The sentencing of Thomas Keir today over the murder of his first wife, Jean Strachan twelve years ago comes as a relief to the Filipino community who are alarmed at the number of unsolved murder cases and disappearances of Filipino women migrants.
Since 1980, there were 25 deaths —20 Filipino women and five children. Two women died in a mass suicide incident and another survived an attempted murder. Five Filipino women and two children are still reported as missing.
Of these, there were 11 convictions and 2 acquittals. After attempting to murder his wife and killing his child, one perpetrator committed suicide. In one case, the result of the trial is not known, and nine cases remain unsolved.
These figures were released by the Centre for Philippine Concerns (CPCA) Australia, a group that monitors such cases from newspaper articles and independent research, such as the one done by the Institute of Criminology.
One of the acquittal cases over a murder charge concerns the same man, Thomas Keir but this time, in relation to his second wife. Thomas Keir was assessed as normal during a psychiatric test but exhibited a pathological tendency to extreme jealousy and possessiveness.
Four years ago, a report commissioned by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found that Filipino women in Australia are almost six times as likely to be murdered as Australian women. All the but one of the suspects, the accused, or the perpetrators of these crimes, if known, are non Filipinos, some from British/Irish Australian backgrounds, Poland, Malta, Holland, and Italy.
In some cases, the perpetrators already had a history of violence, the women often experiencing domestic violence and an escalation of violence prior to the murder.
A forum was held in Manila recently (February 18) on violent deaths and disappearances among Filipino women immigrants in Australia. Highlighted in the forum was the pain and grief suffered by the surviving families of the victims. It confirmed the findings of criminologists, Julie Stubbs and Chris Cunneen who wrote a book about violence against Filipino women in Australia.
The families of victims felt that convicted murderers only tend to spend a short term behind bars and did not feel that justice has been done.
Charles Schembri, for example, got a parole after only serving half of his 8-year sentence; Kevin Kelly, husband of Pauline was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to only 7 yeas in gaol; Joseph Sokol, Rowena’s husband was found guilty of manslaughter but served only 3 years and 10 months in gaol; Paul Young, Elma’s husband was found guilty of manslaughter, sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with no recommendation for parole but released after serving only 4 years and 7 months.
We appeal to people who have further information to assist the police in their investigation of these crimes. We also share our grief with the families of Jean Strachan and those of other victims who are still awaiting justice.