The case of dad ROBERT FARQUHARSON, who has just been convicted of murdering his 3 sons during visitation to "punish" his ex-wife, has dominated the Australian media for years now. This story has really highlighted why lock-step joint custody schemes do not work and how children are suffering and even being killed as a result.
He had no interest in saving his kids
Elissa Hunt From: Herald Sun July 23, 2010 12:00AM
HE said he loved his children more than life itself.
But the fact that Robert Farquharson wasn't willing to die saving them convinced a jury of his guilt.
The supposedly doting dad's decision to give evidence for the first time proved fatal to his case as he blundered his way through an account of why he was unable to rescue Jai, Tyler and Bailey on Father's Day 2005.
One might think that the last moments of his children's lives would be indelibly marked in a father's memory.
But Farquharson could recall little.
He was unable to say why he didn't free the trapped children from their seat belts or even turn on a light in the frightening pitch black of the dam just outside Winchelsea.
What he said was that maybe he'd made "an error".
As his three little boys were struggling with their last breaths under water in terrifying darkness, Farquharson was waving down a passing motorist. When driver Shane Atkinson was able to make enough sense of the man's explanation that he had accidentally driven into a dam, he immediately offered to jump in and search.
But Farquharson wasn't interested.
"He just kept on saying the same thing, that he had killed his kids and he wanted to tell Cindy (Gambino, the boys' mother) that he had killed his kids before he'd told anyone else," Mr Atkinson said.
Atkinson also offered his phone to call for help.
"If you'd just killed your kids, mate, you'd want to ring the ambulance or the police or someone," he told Farquharson. "But he just kept on saying ... time after time that he wanted to go back to Winch."
Mr Atkinson took him to Ms Gambino's house, where she opened her door to the devastating news that would change her life forever.
A search party returned to the dam. Ms Gambino made several hysterical calls to 000 and ran up and down near the water, screaming, "Please, God, not my babies, please don't take my babies."
Others including her new partner Steve Moules began diving into the freezing depths to look for the boys.
Farquharson wasn't among them. He stood on the sidelines, botting cigarettes and looking "like he'd lost his pushbike". "He stood ... with his arms folded, chest out and just stood there watching," Ms Gambino later recalled.
"There was no emotion, there was nothing, absolutely nothing on his face."
Hours later police informed Farquharson that his children had not survived.
Until then he hadn't asked about Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, or Bailey, 2, at all.
"I've never been in trouble before, so what's the likely scenario for me?" he asked.
He claimed he had blacked out while coughing, and woken with Jai telling him they were in water.
Farquharson claimed Jai tried to open a door and water came in so he closed it - but opened his own to get out, and suddenly the car sank. He said he dived down a few times but couldn't find the car.
Farquharson had remained mute at his first trial, but at his retrial prosecutors were finally able to grill him.
He was not a good witness.
He faltered under days of cross-examination by Andrew Tinney, SC, who summed up his failings as a witness in a stirring closing address.
On finding the car in the water, why did Farquharson turn off the ignition and headlights to leave them in total darkness? Why not turn on the internal light?
Why not undo the kids' seat belts so they could escape, knowing both rear doors could not be opened from the inside due to a child lock and a broken handle?
Instead Farquharson got himself out.
And when the car sank, rather than dive down over and over until he found them, he hailed a car and went to Winchelsea.
"In the real world not even the most selfish cowardly father around would do such a thing ... no matter what state of trauma the person was in," Mr Tinney said.
"In the real world no loving father would dream of departing from the car without securing the safety of his children first or going at least close to dying in the process."
While others were immediately suspicious of Farquharson's story, Ms Gambino was not among them.
"I believe with all my heart that this was just an accident and that he would not have hurt a hair on their heads," Ms Gambino told police after the accident.
As she struggled with her incredible grief in the weeks that followed, Farquharson would ring to complain.
He wasn't well.
The police wanted to "twist things around".
He had to deal with his grief all alone.
"I do defend you and I do believe in you," Ms Gambino continued to reassure him.
Ms Gambino had married him in 2000 because "it was the right thing to do".
By then they already had Jai, Tyler and a mortgage.
"I cared about him, but I wasn't in love with him," she later admitted.
Her yearning for another baby and Farquharson's strong opposition to the plan fractured an already faltering relationship.
Bailey was born in late 2002 but within two years the marriage was over.
They argued mostly about the kids in the first few months of their separation, and Farquharson refused to take Bailey overnight because he couldn't cope with a baby.
He paid maintenance, took care of the kids' sporting commitments and let Ms Gambino keep the better of their two cars.
But it wasn't without complaint. "Robbie was always down," former friend Greg King said. "He would have a laugh but he always had something to bitch about."
Ms Gambino agrees. "He was very down and out, very, 'Woe is me'," she told the jury.
"He always looked at his glass half empty."
And in the months before September 2005, there were plenty of things for Farquharson to gripe about.
He wasn't happy about Mr Moules spending so much time with the boys.
Child support payments were set to increase. Unable to afford his own place, he was stuck living with his father and in a financial rut.
And his 1989 Commodore was constantly in need of work: he had "the s--- car" while Ms Gambino and her new boyfriend rode around in a newer model.
"Nobody does that to me and gets away with it," Farquharson allegedly told Mr King outside the local fish and chip shop one day. "She wanted the best of everything, we couldn't afford it. Now it looks like she wants to marry that f------ d---head."
"There's no way I'm going to let him and her and the kids live in my f------ house again and I have to pay for it.
"I'm going to pay her back big time."
Mr King asked, "How is that, Robbie?" Farquharson replied, "I'll take away the most important thing that means to her," nodding towards where his children were standing.
"I said, 'What? The kids?' He said, 'Yeah'."
Farquharson denies ever uttering what Mr King claims he said next: that he would kill the boys.
"An accident by the dam and I survive and the kids don't," Farquharson said.
In the years afterwards, Ms Gambino suffered in her belief that an innocent man had been sentenced to life in prison for the most heinous crime imaginable.
It was not until the Court of Appeal overturned his convictions that Ms Gambino got what she calls "the missing piece of the puzzle".
That was motorist Dawn Waite, who had seen Farquharson driving moments before he veered off the road - completely conscious and not coughing.
Ms Gambino told the jury this time that she wanted him convicted of murder.
"I hate him for what he's done to my life," she said.
This time, as another 12 citizens found Farquharson guilty of her sons' murders, it was a different Cindy Gambino who listened serenely as the jury announced its verdict.
She shed no tears, but simply nodded her thanks.