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Herald Sun, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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SPE C IAL INVE STIGATION

Why? How could he? Arthur Freeman threw his own esh and blood from the top of the West Gate Bridge. PATRICK CARLYON and PAUL ANDERSON try to explain the inexplicable why a dad would kill his daughter

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THE MONSTER
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ad or bad? The appearance of Arthur Freeman at his murder trial supported either theory. His locks, streaked blond, tumbled over the collar of the black suit he wore each day. Strands of hair, as though reaching for the sun, on his otherwise bare crown suggested a close relationship with a power plug. His forehead looked to be carved with a hammer and chisel. As Freeman shu ed in each morning, shackles clanking, shoulders hunched, his body resembled a block of concrete, wide and thick. He would be likened to cartoon characters, mad monks and sci- aliens. Sometimes, Freeman bared his teeth in expressions of pain. He whimpered and wept and guzzled water during evidence about the autopsy of his daughter, Darcey Freeman, the four-year-old he threw o the West Gate Bridge. Mostly, he stared with wide eyes, like a zoo exhibit who could not grasp how hed arrived where he was. For 35 years, until January 29, 2009, Ardie was considered harmless. He was an IT geek who had shone as a database administrator in London. He played tennis weekly. He kept busy, with bike rides and tinkering, as he always had as a boy. There were beers and skiing trips in a life led, from school onwards, under the radar. Ordinariness was his thing.
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THE MAN BEHIND

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Herald Sun, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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SPECIAL INVESTIGATION
Darcey Freemans mum Peta Barnes Bridge eyewitness Barry Nelson

I managed to get through one more time and I said to him, Its me. He said, Youll never see your children again.

It was just like it was an everyday event, like he may have been posting a letter and was walking back from the post box to his vehicle.

CV of an evil dad
Education: Reluctant to go to school. A spell at a primary school for kids with behavioural problems, then Newcomb High School in Geelong Nicknames: Ardie Dunger or Ardie Monster School years: Fellow students say he was bullied, including being forced to stand on a rock without moving. He was often silent when spoken to. He would lurk on the edges of groups Appearance: Fresh-faced with ginger facial hair that sprouted a year or two before other boys University: Computer science honors degree. Discovered alcohol Sport: Played football for a time and did weights Girls: No one can recall any irtations with girls at school Career: IT programmer Marriage: Broke up with wife Peta Barnes in 2007 What his friends said about Arthur Freeman: He was like a Martin Bryant type, one peer said. Hed get that stare. Bloody oath, it was scary. It was when he got bullied a bit But at the end of the day, he was a likeable sort of fellow

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How could he visit someone so dear


Wedding day: Peta and Arthur marry in 1999.

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Posy: Darcey Freeman was a ower girl at a relatives wedding.


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ore than anything else, it seems, he wanted more time with his three kids who for a stretch he had cared for full-time. He played beach soccer with them. He would take his daughter to ballet. Darcey would seek him out for hugs. Then Freeman tossed her off a city landmark as though posting a letter, according to one of many witnesses. No single act of recent times has haunted us like the West Gate Bridge girl. No one could quite explain how this happened, not then, and not during his trial of the past few weeks. Not even the killer himself who, it was said, had no memory of the incident and who now, to keep busy, tends tomatoes in his prison garden. Apparently, the tomatoes are doing well. Freemans trial has served to apportion blame. Yet in pleading not guilty mad, not bad as his lawyer called it Freemans case was doomed to skirt elements of context that may have helped explain the inexplicable. A trial showdown of medical experts would throw up terms like dissociative state and insane automatism. The jargon did much to bamboozle a lay audience who, nevertheless, were jolted anew each day with the realisation that a little girl who sang and danced wasnt coming back.

Much weight was placed on a custody dispute settled the day before Darceys death, a resolution Freeman had planned to mark with friends on the following night. Instead, that night, he would be trembling and dribbling, pasted in snot and curled in the fetal position, on a police cell floor. Even his parents couldnt coax a word from him. Freeman was there but he wasnt there at all. The court-room theatrics did not settle questions that may never properly be answered. Why did Freeman, described by a close relative as too nice a dad, damn his little girl at one of the busiest places in Melbourne? How could he visit such terror upon someone so dear and so trusting? Was Arthur Freeman mad, or bad, or sad or all of the above? he confusing dynamics for Freemans trial were set from the first day. Freemans defence admitted he had committed a horror, but argued he wasnt culpable for it. His plea committed a dozen or more ordinary people, who might otherwise have strived to forget their unwitting proximity to the tragedy, to brave the creaky stairs of the witness box. The crux of the trial itself was Freeman mentally impaired, or did his daughter die from his conscious, deliberate and volun+

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Herald Sun, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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A RT H U R F R E E M A N T R I A L
Freemans UK-based friend Elizabeth Lam Arthur Freemans father, Peter Freeman

During the mediation he found that the women who were dealing with the family were not supportive. He said there were a lot of angry women in the courts who werent very supportive of fathers.

It was a very strange thing that was happening He was starting to collect hard rubbish and he would collect every receipt. He had a box full of them in the kitchen. Every receipt relating to the children.

such terror upon and so trusting?


Fresh-faced: Freeman at a family gathering in 1996.

The face we cant forget


We remember her every time we drive across the West Gate Bridge. Shes the little girl who on the day she was to start school was thrown 58m to her death by her father. But what was little Darcey like?

She was two weeks shy of her fth birthday.

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Darcey liked ballet and would often break into song and dance.

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Her older brother called her little Darce.


tary act? was almost beside the point. Throughout, at least for those witnesses who had spoken with Freeman before the event, the process felt spooked with unspoken what-ifs that may have spared a little girl who looked a lot like the dad who killed her. What if Freemans father had driven the three children the day before, as originally planned? What if he had convinced Freeman, as he tried, to allow him to accompany them that hot morning? What if any of the five adults Freeman spoke to in the hours before Darceys death had said something to avert such a tragic course? None of these people were to blame, of course. This was not their fault. No one, except perhaps Freeman, had any inkling of the doom ahead. Even now, two years later, few of those acquainted with Freeman especially his own family appear to have shed the shock. The numbness may also apply to the wider community. Media junkies can acquire a thirst for unthinkable atrocities, such as gangland executions. A law of the jungle framework cushions such fascination. Such things dont happen to us they happen to them. Yet the tale of Darcey Freemans doom slipped through the usual filters of distance. Many people say they dont want to understand. Yet the face of the girl two weeks shy of five, on her way to her first day of school and one of lifes first big adventures pops up in the thoughts of thousands of bridge commuters each day. Even Justice Paul Coghlan, a man known to keep his reserve, extended touching kindnesses to trial witnesses. Dont blame yourself, he told one female witness. Freemans own father, after finishing his evidence, looked to the judge. You know, Ive lost my grand-daughter, he said. Im a grandfather, too, Justice Coghlan replied. I understand. Such glimpses of humanity, as well as tears and gulps, leavened evidence that would repeatedly bathe Supreme Court room 11 in despair. As Freeman stared at nothing in particular, his exfather-in-law, Wayne Barnes, an old-school excop, glared and grimaced and glowered at him. Barnes often looked set to vault the rail that separated them. Freeman himself, at times, appeared overwhelmed. He pulled faces that contrasted with the composure of his ex-wife in the witness box, giving evidence about an ex-husband who doomed her daughter to a life unled. Freemans mouth gaped, as though he was unaware of the movement, when his older sons video testimony of the event was aired. The sons legs kicked back and forth during the interview. He plainly could not grasp, at the time aged six, the gravity of Little Darces loss. The poor kid has the rest of his life for that. Freemans eyes would take on red rims. During an inventory of Darceys injuries to the brain, heart, spleen, to the blood in her ears and nose, he scrubbed at his face with a hanky. Hes about to start howling at the ceiling, one observer whispered. Its said Freeman was at times reluctant to appear in court. Apparently, he stripped in the prison van en route one morning. One night, he was thought to refuse to leave his holding cell. Yet the jury would never hear the words that may have softened Freemans de facto standing as a monster. They would not hear him say he was sorry. The jury members filed in each morning to present as a panorama in grimness. They had been instructed to do the impossible, to get inside the head of an excessively caring father who fretted, in his absence, that no one would read his children bed-time stories. A father who wanted to be a huge part of his childrens lives. A father who killed his daughter for reasons that will never make sense and, in doing so, threatened to condemn all three of the fragile souls he helped bring into the world. Freemans murder trial could never double as an examination of logic. Theres something in particular, too, it did not resolve. Was one death supposed to be three? ness box, that he felt his children had been taken away from him. Freeman cried during the call. He felt helpless. He was preoccupied, it seems, with a custody settlement from the day before. It seems reasonable to suggest the custody issues had consumed him for many months beforehand. In November, 2008, according to a close relative, Freeman said his ex-wife would regret it if he lost custody. That comment has gone through my head over and over, the relative told the Herald Sun this week. I am not sure then if he intended to do what he has done, but it did suggest that he would make her life hell. This tallies with comments, again offered on condition of anonymity, from the mothers side of the family. Freeman was described as calculating and easy to underestimate. Further, he was a control freak who lost control after the marriage breakdown. Freeman feared, rightly, that the shared care arrangements between the divorced parents three days custody alternated with exchanges at Kew McDonalds would be altered. Freeman would now have custody one weekend a fortnight, with a few hours on alternate Thursday nights.

She sought out her dad Arthur Freeman for hugs.

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reeman used plurals in phone threats to his exwife minutes before Darceys death. Say goodbye to your children, he said. You will never see them again. Darceys older brother offered the only testimony of events in Freemans Toyota Landcruiser, driving from Aireys Inlet to Melbourne that morning. The two older children played games in the back seats. There were books and crayons. The two-year-old son drank from a bottle. When the 4WD hit the West Gate Bridge, we stopped. Freeman asked Darce to climb into the front seat. Freeman, according to his son, said please. Then, everything happened. Freeman had been on the phone to his sister during the trip. He made no reference to ghastly thoughts. He instead fretted about the kids lunches. He also spoke to Elizabeth Lam, noted in court documents as a romantic interest living in London, but named as a friend in the court room. He told her, she said in teary evidence in the wit-

Her dad said please when he asked her to move into the front seat as he stopped the car that day on the bridge.

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Then she was gone. And none of us could help asking the question why whenever we thought of her.

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Herald Sun, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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SPECIAL INVESTIGATION
Clinical psychologist Dr Jennifer Neoh Forensic medical o cer Dr Justin Du Plessis

I consider that it is likely he has chronic personality and interpersonal problems that are caused by a tendency to irrationality, contradiction and denial of responsibility.

He was hunched over in the chair. He was crying. He wasnt replying, responding to any of my questions. Not even once. There wasnt a single verbal response. And he was shaking or trembling.

THE FINAL MOMENTS


Say goodbye to your children, Arthur Freeman said to his wife on the phone. You will never see them again.
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I cant recall him saying,


Only questions left ...
Now weve only got what ifs: I What if Freemans father had driven the three children the day before, as originally planned? I What if Freemans father had persuaded Freeman to allow him to accompany them that morning? I What if any of the ve adults Freeman spoke to in the hours before Darceys death had said something that stopped him? But of course what ifs cant help.
When he left the Family Court, he appeared happy, according to his ex-wife. Its worth noting the decision was a negotiated settlement. Yet the next morning, on the phone, Freeman told Lam there had been lots of angry women in the courts who werent very supportive of fathers. Even then, perhaps 45 minutes before Darceys plunge, he offered no warning of the horror ahead. Freeman spoke about pursuing greater custody through the courts. Her phone battery went dead, but Lam didnt phone back. She assumed Freemans crying would help him reconcile his feelings to the reality of his situation. It didnt even enter my head that he would harm anybody, she said. Freemans distress at the custody outcome was also described by his father, Peter, in court. Freeman had returned to his parents home, where the kids had stayed, about midnight the night before. He was in a bit of a trance. Communication was difficult, but Freeman did express great dissatisfaction with a psychologists assessment that figured in the custody resolution. Peter Freeman said his son believed he had been sort of ambushed in the report and that the report was not unbiased. He was cut short several times giving evidence, even by his sons defence counsel. Mr Freeman wanted to read from notes. At one point, it appeared he wanted to query the approach of the psychologist in question, as he, his wife and Freemans sister had done in their police statements. Her name is Jennifer Neoh. Her assessment of Arthur Freeman, based on interviews held three weeks before Darceys death, was summarised in the trial. Freeman tended to be irrational and contradictory and demonstrated . . . passive/aggressive traits and seemed to cause chaos around him. His behaviour on the interview day, firstly turning up late then reappearing before the scheduled appointment itself, distressed the children, Ms Neoh said in court. He hugged and soothed one of his upset children, she said. Yet he seemed oblivious to the chaos he created. Freeman disagreed with the report. He thought the assessment unfair. Yet until a few minutes before he threw his daughter off a bridge, he indicated only that he would pursue legitimate channels of review. The day before Darceys death, after the Family Court resolution, Freeman told a friend he planned to undertake a personal development course to counter the psychologists conclusions and fight for more time with his children. Yet it seems apparent that Freemans mental health, from a laymans perspective anyway, had been patchy since his marriage break-up to Peta Barnes in 2007, perhaps even before. Barnes, in court, said her then husband had had mood swings and anger management issues. The mood swings were also described by another family member, who alluded to Freemans tendency to drive erratically when upset. Ms Barnes police statement, taken two days after Darceys death, went further. She thought, in retrospect, Freeman may have been suffering some form of depression. he pair had married on millennium eve, in Perth, and then lived in Maida Vale, a nicer part of London, for more than six years. This pairing, at first anyway, had seemed like a healthy match. He was an introvert. She was an extrovert said to drive him to do things he may not otherwise have done. Yet on coming to Melbourne to live, Freeman, Ms Barnes said, showed he was rigid, inflexible, and struggled with change. When she left him in March, 2007, she spoke to a Hawthorn GP about her fears he wThere followed an ugly incident. The pair had talked. As Barnes stood to leave, according to her, Freeman grabbed their baby son. She feared he would throw the baby into a fireplace. She bit him. Her mother slammed a metal stroller on his back. The police were called. The pair divorced in June, 2008, but Freeman kept wearing his wedding ring. A few months later, he went to England for three months to sort out UK residency issues. He stayed with friends who said in a police statement that he appeared clearly depressed, paranoid and obsessive. It seems, from several unnamed sources, that Freeman feared his ex-wife would return to live in Perth with the children. He believed renovations were underway to allow that to happen. He was also unhappy with the financial split. He fretted he would not have enough money to house the children. Freeman was said to have been frustrated when his then wife, soon after the separation, was said to have suddenly transferred more than $300,000 out of a joint account. There is little doubt, rationally or not, that Freeman felt bullied and threatened. Id say she was the dominant figure, a family member says. Money didnt mean that much to him. It wasnt a big agenda at all. In London, contact calls with his children got muddled. Freeman felt his ex-wife was sabotaging the contact. He was thrown by suggestions that being overseas while custody issues were in dispute could hinder his access claims. When the friends threeyear-old daughter played up during a museum outing, Freeman restrained the girl, prompting his friend to describe it as over-reaction. The friend noted that Freeman was shaking. Freeman also spent time in London with Elizabeth Lam. He helped care for her children. The pair discussed his marriage breakdown. Freeman was very bitter about his wifes behaviour towards him. Was Freeman unraveling at this time, a few months before Darceys death? Other accounts add strength to the theory. His father, Peter Freeman, in agreeing in court that his sons mental health had suffered severe deterioration since 2007, felt Freeman had become paranoid. At times, he appeared confused, anxious and teary although Peter Freeman described an improvement that quashed any notion of advising his son +

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Consultant psychiatrist Prof Graham Burrows Consultant psychiatrist Dr Yvonne Skinner

I believe at the time of the tragedy, the event, he was in a dissociative state Its a severe depression I am really talking about.

I asked Mr Freeman about his relationship with his daughter Darcey. He said Darcey was headstrong and needed rm handling He said that she craved attention but he thought that was understandable as she was a second child.

Darcey Iris Freeman was only a couple of days from turning ve and on the way to her rst day of school when her father, Arthur, stopped his car, removed his daughter and threw her o the West Gate Bridge to her death.

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I understand how you feel


to seek professional help. Yet a strange disconnect had emerged. Freeman would be obsessive about collecting receipts concerning the children. He had developed systems for feeding and dishes. Yet his Hawthorn flat was a mess of clothes and toys. Freeman, according to a close source, had fashioned the childrens beds and drawers, apparently to save money for the custody case. He had gathered washing machines to scavenge parts. He tinkered often, as though embracing a distraction from reality. His parents were always trying to tidy the flats spills of clutter. Such disorder was what police and journalists discovered in the hours after Darceys death. A handwritten note was stuck to Freemans television. Its not plain who wrote it. If it was Freeman, he referred to himself in the third person. The note spoke of keeping a clear head and having a big fight on your hands. opular opinion dictates that any parent who kills their child is insane. Such definitions are more technical in courts of law. Actions that qualify for everyday labels, such as brainsnaps or meltdowns, must meet specific psychiatric guidelines to legally classify as mental impairment. Freemans murder trial heard references to the MNaghten trial, which in 1843 codified a presumption of sanity unless the defence could prove otherwise, and Falconer, a 1990 case when a womans conviction for killing her husband was put aside after some psychiatric evidence was disallowed in her original case. Freemans lawyer, David Brustman, SC, argued his client could not distinguish between right and wrong when he killed Darcey. He was mentally ill at the time. Freeman had no psychiatric history (or criminal record) before Darceys death. Only one of six psychiatrists to interview Freeman agreed with Mr Brustmans assertions. Professor Graham Burrows likened Freemans state to that of a sleep walker on the morning of Darceys death. He was at the severe end of dissociation He really didnt know what was going on. Consultant psychiatrist Yvonne Skinners finding was more sinister. She has handled more than 80 cases of parents who kill their children. She concluded that Freemans actions fitted what is known as spousal revenge. This theory dictates that the child itself is not the cause of violent rage, but instead a weapon of retribution. Such conclusions serve to reduce the reasons for Darceys killing to something akin to collateral damage. They also reflect the recent conviction of Robert Farquharson, for the second time, whose three sons drowned when he drove into a dam on Fathers Day in 2005. Yet it doesnt explain why Freeman chose Darcey, as the first or only victim, instead of one of his two sons. The older son reported no acrimony during the car trip. One hint, which may or may not be important, may lie in Dr Neohs report. She specifically mentioned that Darcey was close to her mother in Freemans absence, and that her educational and social needs were important factors in the custody resolution. Five of the six experts agreed that Freeman was probably anxious and stressed during the drive, but not to degrees that constitute a disease of the mind. He was running late for Darceys school drop-off. Lunches hadnt been made, her school shoes were too big, and some of her school uniform was back at Freemans flat. The build up of tension invites comparisons with the mental unwiring of Michael Douglas character in 1993s Falling Down. Freeman told one doctor he recalled feeling trapped on the bridge. He felt enormous failure that he would not get to St Josephs Primary School, in Hawthorn, on time. He told another doctor he had no recollection of speaking with his ex-wife, but felt it plausible that she may have called and berated me for not being there (at school). Professor Burrows said Freeman had been tipped by the psychologists report prepared for the custody hearing. Professor Skinner said Freeman told her he had been stunned by the report, which he described as scathing. Yet she argued his ability to drive a car and make phone calls showed he acting consciously and voluntarily. The prosecution emphasised that he turned on the 4WDs hazard lights, as evidence for presence of mind, when he pulled over on the bridge. The sequence of his behaviour demonstrates an awareness of his immediate environment and of a purposeful execution of behaviour . . . said Dr Douglas Bell. Freeman wouldnt be the first father to be devastated by a Family Court decision. Some men feel stripped of their wallets and dignity. Some grow depressed and outraged. Some have been driven by vengeance to unspeakable acts. A Family Court judge was once shot dead in NSW. Others have been threatened. Fathers have taken their own lives. Only one upset father has tossed his daughter from a bridge soon after a Family Court hearing. The least contentious medical point of view, perhaps, was contained in a report by Dr Lester Walton. Precisely what Mr Freeman may have been thinking or feeling at the material time remains unknown, he said. The expert arguments left little scope for popular perceptions. Freemans motives were either hopelessly deranged or entirely evil. The jury went with the latter reeman was considered different from his first day at Newcomb High School in Geelong. No other boy in his year was called Arthur. Tormentors, always alert to a point of difference, exploited the weakness. Paul Hogan had created a television character who sported zinc cream, a pot belly and an Esky. Freemans label may have been inspired by Hogans Arthur Donger. Another theory goes that Freeman used to smell.

Mad or bad?
The jury in Arthur Freemans murder trial was given a simple choice: Was he mad or bad? Freeman pleaded not guilty to murder on the ground of mental impairment. According to the prosecution, his act of throwing his daughter o the West Gate Bridge was a conscious, voluntary and deliberate act after a failed custody dispute with his ex-wife. According to the defence, Freeman was su ering a major depressive disorder and was in a dissociative state like that of a sleep walker and was unaware of his actions.
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Herald Sun, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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SPECIAL INVESTIGATION

One part wants justice for Darcey and another part feels for Ardy
Cooking legend Margaret Fulton will be the star at the Beechworth Harvest Celebration.
Throughout school, he was called Ardie Dunger. Or Ardie Monster. The mockery was not here or there. It was every day. Freeman spent six years at high school being terrorised. Bar the odd exception, he did not fight back. When he did, people noticed, prompting the thought and this from a close friend that there was a ticking time bomb inside the kid who wouldnt, or couldnt, express himself. Part of me wonders whether he had mild Aspergers (Syndrome) or something. He had a deep lack of any emotional intelligence . . . I never can recall him saying, I understand how you feel or anything that would suggest or intimate that he did. Maybe if he had seen someone at that age maybe they could have diagnosed him with it.

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ome kids were thrown in bins at Newcomb High School. Some had their jumpers pulled over their heads and got slapped around. Even Ben Graham, the years closest thing to a future rock star, was held down in about year 8 and zapped with stove ignitor switches. Freeman was bullied in other ways. He was told to stand on a rock in the playground. He would be ordered to stand there indefinitely. When he went to move away, he would be reminded to stay where he was. And he would obey, sometimes for 20 minutes or more. Peter Freeman, a father of four, was a teacher at another school. There were many troublemakers at school, the sort who fashion ninja stars in metalwork to throw at fellow students. As one student observes, such bullies could scent weakness. You know what kids are like, he says. They find the odd thing about anyone and they run with it. He copped it for his name, his look, and the way he acted. School year books portray a Newcomb High fraternity that celebrated sporting and science successes, with satire and without pretence. Of 88 students in Freemans year, 22 went to university. Biology did not present Ben Graham, the budding Geelong footballer, with the gift of height until year 9. Graham and Freeman would go to the same university, connected by a mutually close friend, yet their diverging paths speak to lifes unknowable squiggles. Less than a week after Freeman threw his daughter from a bridge, Graham played in an NFL Superbowl. Theres something more that may place Freemans childhood in the equation. Its only rumour, but it draws a faint arc in grasping the incomprehensible. Its believed Freeman himself, since he killed his daughter, has traced adult issues to a childhood that included a spell at a primary school for kids with behavioural problems. Part of his problem, per-

haps and this is from a close friend was that Freeman had zero people skills. Freeman mumbled when he spoke, which wasnt often. No one can recall any flirtations with girls who would not risk reputational damage by consorting with him. It is suggested that later, when others had trekked paths of romantic exploration, Freeman remained unrounded in matters of emotional attachment. When boys clustered in groups, Freeman would lurk at the edges of this or that gathering, never offering conversation that would open entry to a group. He was there, but he wasnt. He played football for a time and did weights. Freeman would go on the annual school bike rides to Albury or elsewhere. Among a power group of boys, they would surge ahead on 100km day rides to arrive at their destination well before the pack. He would have a go at anything says one peer, a trait later attributed to Darcey, who tried tennis and football. Acceptance wouldnt be found until university, when Freeman discovered alcohol and found two friends who, 15 years later, would be compelled to testify against him. Freeman tinkered with Ford escorts, to prepare them for Autocross racing.

His first car was a yellow Escort, many of its panels dinted and repaired. He would stay up until 5am on PlayStation, nap, then head to work at 8am. Later, when he met his future wife, Ardie would start to be instead called Artie. By the time Freeman had qualified with a computer science honours degree, he had lost his hair at the crown of his head. He wore it then as he has at his murder trial hanging long, looking weird. While married, his hair was short and neat. Visiting relatives were shocked to see his peculiar new hairstyle just before the trial began in early March. One insight into Freemans formative thinking may lie in a poem he wrote in 1986, aged about 12. It was considered good enough to publish in the school yearbook. Called Feelings, Freeman described fear as when youre in a maze with a tiger behind you. You run for your life Then the tiger jumps you The poems second stanza took on Dr Seuss cadences. The last four lines would acquire a weird prescience after Darceys death. A forensic psychologist, on recently reading the poem, wrongly assumed that Freeman had been raised from a broken home. It was written by a boy who later, as a man and a

father, is said to have tried to write letters to his sons from jail. But here comes your dad So now youre gald [glad] that you have a dad Then he goes so youre angry and mad But you still love your dad

t may be tempting for his former school peers to write off Freeman as an aberration of nature. Almost every one appears to have done so. His single act defines him. It hardly matters whether a court of law found Freeman insane or not. He didnt just condemn his daughter and ex-wife. His own family is burdened with a grief and stigma that may not fade. The Freemans didnt lose one family member. They lost as many as four. One school peer, whose impressions were supported by others, spoke at great length to the Herald Sun. He was in Freemans grades several times, and liked him well enough to request a Facebook friendship years later, a few months before Darcey (the offer wasnt taken up). He was like a Martin Bryant type, the peer says. That look. Hed get that stare. Bloody Oath, it was scary. It was when he got bullied a bit and had had too much. But at the end of the day he was a likeable sort of fellow. They picked on him

because he was harmless. But everyone knew he had that ability, that something inside him that could explode at any time. Newcomb High alumni hit Facebook to describe their shock and disgust at Freeman. One Facebook site sought members who wanted Freeman killed. Yet for those who knew Freeman, Darceys death presented a conundrum. A close acquaintance wrote of twisted loyalties. Im torn with my feelings, she wrote. One part of me is angry and wants justice for Darcey and another part of me feels for Ardy who is a friend in need. The conflicting feelings are like a storm churning inside. Which should rate, my head or my heart? The more I hear, the more confused I get. Two years later, Freemans high school peer keeps calling Darceys death an accident, and keeps correcting himself. Finally, he settles on incident. He is sitting in a Geelong pub, nursing a beer. Rock music plays. Punters study the form for the next at Sale. His mind veers off, to a cloudless morning and a metal railing where traffic has jammed and the city below, forever grey, is about to shimmer in a blast of heat and incomprehension. Darceys final glimpses of life. Her panic? Her confusion? Such reflections

mash the hardest heart. He has linked Freemans deed to his own children. He wants to shake and cry. This c---, he says, threw his kid over the West Gate Bridge. And for what? reemans closer friend, too, pondered death penalties when, a few hours after Darcey fell 58m, he heard a radio report as he drove over the bridge. Like all close observers, he feels a jolt of fresh shock each day, as though she died just this morning. Like all close observers, he anguishes over a simple question what if? For him, the question goes: What if their friendship had been rekindled? This friend has also wondered whether he should visit Freeman in prison. He is uncertain if he would ask about Darceys death. Sometimes he wants to understand; other times, he does not. Such curiosity may be moot. As far as the Herald Sun knows, Freeman talks tomatoes, but does not talk about his daughters death. The old friend still cannot absorb Freemans deed. No one can, especially those at Freemans murder trial who concluded that the more they knew, the more they didnt know at all. Yet the friend is a man of faith. He believes that where there is justice, and justice must be served, there must also be mercy.

JUSTICE FOR DARCEY


TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2011
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heraldsun.com.au

Killer dad warned ex-wife would regret custody fight


ARTHUR Freeman faces life in jail after he was last night found guilty of murdering his daughter Darcey by throwing her off the West Gate Bridge. After ve days of deliberations, the Supreme Court jury convicted Freeman, 37, of consciously, voluntarily and intentionally tossing Darcey to her death on what was supposed to be her rst day of school. Some jurors wept as the verdict was read out, while Freeman remained motionless on hearing his fate. His former wife, Peta Barnes, was silent as she left court. The Herald Sun can today reveal Freeman pictured with Darcey, left warned two months before the murder that his ex-wife would regret it if he ever lost custody of his children.

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