investigations. I stated that justice is everybody’s business. I could be the voice of those, who think for themselves, those who do not believe everything, just because it is written in the newspapers.
2. Centre for Automotive Research: I have already covered this point in Chapter 18.
3. Driving all over the road at high speed: (Two brothers appeared, almost taking centre stage at the beginning of the KRRC. They claim to have witnessed McGee's driving prior to the crash). On the ABC News 20/5/05 I had heard that two witnesses claimed to see a vehicle driving at a speed, estimated between 110 km/h and 180 km/h.
Even at the lower estimate (110 km/h) it is impossible to swerve frantically 'all over the road' and keep control of the vehicle. Especially a drunk driver would have crashed very quickly.
It surprise me that the Advertiser Newspaper, in a front page headline, called these two brother's evidence crucial. Plus, does the way Mr. McGee drove at Point A (when seen by witness Antoni) really proof what Mr. McGee’s driving was like minutes later, six or seven kilometers south at Point B?
The testimony of at least one the brothers, John is totally irrelevant. When his brother Antoni saw McGee approaching at high speed, he said to his brother: “Look at this f…. idiot”. John at that point testified that he was reading a comic and did not look up. How can he be giving crucial evidence?
Another point: John was in a car crash 20 years ago, a point Antoni said, might have affected his disposition towards watching the speeding vehicle? If John were apprehensive about seeing a speeding car, because he had had a car crash, he would not feel relaxed in a motor car, reading comics in the front passenger seat.
Antoni and John Zisimou made front page News on 21/5/05.
John was reading comics, while his brother watched a speeding Pajero swerve all over the road at between 110 km/h and 180 km/h. In the end the Government funded their lawyer. (Why does a witness need a lawyer, especially one who saw nothing?)
I saw something, which takes careful outside the box observation and a playful numbers mind: A link from the subheading (Crucial McGee testimony unheard) to the date the paper was published - 21/5.
Clue: Use your head or that of the two brothers. Antoni's head is pointing to the letters L&M (50&1000). We need a 2! John's head is right under ST. T's are not Roman numerals, but crosses are. XX = 20. We found the missing 2! It was on John's head.
But there's more: What great timing! I wrote this chapter a few days ago. To make today's date, 5/11/2005, the date of uploading, all we need is exactly these same numbers. What would the Commissioner have said to that? Unheard of and outside the Terms of Reference.
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4. Mother as witness: How sick really was Mrs. Marjorie McGee? (The KRRC transcript of 15/6 called her Margaret in error). Her medical condition was suppressed by the Commissioner. To ask a person, did you notice anything unusual about your son’s driving after lunch, would hardly cause a heart attack.
Likewise Mr. Craig McGee, the brother of Eugene, was not asked specifically, from what I read in the trial transcript - How was your brother’s driving on the way back from the hotel to your mother’s home in Rowett Street?
Why is there a gap in the court proceedings between Allendale North and No. 5 Rowett Street, Kapunda? This section involves curves and is undulating (I cycled on it). It would take greater skill to keep a vehicle under control here than on the straight, flat section where the cyclist allegedly died. Plus the fact at 3.48 PM, around the time they left the hotel, McGee would have been more affected by alcohol that 1 Ľ hours later near Freeling.
5. The crash vehicle: Here I made mention of the bumper bar damage to the Pajero. (See Chapter 18). In my opinion an immediate investigation by Professor McLean’s unit would have been far more effective than bringing in an interstate crash investigator in April 04, almost 5 months after collision. Some findings by Major Crash would possibly have been challenged by the Centre of Automotive Research.
A police expert in road crashes came over from Victoria for a day. I questioned the value of this expert and the timing, nearly five months too late? From what I read, this person simply rubberstamped what the local police had found.
The Advertiser - front page: December 2nd, 2003.
A section of the black strap is missing. Who cut it? Was the helmet on Humphrey's head?
6. The blue helmet: Arising from TV footage I asked three questions regarding the blue helmet, Mr. Humphrey was wearing.
1. Did Mr. Humphrey’s helmet become detached during the crash and went flying, or was it cut off later? If so, by whom?
2. Is the locality, where the helmet came to rest, consistent with the direction the victim’s body went?
(If Mr. Humphrey had not worn his helmet correctly, he may have contributed to his own death).
3. The strap securing the helmet has a section missing. Was the helmet cut to detach it from the body? If yes, by whom? Unless I missed it in the trial, no ambulance officer was called to give witness during the court case. Why not?
At this point in the hearing asked, if a coroner's report raised any of these issues. A person in the front row shook his head, indicating that no inquest had taken place. To me it appeared that it was not only I, but also the Commissioner, who had until this point been unaware that no coroner's inquest took place.
This again highlighted the fact that six people were brought in to testify as to the alcohol consumption of McGee. Not one ambulance officer was called to tell what he or she saw, when arriving at the crash scene. It makes me think - was there was a human body under that blue tarpaulin? More so, was it a dead one?
This bicycle part (unlike the helmet, this is not the actual one from the crash scene) is called a cassette or cluster. I had seen TV footage, which showed this bike part laying on the bitumen road, detached from the main frame, all on it's own. I believe in the impossible. But not in this case. Impossible!
7. The rear gear assembly: Again from TV footage I noticed the rear gear assembly, called cassette or cluster, laying on its own on the bitumen. The construction of a bicycle is such that this cluster is bolted tightly inside an axle, which in turn is bolted tightly onto the frame of the bike. The chain engages the teeth of the cassette, the bike wheel turns.
I questioned: Would a bicycle expert agree that this cluster could not possibly detach from the main frame, even in a high speed collision? Where was the chain? Why did this cluster land on the bitumen, when the frame of the bicycle landed in the grass?
While preparing for this chapter, I asked an employee at a bike shop, what he thought? He answered: "No way, no matter the impact, it's impossible." I had made this point in a video I sent to a contact in a TV Station, saying: I bet, this part would not become completely separated from the wheel, even if a bicycle was thrown from a tall building.
If the TV footage, which showed the cassette on the road, was merely a symbolic picture to illustrate a bicycle/car collision story, I would call this misleading/deceptive reporting. In such a serious matter, either no footage should be shown, or it should only be actual, on location material.
Hit by a ton of motorcar at 100 kilometers per hour, this front wheel stayed completely round. Witnesses testified that it was a sunny, late afternoon. Why is there no shade in this photo? (To my knowledge there are no trees in the vicinity).
8. The bicycle frame and front wheel: I questioned how the front wheel, the part that was visible, looked perfectly round, as if undamaged? Only one person (Mr. Felice) saw the actual impact. I noticed, how he kept saying he saw a body flying through the air. I did not read anywhere, where he said, he saw the bicycle flying and where to?
According to the testimony by the Zisimou brothers, Mr. Felice paid more attention to the Pajero leaving the scene, than tending to the cyclist, whom he had declared dead, without looking at him.
Major crash found scrape marks on the Pajero’s bonnet and on the roadway. It is assumed the bike hitting both the bonnet, then the ground caused these marks. If the bicycle flew through the air and landed in an adjacent paddock, how could scrape marks be detected on the roadway? There is a fence separating the paddocks and the road. A bike sliding along the ground, would have stopped at that fence.
Either, the bike flew over the fence, or it cause scrape marks on the road way. The only other option is that the bike hit the ground, and continued in a somersault fashion over the fence. If this was the case, the front wheel would not stay round, plus this scenario would leave deep scrape marks on the gravel section beside the roadway.
8a. Here I made the point as above, that there was a switch of lawyers (Deegan replaced by Connor) and it was not reported in the Advertiser. I phoned Nigel Hunt, the reporter who wrote for the Advertiser, why this important change of lawyer was omitted. He said there was no room!
In contrast, a few days earlier Barbara McGee, the wife of Eugene, gave testimony, which in my opinion added nothing to anything at the KRRC. She was the subject of a huge, main, front-page headline. Likewise, when Humphrey's wife happened to share the elevator with Eugene McGee, the newspaper created a huge drama: "Victim's wife faces hit-run driver" (or similar). The same paper called the KRRC a farce. They surely did their bit to make it one.
9. Crash investigator and independent finding: According to the Advertiser 2/12/03 a temporary lawyer, Mr. Edwardson, had hired a road crash reconstructor. I believe his name is Mr. Hall. Did he produce a report on behalf of Mr. McGee and was this person’s report part of the evidence in the court proceedings?
10. Mr. McGee's state of mind. Talking to a friend, he alerted me to the fact that drivers, who are drunk usually know they are, and drive really carefully, as to not get into trouble. I asked the Commissioner, if an expert from the police would agree with this? Do police catch more drink drivers at breakneck speed or when they are driving really slowly?
At the time of the crash Mr. McGee had been working from 6 or 7 am until 10 pm seven days a week. He was under considerable stress, not least because he was working on the Snowtown Murders case. Reading the transcript of his trial (Day Seven, Page 59), nobody objected to referring to this horrible murder case. As soon as another one of McGee’s cases was mentioned, it was subject to a suppression order.
I can only guess, but I suspect this was the Liddy case. Mr. McGee was also doing some work on the Liddy case at the time. I am questioning, was Mr. McGee the lawyer, who unsuccessfully tried to obtain the information, which would have gotten his client (and friend?) Liddy off the hook? It this was so, it would have added considerably to McGee's general stress level.
When I read Day 9 of the court transcript, page 49, I suddenly found the information blacked out, subject to a suppression order. I also found pages missing in the transcript - Day 2 pages 35, 103, 104 - Day 9 page 2 plus many more. I assume pages in court proceeding transcripts are numbered, so that they can't simply go missing.
11. Commodore seen swerving near cyclist: On day 2 of the trial (P. 93/156) a Mr. Bridgman gave testimony. He saw a Commodore swerve onto the other side of the road. Mr. Algie asked: “Apparently in order to avoid a collision?” Mr. Barrett objects.
Mr. Bridgman made comment to his wife. "Gee, it looked like that Commodore almost ..." (P 94/156) He didn't finish his sentence in court, because of another objection.
Neither he nor Mrs. Bridgman were allowed to make this comment before the court. Why not? What was it that Mr. Bridgman observed and told his wife about? Why was this not permitted before the jury?
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12. Alternative cause of crash: Has the following scenario been considered as cause of the crash? If Mr. McGee tailgated Mr. Felice by 20-25 meters, as is alleged, is it possible that the cyclist assumed there is only one vehicle behind. After this vehicle had passed, he moved back over the fog line, the white line marking the edge of the road way (but not necessarily the edge of the bitumen).
If so, Mr. Humphrey contributed to his death by riding dangerously, not checking for another vehicle (McGee's). In this scenario, any driver, drunk or otherwise, would have difficulty avoiding a collision, unless allowing a big safety margin.
Witness Bridgman had observed Humphrey behaving exactly in this manner earlier. Humphrey had moved to the left, over the fog line, while traffic overtook him. When clear, he had moved back over the fog line, onto the roadway proper.
If Humphrey was cycling into the wind and listening for traffic, rather than looking, above mistake would find its explanation. On long trips I used to use a rear view. Nowhere is mentioned, if Mr. Humphrey’s bicycle had rear view mirror.
13. Final questions: Here I was making my strongest point, calling for truth. Much of above was far outside the Commissions Terms of Reference. So was point 13.
Had Mr. McGee not pleaded guilty to causing the death of a cyclist, would the crash investigation have been carried out differently? Does a guilty plea mean that Mr. McGee (my report says Humphrey here, in error) admits to striking the cyclist and causing his death or is a guilty plea a legal term?
In the practice of plea-bargaining, which I am not suggesting is the case here, often the accused pleads guilty, not because he is guilty, but to speed up proceedings and save costs.
I concluded by saying that many South Australians believe there is a story behind the McGee story. For too long South Australia’s ‘Too-hard-Basket’ has been overflowing. The time has come to face the whole truth and clear the air.
(End of submission)
After making my last point (13) Commissioner James commented: "You would say that". What did he mean by that? He went on to assure me that Mr. McGee’s guilty plea was not just a legal term.
I had heard that a vast number of cases in our courts are finalized quickly, to save time and money. Good - if this was all. But there is more. If these accused are pleading guilty, when in fact they know they are innocent, thy are telling a lie. A system based on telling lies for expediency is fundamentally wrong. It goes directly against the God's Ten Commandments.
The Commissioner said after a number of my points, that he would be taking it on board, which made me feel I had not wasted his time entirely.
I am aware I am treading a very fine line with my outspokenness, especially since many in South Australia have been brainwashed to hate the drunkard, who killed that cyclist. I see parallels in the handling of the the McGee case to what I observed in the Liddy fiasco - on the surface it looks clear cut, until you hear the other side of the story. Sadly, this half is often suppressed or hidden or distorted to hide the truth.
What reason would I have to stick my neck out for either of the two accused? I have never met either of them, or any of their families. My views on the Eugene McGee case have been different to everyone else's, because I also thought differently in the Liddy case. Could it be that both men have been framed?
It is just too much of a co-incidence that the two hated criminals come from the same profession and from the same town. Maybe they are the ones who know too much of what really is going on in Adelaide's underworld. Did they pose a threat and needed to be silenced?
There are two sides to every coin. I am convinced that there is another side to the McGee case. Is this why the Kapunda Road Royal Commissioner summed up the case in two reports? A 200+ pages official document for all to see, and another, only 14 pages long, but highly secretive material.
The Premier Mike Rann had promised that the shorter document by Mr. James would be made pubic in due course. South Australians are still waiting for the 'due course' bit.
The main finding of the KRRC, from what I had heard in the press, was the recommendation of harsher penalties for hit-run drivers. Plus a tightening of police procedures regarding breath testing after road crashes. Did this have take 1 million Dollars to find out? (All I got out of it was 5 cents).
Most of you reading this are accustomed to a little bit of magic or humour at the end of my chapters. I have diaries full of them. Read on for a little humour and magic.
On Friday, August 26th, 05, life took me to Newcastle, New South Wales, 1700 kilometers away. The story fits here perfectly, because a number popped up on a blue ticket, which linked directly to the Kapunda Road Commission. The full story, which covers the week-long trip, will at a future time soon (God willing) be told in two or three chapters.
My surprise that Friday came in the form of an entrance ticket to a football match. For whatever reason, the fan club of Adelaide United cancelled the bus trip, which was going to take us to the very first match of the newly formed Hyundai A-League at Energy Stadium, Newcastle. I had already looked forward to it, hoping to leave the group and spending a few days, staying with my daughter in Dee Why (the 2-letter suburb) in Sydney.
My little Suzuki and I arrived after two long days driving, and finally finding a car park a long way from the venue. There was only 15 minutes before kick-off time 8 pm. I still had to buy a ticket, no booking service was available in Adelaide. I would have been more than disappointed had the match been sold out. It wasn't, thank God, but the queue to buy a ticket was a long one.
Suddenly a voice right beside me called out: "Anybody for a ticket in the grandstand? Ten bucks?"
The price for a ticket in my queue was going to be $ 19. I grabbed the ticket from seller. I'm sure my hand moved faster than a rattle snake biting. (Forgive the exaggeration). Of course, I paid him ten dollars.
Had I stood in line and entered later than 18 minutes after 8 pm I would have missed Carl Veart's winning header. (Good to know, some people use their head). It looked like I was the only fan from Adelaide at the stadium, flying my flag twice as hard.
Talking of flying the flag hard - at a recent home match in Hindmarsh Stadium on Manton Street, my son came with me. I also carried the flag that night. Just as well I did. Unbeknown to me, he must have been eating a very healthy dinner that night. All night a smell kept appearing, to various degrees, on a regular basis. Of course, no one acknowledged it, because the one detecting it, immediately becomes a chief suspect.
I must have confused everybody that night. I flew the flag so hard, even when the opposition was attacking. Only when we got in the car after the match did I know who I flew the flag for that night.
I did this in Newcastle too, in great excitement and fresh air. After Carl Veart's one nil header, I stayed more subdued. I didn't want to incite any riot, directed at the enthusiastic Adelaide United Supporter's group. I sat right amongst all the Jet's crowd, I had a reserved seat. I was outnumbered about 15000 to 1.
Newcastle, 26/8/05 - My ticket to the inaugural match of the Australia/New Zealand Hyundai A-League. How can an entry ticket to a football match, and the memories that come with it, bring tears to my eyes? I don't understand.
To understand the reason I was absolutely ecstatic, apart from saving nine dollars or the winning goal, you must know the address of the Kapunda Road Royal Commission: 1st Floor, 26 Flinder's Street, Adelaide.
My seat number was Bay 1, K 26.
K - for Kapunda. 1 for first floor. 26 for... 26 Fly the flag Street.