KASAMA Vol. 17 No. 1 / January-February-March 2003 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Thomas Keir convicted on re-trial gets a lighter sentence

JEAN ANGELA STRACHAN KEIR, 22 years-old, was murdered by her husband Thomas Andrew Keir on the 9th or 10th of February 1988 but the proof of his crime did not emerge until May 1991.

While in prison on remand for the murder of his second wife, Rosalina Canonizado, who was 24 years-old when she was killed in April 1991, Keir revealed to a fellow inmate that he had bashed and strangled Jean and buried her body in the backyard of their home in Tregear, NSW. Keir was acquitted of the murder of Rosalina, but was eventually convicted for the murder of Jean when DNA tests demonstrated that the bones found when the police excavated the backyard were most likely hers.

But, Keir's appeal against conviction was successful. A new trial commenced on 5 August 2002 before a jury of eight men and four women who, after three hours of deliberation, confirmed that he did indeed murder Jean.

Fifteen years have passed from the day of Jean's murder to Keir's final sentencing on 21 March 2003. Jean's son, her parents and the parents of Rosalina, have re-lived the anguish and the pain of their loss through three trials. Quite coincidentally Jean and Rosalina, both Filipinas, were second cousins.

Filipino community groups In Australia and in the Philippines have closely monitored these cases and were astounded when Justice David Kirby sentenced Keir to 22 years with a non-parole period of 16 years. Keir will be eligible for parole on 20 February 2014; two years earlier than the sentence he received in the first trial.

For me, the most disturbing part of Justice Kirby's judgement is his comment that: "Mr Keir loved his wife. The fact that he sent her flowers on her birthday, four days before her death, is some indication of his feelings towards her." I hope Justice Kirby will understand the message the poem, "I Got Flowers Today", offers.

- Dee Dicen Hunt

I Got Flowers Today

by Paulette Kelly
(Dedicated to all Battered Women)

I got flowers today!
It wasn't my birthday or any other special day;
We had our first argument last night;
And he said a lot of cruel things that really hurt;
I know that he is sorry and didn't mean to say the things he said;
Because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today!
It wasn't our anniversary or any other special day;
Last night he threw me into a wall and then started choking me;
It seemed unreal, a nightmare, but you wake up from nightmares;
And I woke up this morning sore and bruised all over - but I know he is sorry;
Because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today!
And it wasn't Valentines Day or any other special day;
Last night he beat me and threatened to kill me;
Make-up and long sleeves didn't hide the cuts and bruises this time;
I couldn't go to work today because I didn't want anyone to know - but I know he's sorry;
Because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today!
And it wasn't Mother's Day or any other special day;
Last night he beat me again, and it was worse than all of the other times;
If I leave him, what will I do? How will I take care of the kids? What about money?
I'm afraid of him, but I'm too scared and dependent to leave him! But he must be sorry;
Because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today...
Today was a special day - it was the day of my funeral;
Last night he killed me;
If only I would have gathered the courage and strength to leave him;
I could have received help from the Women's Shelter, but I didn't ask for their help;
So I got flowers today - for the last time.

© Copyright 1992 Paulette Kelly, All Rights Reserved - reprinted with the expressed permission of the author.