When Mark Galante reported his pregnant wife Jody missing in January 2006, her family always suspected foul play.
Eventually, after holding himself up as the devastated husband and father in a highly publicised campaign to find his "missing" childhood sweetheart, he confessed to driving Jody to bushland and shooting her in the back of the head while their baby girl sat in the car nearby.
Reviewing true crime books, particularly one that discusses such a recent case, is a complex undertaking. There are obviously people out there for whom this case is still very raw and who are still dealing with the fallout of a violent death and the associated grief and loss.
The attraction of true crime books, for me at least, is the chance to assess the events, understand the reality of crime, and maybe understand why the crime happened. True Crime books often, however, aren't able to explain why. Perhaps because the offender themselves has never clearly said why - perhaps because they are denying culpability, perhaps because they aren't able to explain. Sometimes the why isn't explained because the book identifies flaws in the case against the offender. In WHAT THE MOTHER KNEW the murder of Jody Galante is resolved, in that her husband Mark finally pleaded guilty. For the reader of the book, however, the why isn't so clear. The motivations of her husband Mark aren't clear. His behaviour remains, to the end of the book, slightly enigmatic, something seems slightly odd. You're left deciding if he's just a damaged individual or if he is actually an evil, manipulative man.
The most poignant part of this book (and it's not a particularly comforting read, it's quite disturbing in places), is the affect that this murder had on both Jody and Mark's families. Much of Jody's background, in particular, is revealed pretty starkly - mind you, family in this day and age is a complicated beast and the days of idyllic "Leave it to Beaver" style Happy Families are well behind a great majority of us. But there's something particularly poignant and breathtaking about a girl who has grown up in the not most idyllic circumstances, who came out of that as a basically happy person, who just wanted a family of her own, who ends up shot dead in the bush - the victim of her own husband, who then can't bring himself to clearly say why.
It all seems so pointless, so very very pointless. The murder itself seems utterly pointless, the games played by Mark Galante in trying to prove a mental illness pointless. Continuing to push that line of defence after pleading guilty seems so pointless. A little girl with a dead mother, and a father she'll not see until she is an adult (if at all). A mother who has lost her youngest daughter. A mother and father who have to deal with the reality of loving a son, but never forgiving him for what he did. WHAT THE MOTHER KNEW is a worrying, disquieting, disturbing book. But then crime and the reality of what happens in our society these days should be. It should be read - violence is ultimately so pointless, and WHAT THE MOTHER KNEW is one of the starkest reminders of that that I've read in quite a while.
A JOURNEY INTO AUSTRALIA'S LAWLESS PLACE HEART OF-DARKNESS – A LONELY, WHERE EVIL EXISTS AND CRIMES CAN GO UNNOTICED.
The Australian outback is a vast landscape of extraordinary magnificence. But it is also a notorious crime scene. Some of the most shocking and fascinating crimes in our history have been committed in its harsh surrounds.
This book is absolutely fascinating. In a series of chapters based on each crime - starting with the escape of convicts in Tasmania in 1822, right through to the disappearance of Peter Falconio in the Northern Territory in 2001, the author has explored a series of notorious crimes - all of which took place in various locations throughout the bush and remote Australian outback.
Starting out with the escape and subsequent cannibalism of a group of convicts in Tasmania in 1822, we then learn how cattle rustling in 1870 is more successful when you are in an area so remote that it's almost totally unknown. From there to Victoria and the late 1870's - to the time and activities of one of our most famous bushrangers, Ned Kelly. In a more sobering tale, in the early 1900's racism and cruelty led to a violent spree when Jimmy Governor finally had enough and took revenge. In 1940 a mining worker disappeared and it was pure hard work that meant that the police solved that crime and a little later in the 1940's Alice Springs was very much a frontier town when it was rocked by a series of bombs. In 1968 Larry Boy proved that Aboriginal bush skills were extremely formidable as they still were when local Aboriginal people were called in to help in the search for Azaria Chamberlain in 1980. From there it's 1989 and a series of backpacker disappearances that leads to a shocking discovery in the Australian bush, with the book finishing in 2001 with the disappearance of Peter Falconio from the roadside in the middle of the Australian outback.
The great thing about each of this individual chapters is that they are told in a very non-sensational, matter of fact way, that gives the reader a real understanding of the events without the ooh aaa factor that you often get from newspaper accounts (I'm thinking in particular of the story of the death of Azaria Chamberlain here!) Anybody who is interested in some of the real crime stories of Australia over many years will find this book most instructive.