KASAMA Vol. 18 No. 4 / October-November-December 2004 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network


Two murder cases heard in the New South Wales Supreme Court this year involved filipinos.


Thomas Andrew Keir and Jean Angela Strachan married in August 1984 when Jean was 18 years old and he was 26. In 1988 Thomas Keir alleged that on February 10, Jean had run away with another man, leaving behind her three-year-old son. A few weeks after Jean's supposed disappearance, Keir met Rosalina Canonizado at a family wedding. Rosalina was in Sydney on holiday.

Dr. Cleonicki Saroca sums up this period in Rosalina's life:
"Coincidently, Jean was Rosalina's second cousin, but at the time, Rosalina was unaware of their family relationship. ... Keir pursued Rosalina, divorced Jean on the basis of his claim she had left him, and Rosalina married Keir in the Philippines in November 1989. On 13 April 1991, Rosalina Canonizado was murdered in the house in Tregear, western Sydney from which Jean had allegedly disappeared. Rosalina was strangled with a lamp cord and then set on fire. She was twenty-four years old. Thomas Keir was charged with her murder. The prosecution alleged his motive was Rosalina's $80,000 life insurance policy. On 6 April 1993, a jury found Keir not guilty of Rosalina Canonizado's murder.

"In 1991, while Thomas Keir was in prison awaiting trial for Rosalina's murder, the police acting on information received, dug under the house and found fragments of human bone which were sent to the USA for DNA testing. On 17 September 1999, Thomas Keir was found guilty in the NSW Supreme Court of Jean Keir's murder (see Wall 2000:1-3; Hunt & Stubbs 1999:18). Thomas Keir was sentenced to twenty-four years imprisonment comprising a minimum term of eighteen years and an additional term of six years (Regina v Thomas Andrew Keir 2000:11). The trial judge did not mention Rosalina Canonizado's case during Keir's sentencing. Subsequently, on 28 February 2002, the NSW Criminal Court of Appeal revoked Keir's conviction on the grounds that Justice Adams misdirected the jury regarding the DNA evidence (see KASAMA 2002:12). A new trial commenced in July 2002 and on 17 October 2002, Keir was again found guilty of Jean's murder." [Saroca, C. (2002) Hearing the Voices of Filipino Women: Violence, Media Representation and Contested Realities, unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, School of Social Sciences, University of Newcastle.]

At this first appeal the judge decided to reduce Keir's sentence by two years to 22 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 16 years. Keir successfully appealed a second time because of misconduct on the part of some members of the jury, but he was once again found guilty at this third trial for Jean's murder and the previous sentence upheld.


On 20 May 2004, Sef Gonzales was found guilty of the murder of his 18-year-old sister, Clodine, and both his parents, Mary Loiva Josephine Gonzales and Teddy Gonzales, on 10 July 2001.

Sef Gonzales was born in the Philippines on 16 September 1980. The family had migrated to Australia when he was eleven.

The trial judge summed up his judgement:

"Sef Gonzales killed the victims by stabbing them with a knife or, in the case of Clodine, striking her with a bat and strangling her, as well as stabbing her with a knife. There was a high degree of violence in all of the murders. The killings were premeditated, the prisoner having had it in mind to kill his parents from the time he began researching poisons on the Internet some months before 10 July 2001. [He] gave poison to his mother about ten days before 10 July 2001, intending to kill her.

... "The motives for the killings were to prevent his parents withdrawing privileges they had extended to him and to obtain his parent's wealth, without delay and as their sole heir. The prisoner was not at the time of committing the offences suffering from any mental illness or mental disorder or any mental state which would mitigate the criminality of his conduct. I consider that the murders show features of very great heinousness and that there are no facts mitigating the objective seriousness of the murders and hence the murders fall within the worst category of cases of murder at common law.

... "I do not make any finding that the prisoner has no prospects of rehabilitation. However, I consider that there is a risk of the prisoner re-offending and that there is a risk of future dangerousness. I base this conclusion on the following matters among others:- The objective facts of the offences; that the prisoner pleaded not guilty; that more than three years after having committed the offences the prisoner continues to maintain his innocence and has not demonstrated any insight into the enormity of the offences he committed or any acceptance of responsibility for the offences; and the high degree of unscrupulousness and duplicity shown by the prisoner in the raising of the false alibis and the laying of the false trails. I take into account the prisoner's young age at the time of committing the offences. He was twenty years old, approaching his twenty-first birthday, and he was in his third year as a university student. ... However, the conclusion I have reached is that the objective facts of the offences and the subjective circumstances of the prisoner are such that I should impose sentences of life imprisonment for the murders.

"On the three charges of murder I sentence the prisoner to concurrent sentences of imprisonment for life, each to date from 13 June 2002." (R v Gonzales [17 September 2004] NSWSC 822)