KASAMA Vol. 13 No. 4 / October-November-December 1999 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Graphic: from the Newsletter of the Philippine Network Against Trafficking in Women, Vol.1 No.2, May 1997

Australia's justice system has finally caught up with Thomas Andrew Keir. On September 17, 1999 he was found guilty of murdering his first wife, Jean Angela Keir (nee Strachan), a Filipina, in February 1988, ten years before his arrest.

During the six-week trial in Sydney's Supreme Court, the jury, comprised of nine men and three women, heard evidence of Keir's irrational jealousy, his overpowering possessive controlling nature and Jean's fear of his brutal dominance, death threats, and manipulation of their child. Forensic evidence of DNA testing revealed that the human bone fragments found in 1991 buried in the backyard of Keir's home, were from Jean's body.

Thomas Keir has maintained his innocence throughout. He says Jean ran off with a lover. He also claimed they spoke on the phone several times since she disappeared and her belongings were taken from the house while he was away. The jury however accepted the prosecution's case that when moving her body years after he killed Jean, Keir had overlooked the tiny bones. They came to this conclusion unenlightened of the fact that Keir had once before been tried for murder.

The victim in that case was his second wife, Rosalina Canonizado Keir. In April 1991, after 18 months of marriage, Rosalina was found in their burned-out home strangled with a lamp cord and set alight. Rosalina, also a Filipina, was a distant relative to Jean. Keir pleaded not guilty and was acquitted of Rosalina's murder due to lack of evidence. But, it was during his time in jail awaiting trial for Rosalina's murder that he revealed to another inmate where he'd buried the body of his first wife, Jean. Later, acting on this information, police found the bone fragments.

Thomas Keir's sentence for the murder of his first wife, Jean, is still to be determined. On December 10, 1999 his case was heard for sentencing but the trial judge reserved his decision until February 2000 - possibly in the second week - no precise date has been set as we go to press.

In court on December 10, the day was taken up with submissions from both the prosecution and the defence on sentencing.

The defence called forensic scientist, Dr Bruce Westmore who testified that Keir had no mental illness, no anti-social personality disorder or depression - but rather, he had a personality which included extreme jealousy bordering on the pathological. He also testified that Thomas Keir was likely to be dangerous in other intimate relationships and that because he had failed to acknowledge what he had done, Keir was a poor prospect for rehabilitation.

He also testified that Keir had previously received psychiatric treatment due to stress at the time he had been charged with killing Rosalina. So despite Keir's acquittal for killing Rosalina, her death was very much acknowledged and discussed in court.

In discussions about how dangerous Keir might be and what might be an appropriate sentence, the judge spoke about how such offences, which were committed by apparently otherwise normal men within relationships, were very serious because they breached the trust of the relationship and because they reflected a view that such men had an entitlement over their wives, or ownership of them, and this was morally objectionable.

Jean's mother, Christine Strachan, told the press, "We are not looking for revenge but justice. Justice for Jean and for her son who has lost a beautiful and loving mother - and for her sisters and brother who loved her very much - and for my husband and myself. We shall never get over this loss for as long as we live."

by Dee Dicen Hunt and Julie Stubbs