Terry Ernest Ball killed his son and daughter in 1984. Seven years later he was a free man. He remarried and had more children.
Terry Ernest Ball killed his son and daughter in 1984. Seven years later he was a free man. He remarried and had more children.

Behind this happy smile lurks a monster who killed his kids

When domestic violence abusers kill their loved ones, they must serve jail terms that reflect the severity of their crimes, writes journalist SHERELE MOODY.

WOMEN and children will remain disposable commodities as long as soft-hearted judges and indulgent parole boards serve up inadequate punishments to domestic violence killers.

Over the past two years I have researched more than 1100 violent deaths in our country and lax sentencing has proved a common theme across 90 per cent of the killings.

People convicted of murder are often paroled well before they serve the mandatory 25 years.

Shockingly, a significant number of perpetrators who ended the lives of their victims in the most brutal and callous of ways had their murder charges knocked down to manslaughter, leading to a significant decline in sentencing outcomes.

Take the cases of Terry Ernest Ball, Daniela Dawes, Damien Sebo, Clifford Cecil Bartholomew, Garry John Mills and Mark Stephen Pringle.

All of these convicted killers have one thing in common - they caused the deaths of their children or their partners and served from zero days to eight years in jail.

Father kills his two children and goes on to have more kids

ON December 30, 1984, Terry Ernest Ball collected his four-year-old daughter Rachael and his three-year-old son Shane from their mother's house in Fremantle, Western Australia.

He bundled them into his car and gave them a soft-drink laced with whisky.

By the time they arrived at a remote area in Wagin National Park, the children had passed out.

I won't describe what happened next, but Rachael and Shane did not make it out alive.

Ball was convicted of two charges of manslaughter and ordered to serve 21 years in Fremantle prison.

While in jail, he hooked up with a religious organisation that believed his protestations of being a changed man.

These merciful fundamentalists lobbied the WA parole board on his behalf.

The lobbying worked and the double child killer was released from prison within seven years of walking in the front gate.

He served just 3.5 years for each of the children he murdered.

Ball remarried shortly after and went on to have more children while Rachael and Shane's mother was left with a life sentence of trauma and heartache.

"This murder has impacted my whole family, my whole life," the children's cousin Elsie says.

"Their mum has had mental issues ever since ... the day before New Year's Eve, every year, her life breaks down.

"The murders happened on my grandma and uncle's birthday, so it was just a very horrible memory for them.

"Even my mum - their aunt - still has a crap time at that time of year.

"I think it's made worse by the fact that he got out so soon and got a new wife and family, moved away and had a whole life without anyone knowing what he did."

 

Daniela Dawes served no time in jail for killing her 10-year-old son Jason.
Daniela Dawes served no time in jail for killing her 10-year-old son Jason.

No jail term for killer mum

IN August 2003, Daniela Dawes suffocated her 10-year-old son Jason to death in their Sydney home.

Dawes claimed she killed Jason because she was "depressed" due to her son having autism.

"He was playing," Dawes said of the moment before she forced the lad's mouth shut and pinched his nostrils until he died from lack of oxygen.

"I, being in a depressed state, wasn't really up for playing."

Dawes was convicted of manslaughter, with a judge giving her a five-year good behaviour bond.

"I wish you all the best," The Australian reported the judge telling Dawes as he handed down the sentence.

Dawes then gave multiple interviews with media outlets including 60 Minutes and the Northern Star in Lismore where she returned to live in 2004.

Taryn Hunt was murdered by her former partner Damian Sebo.
Taryn Hunt was murdered by her former partner Damian Sebo.

Sebo claimed his victim Taryn Hunt provoked him

ALMOST 13 years ago, 26-year-old Damien Sebo killed Gold Coast teenager Taryn Hunt.

He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years thanks to a defence of provocation.

The reason he bashed the young woman repeatedly with a steering wheel lock? She "taunted and cheated on me", he said.

"The problem with her behaviour is if she doesn't stop behaving the way she does soon, somebody's either going to murder her or rape her," Sebo told Taryn's mum shortly before he killed her.

Sebo's short jail term caused so much outrage that the Queensland Government revoked "provocation on the basis of infidelity, insults or threats to leave a relationship as a defence" from the state's criminal code.

It is not known where Sebo lives or if he has re-partnered and raised a family.

In September of 1971, 40-year-old Clifford Cecil Bartholomew murdered 10 family members - his wife Heather, their seven children, his sister-in-law and her 18-month-old son.
In September of 1971, 40-year-old Clifford Cecil Bartholomew murdered 10 family members - his wife Heather, their seven children, his sister-in-law and her 18-month-old son.

Man wipes out entire family, serves eight years, has new family

IN  September 1971, 40-year-old Clifford Cecil Bartholomew murdered 10 family members in Hope Forest, South Australia.

He killed his wife Heather, their seven children, his sister-in-law and her 18-month-old son.

He was sentenced to hang but that was commuted to life in prison.

Bartholomew was a free man just eight years later, having served less than a year for each of the women and children he bashed and shot to death.

He remarried and raised more children, with his new family having no idea of the killer in their midst.

"I couldn't believe it, none of us can," one of his stepchildren told media outlets in 2018.

"To know the full story is horrendous - he just isn't the man we thought we knew."

Bartholomew died in 2002.

 

Jolene Mills died at the hands of her husband Gary John Mills. Mills served half of his 10-year sentence then regained custody of their children.
Jolene Mills died at the hands of her husband Gary John Mills. Mills served half of his 10-year sentence then regained custody of their children.

Jolene's life worth five years

GARRY John Mills strangled his wife Jolene to death in July 2005.

He dumped her body in the bush then fronted the media, calling for Brisbane residents to help him find Jolene.

Jolene's remains were found about three weeks later and he was eventually convicted of manslaughter.

Mills walked out of prison five years into his 10-year sentence, regained custody of their children from Jolene's family and settled right back into the Ipswich community where he still lives.

Children watched as dad killed mum

ON October 26, 2008, 41-year-old mother of three Rachel Mary Thulborn was choked and stabbed to death by her partner Mark Stephen Pringle, 43, at Elimbah on Queensland's tranquil Sunshine Coast.

Rachel's young children saw their mum die.

Pringle was charged with murder but this was downgraded to manslaughter.

He copped 9.5 years in jail and served just 5.5 years - it is unclear where he is now located but the trauma did not end there.

Rachel's family spent the next five years battling to keep her children in their care after Pringle walked out of jail and sought custody.

Thankfully, they won that fight but the impact of Rachel's violent death on their lives will never diminish.

"We still believe his sentence was a miscarriage of justice," Rachel's brother-in-law Tim Class-Auliff said.

Rachel Thulborn's killer served just 5.5 years.
Rachel Thulborn's killer served just 5.5 years.

Jail terms well below community expectations

IN each of these cases, it is clear that the terms of imprisonment fell well below community expectations of a "life sentence for a life taken".

A small amount of time - or no time - behind bars will never adequately repay offenders for killing another human and these walk-in-the-park punishments won't deter others from violence.

It beggars belief that judges and parole boards appear to think so little of victims and so much of killers, that they would allow such leniency for cold-hearted brutal thuggery.

This year alone, 137 Australians have lost their lives to violence - 42 women, 14 children and 80 men.

Of these killings, 55 were allegedly perpetrated by family members.

It is clear from the number of people killed in 2018 that our current sentencing regime is anything but a deterrent to violent deaths.

Until our courts and parole boards force domestic violence killers to remain in prison for a significant portion of their lives, at-risk women and children will be expendable pieces of property for violent offenders to destroy the moment they become inconvenient.

Soft sentencing appears to give violent thugs a licence to kill. It is time for that licence to be revoked. - NewsRegional 

News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of 2017 Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her coverage of domestic violence issues. She has been nominated for a 2018 Women in Media Award and is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the creator of the Femicide Australia Map. 

For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.