Missing, Presumed Dead, Mark Tedeschi QC
Mark Tedeschi AM QC was, until 2019, the Senior Crown Prosecutor, and the head of Chambers of the Crown Prosecutors for New South Wales. He's now a private barrister, but in 35 years with Crown Prosecution he has prosecuted many high-profile trials in Australia, some of which have involved the worst of the worst murderers and offenders this country has ever seen.
MISSING, PRESUMED DEAD is the story of the disappearance of two women in particular - 74 year old Dorothy Davis and 39 year old Kerry Whelan, both of whom had the great misfortune to come into contact with one of the more awful men this country has produced - Bruce Burrell, an entitled, greedy, lazy, appalling man who was eventually found guilty of abducting and murdering at least these two women - all to cover up his financial transgressions. Their bodies have never been found, and at the end of this book we find out that he died in prison, serving a life sentence, never disclosing the location of the bodies, never giving the families of these victim's the chance of a dignified farewell.
The first half of the book, where the story of the offender is drawn out, is incredibly difficult to stomach. There's nothing in the story of Burrell, his background, his offending (and there is the possibility of at least one other disappearance with parallels to the two he was found guilty of), or his general demeanour that makes the opening chapters anything other than difficult to stomach. Not through any fault of the author - this offender is just an appalling human being, there doesn't appear to have been a single mitigating factor in anything he did - and I could have stood knowing he died relatively young, from cancer, in prison a bit earlier - might have made having to know about him just that bit more tolerable to be brutally frank.
The second half of this book, where Tedeschi gets into the trials and the complications of the legal requirements of proving murder when no body has ever been found, and the need for multiple trials is detailed without being confusing, and informative without being overtly instructional or dry. The author has a way of explaining complex legal issues with clarity and meticulous attention to detail that make them very accessible to the legal lay person. His ability to dissect the core of the prosecution case, compare it to the defence strategies, explain the process and the decisions they took is flawless, giving the reader a real insight into the processes of law, and the complications.
For the second half alone MISSING, PRESUMED DEAD was a book that, despite my struggle (and I really really struggled with the first half), I'm glad I got to the end of. For the insight into the legal process, and for the time that he gives to the impact this case had on the Whelan family in particular. The victim's are given their due place in history as well, and the impact that their loss had on those around them is touched on, respectfully and forthrightly. The fallout from Burrell's actions is inter-generational and unforgivable and the legal system and it's participants served us well.
It was the double murder case that gripped Australia, and former Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC is finally able to share all the shocking details.
Dorothy Davis and Kerry Whelan were both happy, healthy, affluent, middle-class women from conservative, loving families.
Such women are hardly ever among the ranks of the missing. They were not hitchhikers, or associates of drug dealers, or unhappy with their family relationships, or suffering from mental health issues. Dorothy Davis and Kerry Whelan came from different parts of Sydney, mixed in quite different circles, and led completely different lives. They had never met each other, and if they had, they would have had little in common. In fact, Dorothy Davis and Kerry Whelan had one thing in common – they both knew Bruce Allan Burrell.
The disappearance without trace of these two women caused massive police investigations and resulted in sensational trials that gripped the nation of Australia. This book explores the intricacies of those investigations and delves into the twisted, tortuous processes of the legal proceedings, while exploring the dark recesses of the mind of Bruce Burrell.