Yesterday afternoon it was cold and wet and squally in Bathurst. A grey sky; raindrops on the car windows. We park in William Street and I get out to take photographs of two shops: Elie’s Cafe and two doors down, Bathurst Real Estate. It is Sunday afternoon, wet and quiet, but there are a few people on the footpath stopping, like me, to look at the heaped flowers and read the messages. Bathurst is a town that has had a piece blasted out of it; a bit of its ordinary daily life shot to pieces. There’s a function on at the town hall. You think you’ll just pop in to Elie’s beforehand and grab a – no you won’t. Not that cafe.
There’s still the sign on the front door. It’s the sign that went up on the day of the news of the murder-suicide, or probable murder-suicide. Officially, we don’t know exactly what happened. Officially, we won’t know until the coroner’s report. “Due to unforeseen circumstances…” says the handwritten sign, delicately.
Unofficially, it’s pretty clear what went on. Not just a senseless explosion of random forces that left a cafe proprietor and a real estate agent dead on a living room floor in Kelso, but the murder of a woman who wanted to leave by a man who did not want her to leave.In Australia this year we’re already up to more than 50 women dead at the hands of their partners.
The police are apparently exploring a “separation theory” in this case. Like “unforeseen circumstance”, “separation theory” doesn’t sound particularly scary. It doesn’t convey the terror, the horror, of murderous rage. Nor, for that matter, do the words “family violence”. There’s something slippery about these words. There’s a sense of an all-in ruckus, as if all the members of a family were overturning tables and throwing punches. When what we’re usually talking about is one man – with a gun, or a knife, or a blunt instrument – and his terrified hostages.
I can’t help brooding over this. I’ve just read, almost in one sitting, Helen Garner’s book about the man who drove his three children into a dam on Father’s Day. All he wanted to do, as his children drowned behind him, was go to his ex-wife’s house to tell her what he’d done. To make her suffer.
I’ve been thinking about that phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. With more than fifty women dead already, with the year only halfway through, this is laughable. It’s clearly the other way around.