Barrenjoey Road, Neil Mercer & Ruby Jones

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

About 3/4's of the way into BARRENJOEY ROAD, in the week starting 15th March 2021, I did wonder if it was possible to physically explode from rage whilst simultaneously feeling so desperately desperately sad that so many young women have been raped, and sometimes murdered in this country, and it constantly looks like nobody in authority gives a shit. (And honestly, if you're going to get all po-faced over a bit of language in a review of an account of an appalling travesty of justice in this country (in a long list of appalling travesties of justice against women, people with disability and people of colour), then my timeline is not the place for you.)

Because, frankly, the true story behind BARRENJOEY ROAD is rage inducing, it's infuriating to the point of making you swear loudly and insistently, rant, seethe and frankly question everything and everybody.

It's not just the desperately tragic story of young Trudie Adams, who disappeared one night, never to be seen or heard of again. A young woman simply enjoying a night out, doing the sorts of things that all young women in that day and age did (as did I). It's the story of countless young women who were abducted and raped, yet the prosecution for sexual assault that the police bought to court was one where the victim was a young man. It's the story of two potential offenders identified and then just seemingly filed in the who gives a shit basket, until years later some cops did their jobs and were given the resources to do so. But by then it was too late. The evidence that was initially dismissed, discarded (left lying around in a clearly described crime scene in the bush for god's sake), or just flat out ignored... The multiple identifications of perpetrators that were just ignored... The obviousness of timelines of offender presence and absence in the area, versus abductions and rapes... It would be gobsmacking if we all didn't know exactly what was going on here.

Divided into three sections, BARRENJOEY ROAD starts out with Part One - covering the disappearance of Trudie Adams and the story into the investigation of that. Part Two gets into the background of the prime suspect, and Part Three covers a plethora of cases that fit patterns around Adams disappearance and the inquest into that. There is some attempt to explain the issues with resourcing and certainly individual police had made attempts to look into the suspected murder of Trudie Adams, but really, the blasé manner in which a truly staggering number of abductions and rapes were regarded is utterly unforgivable. It does, however, provide a perfect example of why so many women don't even bother reporting sexual assault. The victim blaming that went on is staggering, the disregard palpable, the entitlement breathtaking. Then there's the police corruption - and whilst it could be argued this is also the story of a single cop who managed to cover up a lot of (mostly non-related) crimes by one man, it's also the story of a police force that didn't police its own.

Inspired by the Walkley Award-shortlisted #1 podcast and acclaimed ABC TV series, this is one of those true crime books that's really hard reading because of the subject matter. It's also particularly illuminating that there's an entire section devoted to the main suspect, with a record that goes back to his childhood, and so much known about him. Yet on the victim's, and the impact of the crimes ... so little. So depressingly, tellingly little. It's distressing, rage inducing and it's books like this that remind you it bloody well has to stop.


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A gripping expose of a notorious cold case 1978. An idyllic beachside community. A series of abductions and rapes. So what happened to Trudie Adams?

Back in the 1970s, Sydney's Northern Beaches felt like a slice of paradise to those lucky enough to live there. Bordered on one side by the glistening blue of the Pacific, and on the other by stunning rugged bushland, it was the kind of place where everyone knew everyone. No wonder the area was known as 'the Insular Peninsula'. So, when a popular local girl, 18-year-old Trudie Adams, disappeared one night while hitchhiking home from the surf club dance, her family, friends and community were devastated. It just seemed wrong that something so terrible could happen in a place so perfectly picturesque.

But as police began to investigate, the dark underbelly of the peninsula was exposed. It was a place where surfers ran drugs home from Bali, teenagers hitchhiked everywhere due to a lack of public transport, predatory men prowled the streets, and countless young women were abducted and raped, crimes rarely reported or, if they were, rarely investigated.

Inspired by the Walkley Award-shortlisted #1 podcast and acclaimed ABC TV series, and containing information never previously revealed, Barrenjoey Road is a compelling expose of why the disappearance of Trudie Adams was never solved. It takes us all the way to the top, from a criminal perpetrator with a lifelong record and links to organised crime who was never formally accused, to police corruption at the highest level.

Review Barrenjoey Road, Neil Mercer & Ruby Jones
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, March 18, 2021

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