ONE Day

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Front Page -

in late March, two death no­tices ap­peared in The West Aus­tralian news­pa­per. A cur­sory glance would not re­veal what friends of the two men knew – that their un­timely deaths were trag­i­cally in­ter­twined. Phillip Cham­ber­lain was a 49-yearold ac­coun­tant whose work was widely ad­mired in the close-knit farm­ing com­mu­nity around the mid-west coastal city of Geraldton. The sec­ond death no­tice was for lo­cal farmer Rod­ney Vla­hov, 48, a client and friend of Cham­ber­lain’s. Years ear­lier, Vla­hov had asked him to be mas­ter of cer­e­monies at his wed­ding.

On March 22, Vla­hov shot Cham­ber­lain at close range in his of­fice and then drove to his farm and ended his life on a lonely hill over­look­ing the grain fields that make up a large fam­ily prop­erty in the Chap­man Val­ley, half an hour’s drive from Geraldton. It is the land that his two broth­ers An­drew and Matthew, their fa­ther Tom and their mi­grant grand­fa­ther Ivan Vla­hov had all farmed.

In the way of ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties where ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­one, the ap­pear­ance of two fa­mil­iar names in the news­pa­per four days later sent rip­ples of shock through the town. The vi­o­lent act seemed in­com­pre­hen­si­ble. Cham­ber­lain and Vla­hov had be­come firm friends af­ter the ac­coun­tant moved up to Geraldton 20 years ago with his wife Heather. Their chil­dren went to the same school, and the Vla­hov fam­ily had been Cham­ber­lain’s long-term clients in the ac­count­ing firm where he was a part­ner. Douglas Cross and

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