Mad or Bad? The murder of Pamela King


tags: Murder, Homicide, Canberra, AFP, Australian Federal Police,

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‘Mad’ or ‘Bad’?
The Murder of Pamela King
By Federal Agent Angus Beveridge, Australian Federal Police
APJ Issue - June 2010 (Vol. 64, No. 2), pp.74-78.

Editorial Note

Criticism has been levelled at the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) that it is a “killers’ paradise”1 in that there has not been a murder conviction recorded since 1998. Notwithstanding other contributing factors, legal loopholes in Territory legislation have enabled several offenders charged with murder to use their apparent mental health condition as a defence in a way which would not be permitted in most other Australian jurisdictions. It is a remarkably effective tactic, resulting in lesser court results of manslaughter or alternative outcomes such as a period of psychiatric care.

The investigation into the 2001 murder of Pamela Ann King (AFP Operation Menado) is one such example of how a murderer was able to avoid legal culpability for a brutal crime which, upon first inspection, appeared to be an “open and shut” case. As then Detective Sergeant Bob Peters told the investigators during the inquiry, there is no such thing as a ‘...walk-up start’ when investigating murder.
A Callous and Cowardly Act of Murder

About 1.58pm on Wednesday 10 October 2001, 67-year-old Maurice Dixon King dialled Triple Zero (000) and asked for police. At the AFP’s ACT Police Communications Centre in Belconnen, operator Richard Forshaw answered the call and was confronted with the words: “Will you come up immediately? I’ve killed my wife, I think. Ah ... we’ve had a terrible argument and I whacked her with a piece of iron. I think I’ve killed her.”

Police raced to the Cobby Street, Campbell home and, when they arrived about 2.05pm, they found King on the front veranda holding a handheld phone. As more police and ambulance sirens blared through the suburb, neighbours began to congregate in the front yard.

Traffic Operations member, Constable Adam McCormack was the first member to find King’s wife, Pamela, lying in an unconscious state on the upstairs lounge room floor. The woman’s head was bloodied and broken with an extensive array of skull fractures – her brain was badly haemorrhaging. On the carpet around Pamela was an ever increasing pool of blood. It was also noted at this point that blood splatter had stained the curtains and brain matter clung to the ceiling. Despite the best efforts of the paramedics, Pamela lost her pulse soon afterwards and resuscitation ceased on-site at 2.46pm. Life was formally pronounced extinct at the home at 4.34pm. The cause of death was later officially recorded as extensive head injuries.  

Outside, King told various neighbours that he thought he’d killed his wife and also made certain admissions to Constable Richard Breiner at the crime scene. Later he provided a detailed account of it all at the City Police Station during a taped record of interview with myself and Detective Constable Mark Elvin. Afterwards, King took part in a video-recorded re-enactment with me at his house and calmly demonstrated to police how he had killed his wife. The forensic examination of the crime scene, seized exhibits and subsequent financial investigation all strengthened the case as to King’s culpability ...

1 Alison Rehn, ‘Canberra is a killer’s paradise’, The Daily Telegraph, 19 August 2009.

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