Ex­tend pa­role ban for killers

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - KATE CAMPBELL

THE heart­bro­ken mother of a Perth man bashed and burnt alive in a mur­der plot or­ches­trated and car­ried out by five peo­ple, in­clud­ing his part­ner and mother of his child, says the State Govern­ment’s pro­posed pa­role ban for mass mur­der­ers and se­rial killers should be extended to all mur­der­ers.

Lisa Mills has spo­ken out to ques­tion the Govern­ment’s ap­proach, say­ing all mur­ders were heinous crimes and that her fam­ily’s grief was no less than some­one whose child was mur­dered by a mass or se­rial killer.

The Govern­ment’s leg­is­la­tion, passed this week by the Lower House, will al­low the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral to stop mass mur­der­ers and se­rial killers from be­ing con­sid­ered for pa­role for six years, in­stead of three years.

Mrs Mills’ 30-year-old son Travis Ben­n­jamin Mills was bashed un­con­scious at his Seville Grove home and put in the boot of his car, which was set ablaze on a va­cant lot in Hil­bert on Good Fri­day 2015 — the day be­fore his daugh­ter Ruby’s first birth­day.

Five peo­ple re­ceived life sen­tences for the pre­med­i­tated mur­der, in­clud­ing Mr Mills’ part­ner Seleena Monique Ruth­salz and her mother Joanne Chris­tine Ruth­salz.

“The dev­as­ta­tion to the fam­i­lies is the same. We’re sec­ondary vic­tims of a heinous crime and no mat­ter how our chil­dren have been mur­dered — whether it’s one per­son who’s done it to a group of peo­ple or five peo­ple that have mur­dered some­one like my son — the pain is no dif­fer­ent for any of us,” Mrs Mills said.

Mrs Mills said any­one who thought there was a dis­tinc­tion should walk a day in her shoes. She still suf­fers night­mares from sit­ting through ev­i­dence at the trial of her son’s killers — in­volv­ing blood splat­ter pat­terns and the par­tic­u­larly haunting and griz­zly de­tail of a “burn­ing skull alight in the boot of the car”.

“I drove past a burnt-out car a cou­ple of weeks ago on the way to work and that just started a whole sob­bing episode, it took me right back to Trav dy­ing. Things like that just af­fect us all the time,” she said.

The in­tense grief of her son’s grisly mur­der was com­pounded by the un­be­liev­able be­trayal of his part­ner, who had cried with her fam­ily, helped plan his fu­neral and had an of­fer to move into the fam­ily home.

Mrs Mills said their one sav­ing grace was lit­tle Ruby, now a bright and in­quis­i­tive 41⁄2-year-old, whom she and her hus­band Kim are rais­ing.

“To be hon­est I think Ruby prob­a­bly saved us . . . we had to get out of bed be­cause we had a baby to look af­ter,” she said.

On the ad­vice of a psy­chol­o­gist, they are hon­est with Ruby about her par­ents.

“She knows that her dad’s in heaven and she knows that her mum’s in jail. She knows that her mum’s in jail be­cause she did some­thing re­ally naughty,” Mrs Mills said.

In a re­cent blog, Mrs Mills, a mother of four, de­scribes hav­ing to “wear a mask to func­tion” in ev­ery­day life, and how the pain is al­ways there un­der the sur­face. It never al­lows them to re­cover, just sur­vive, though they do ex­pe­ri­ence “snip­pets of hap­pi­ness”.

“We are alive but at times barely func­tion­ing . . . our lives will never be the same. My grand­daugh­ter will never know the amaz­ing man that was her fa­ther, how will she un­der­stand and come to terms with the fact her mother mur­dered her fa­ther?”

Mrs Mills said her son’s killers who had planned his mur­der for six months, and all mur­der­ers, de­served to spend the rest of their lives be­hind bars. In­stead, his killers re­ceived life terms with min­i­mum pe­ri­ods rang­ing from 13 to 24 years.

This week in Par­lia­ment, At­tor­ney-Gen­eral John Quigley said the Govern­ment would not be ex­pand­ing its leg­is­la­tion to in­clude other cat­e­gories of mur­der­ers. The Op­po­si­tion had called for it to cover child killers like Dante Arthurs, who killed school­girl Sofia Ro­driguez Ur­ru­tia-Shu, and is due to be con­sid­ered for the first time next year.

Mr Quigley extended his deep­est con­do­lences to Mr Mills’ fam­ily, but said the Govern­ment went to the 2017 elec­tion seek­ing a spe­cific man­date for pa­role laws re­lat­ing to se­rial killers and mass mur­der­ers.

“I can only be­gin to imag­ine the devastating emo­tional im­pact this tragedy has had and will con­tinue to have on Mr Mills’ fam­ily and friends,” Mr Quigley said.

“In fram­ing this ex­treme mea­sure, we con­fined it to mass mur­der­ers and se­rial killers to min­imise the risk of a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge to what will be the tough­est pa­role laws in the coun­try.”

He said WA was the only State where the at­tor­ney-gen­eral had to ap­prove re­lease of all homi­cide of­fend­ers, whether mass, se­rial or sin­gle killers.

We’re sec­ondary vic­tims of a heinous crime and no mat­ter how our chil­dren have been mur­dered . . . the pain is no dif­fer­ent for any of us.

Con­stant pain: Travis Mills’ si­b­lings Re­nee Whit­marsh-Knight, Jay­den Mills and Rhi­an­non Shales, with par­ents Lisa and Kim Mills and a pic­ture from 2014 when daugh­ter Ruby was born. Pic­ture: Daniel Wilkins

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