WARNING: Some readers may find the following article distressing.
MODIFIED September 26, 2013, 11.05am: Earlier suppression orders in this case were formally lifted today. The names of two of the three offenders are now part of this report. A photo has been added and minor details updated.
By KIERAN FINNANE
“I told her she would be safe.” This was all AN could think about when she was woken in the early hours of May 2, 2012, to the sound of banging on her car and male voices shouting, “Come out, you pussy.” The young German tourist wanted to protect her friend, another young woman, MF, from Finland (these are not their real initials). They’d met in Western Australia and were intending to drive to Cairns via The Centre. They were 28 and 21 at the time.
At around 11pm they had parked AN’s Mitsubishi Pajero in the cul-de-sac at the end of Maconochie Road, off Stephens Road at the foot of the MacDonnell Ranges (above, view facing south). It was well lit and there were houses nearby. AN told MF they’d be OK there.
When they were woken, AN tried to start the car to get away, but Norman Kernan was already standing at the driver’s door and as the engine kicked over he smashed the window. Ginger Green ran around the front of the car to join him. Both men had a cloth covering the lower part of their faces.
Green was armed with a rifle and pointed it to the side of AN’s head. Kernan reached inside and took the keys from the ignition, then unlocked and opened the driver’s door. AN then saw a third man standing back near the Toyota Corolla they had arrived in, stolen shortly before from a house in The Fairway. His face was also partially covered, as were his hands.
Kernan and Green demanded money. AN handed over her wallet with $50 in it, but not before removing $500. They wanted her credit card too. She took it out of the wallet and handed it to them. One of them asked for the PIN and she gave them an incorrect number.
Green meanwhile went to the passenger side of the Pajero, smashed the window and opened the door. MF had been quiet till then. One of the men now grabbed her feet. She was frightened but she didn’t want AN to face the men on her own, so she moved into the front seat. She could smell that all three had been drinking and they seemed angry and aggressive.
The third man demanded her wallet: “Money or sex!” She could see Green holding up the rifle. Terrified, she told the third man she had only a credit card. He demanded it and her PIN, but he lost interest when he heard his companions tell AN, “Show us your pussy!” He laughed. “No, no, please no!” AN was pleading.
Right and below: Parts of a German travel warning singling out Alice Springs as a dangerous place, following the violent rapes. The last paragraph at right reads: “In Alice Springs special care is recommended. Repeatedly attacks, some on foreign tourists, have been reported (including armed robberies and rapes). People in mobile homes should use only camping grounds with guards.”
In the Supreme Court in Alice Springs today Kernan and Green pleaded guilty to the above-related robbery of AN and to the eight counts of sexual intercourse without consent that then followed. The court heard the horrendous detail, of which I will give only a sparing account. The two young men in court doubled over behind the dock so that their faces could not be seen, such was their excruciating embarrassment or shame. They appeared to have no family or friends present in the court.
The third man has never been charged. The other two perpetrators have not identified him; the victims have been unable to; and no DNA evidence related to him has been recovered.
AN was subjected first to digital penetration by Kernan. While this was happening MF surreptitiously dialled 000 on her mobile and laid it beside her, hoping that someone on the other end would be able to hear what was going on. Tragically for the two women nothing came of this.
The third man joined in the digital penetration alongside Kernan. AN was in pain and pleaded with them to stop but she was mindful of the rifle and afraid of putting up further resistance.
Kernan and Green then took AN into the bushes at the end of the cul-de-sac, telling MF to stay behind. She could see Green’s rifle and was afraid they were going to kill her friend.
Kernan pushed AN onto her back and forced her legs apart. She asked him to use a condom which he did, before raping her vaginally. After a while he turned her over and attempted to rape her anally.
Green meanwhile stood in front of her, with the rifle pointed at her head, and motioned her to perform fellatio on him, which she did.
Kernan then spoke to Green in an Aboriginal language, and Green went back to the Pajero. Kernan, who had discarded the condom and ignored AN’s request to use another, now ordered her to perform fellatio on him.
He then turned her over on her back and again raped her vaginally.
The third man then approached AN and told her to perform fellatio on him. At this point Green came back and pointed the rifle at the third man. AN thought the exchange was not friendly and that the three now seemed to be in a hurry to leave. They walked back to the Pajero and told her to follow.
While the third man had remained with MF, he had rubbed himself against her while continuing to demand her money and credit card. She tried to push him away, which made him angry: “Don’t push me, don’t touch me,” he said. “Why are you so angry?” she asked. “Because I want to have sex,” he said or words to the effect.
Green had come back with his rifle and pointed it at her face and chest. Now she was subjected to digital penetration by the third man. Then he attempted to penetrate her vaginally. She tried to protect herself with her hand, but removed it when she was told to, the rifle pointing at her all the while. She was sitting in the front of the car with her legs facing out. Green helped pull her track pants off and lifted one of her legs up to above her shoulder. He had hold of her ankle in his right hand while the gun was still in his left hand.
While the third man was raping her vaginally he tried to talk to her. He asked her if she was afraid, and whether she liked sex. She didn’t want to let him know how afraid she was and she answered, “Well, yes, a bit.” She tried to engage him further and asked whether he had a girlfriend. He said no and told her “You can come with me”. She was afraid then that she might be taken away by the men.
The third man changed position several times and then performed cunnilingus on her, while masturbating. He removed some of the covering from his face and kissed her. Then he forced her to perform fellatio on him, pushing her head onto his penis. He again penetrated her vaginally. Then he told her to get out of the car, he sat down and again she had to perform fellatio on him, with him holding the back of her head and moving it. All of this behaviour by the third man in relation to MF, and some more to follow, constituted one count.
Green at this point joined in, from behind, inserting his fingers into her vagina, although she begged, “Not at the same time.” Then he attempted to penetrate her anally and succeeded in penetrating her vaginally.
The third man wasn’t finished. More vaginal intercourse, more fellatio, all the while warning her not to tell the police: “We know your face and my family is in Alice Springs so it’s not good if you tell police.”
Kernan now arrived to continue her ordeal. He penetrated her digitally, ignoring her pleas to not do it so hard, that it was hurting. He attempted vaginal intercourse and then forced fellatio but stopped as he was having trouble getting an erection.
At this point Green and the third man returned with AN. She noticed that there was a fourth man in the Toyota but he wasn’t moving and appeared to be asleep or drunk.
Now Green wanted to talk to MF, asking where she was from. She told him and asked whether he had been there. He said no but he had been to Athens, he was half Greek (in fact he has a step-father of Greek descent). She asked whether he had a young sister whom he loved and cared about. He said he did. She said she had a big brother who loved and cared for her. He replied: “That’s life, I suppose.” He partially uncovered his face during the conversation but then covered it again.
The men asked for tobacco and continued to talk. They wanted to know where the women were going. They said Uluru, and again there were threats: “If you tell the cops we have family in Uluru and it won’t be good.”
One of them told the women that they couldn’t sleep there: “It’s a sacred place.” Then he said they could stay this time, but not next time. Then Green said they had to stay there for now. AN said they were going to drive on. He said no, to stay, to drive tomorrow and repeated threats if they told the cops. The men drove away. AN noted the registration number, which later helped police in being able to identify Kernan and Green from CCTV footage.
Above: The scene of the attack looking north – a stone’s throw from the town’s tourist accommodation precinct and in a quiet suburban street. At the time the area on the right was less developed.
The women were frightened and in shock. After a while they set out, drove around, ending up at Heavitree Gap Caravan Park at around 4am. The police happened to be there for another matter and a sergeant, seeing MF crying and shivering in the front seat, approached. In “a begging voice” MF asked, “Can you stay with us, we’re scared.” After a while AN told the sergeant what had happened.
Writing the next day about the ordeal, AN said at first that it was like a movie, as if it had happened to someone else. Her main concern was for MF. She had wanted to protect her friend and hadn’t been able to. She felt guilty and hoped MF wasn’t blaming her.
By evening she started to feel the impact. She was in pain; she felt shame; she wondered what difference it would make for her sexuality and her marriage. She had yet to tell her partner and her family. She had had plans to do an apprenticeship, to live in a caravan in Brisbane. All this would have to change. She felt powerless, lost. She was afraid that she may have been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. She was sad over the lost time she had planned to have on the trip with MF.
This month, ahead of today’s hearing, AN added to her victim impact statement: she said she had changed a lot, she was unable to work, she feels more dead than alive, depressed and paranoid. Her marriage had ended, one of her biggest losses. She can’t allow bodily contact. She has had a lot of counselling and therapies, but one and half years later the events are still affecting her life every day. She wonders when she’ll be able to have dreams again.
No sentence would be long enough for the perpetrators, she said, but at the same time she hoped they would come out of prison as better people. She also hoped that the third perpetrator would be caught and gaoled. She thanked the police and everyone who had supported her in the aftermath of her ordeal.
MF fared no better. She wrote of her terror, shock and panic. She couldn’t eat, suffered terrible nausea and diarrhoea. She was “going crazy in her mind”. She was in pain, very sore and swollen. She had a headache just thinking about what had happened; she felt frustration and anger; she didn’t know how to accept help, and it was even harder having to talk about it all in English, not in her own language. She was worried about what her father and brother would feel. They were not strong people and had their own problems.
“I want my mum,” she wrote. She had only been able to go to sleep holding onto AN’s hand.
In a recent addendum, she wrote that it was hard to concentrate; she was stressed just thinking about writing but wanted to “have a voice” in the proceedings. She has never been so tired, finds it hard to get up in the morning. She is depressed. Some days are OK but she still has not been able to deal with the assault. She is still not ready to think about it.
She doesn’t trust people and is afraid that if they knew what had happened, they would turn away from her. She has developed an eating disorder, cries easily, falls apart, feels she is ugly, is ashamed, afraid of relationships. She has been unable to work but has started to study and hopes and believes that things will get better.
Kernan and Green will be sentenced on Friday.
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