Two sud­den deaths shock a city

Countryman - - NEWS - Tim Clarke, Rourke Walsh and Gavin Box

A weight of per­sonal and busi­ness pres­sure ap­pears to have been the cat­a­lyst for grain farmer Rod­ney Vla­hov to shoot dead his long-time ac­coun­tant Philip Cham­ber­lain be­fore tak­ing his own life.

Po­lice found Mr Vla­hov’s body on a ridge over­look­ing his Yuna farm morn­ing af­ter a 20-hour search for the 48-year-old. Mr Cham­ber­lain, 49, was shot in the head in his Flores Road of­fice in Ger­ald­ton just af­ter midday on Thurs­day.

The shoot­ing hap­pened in front of Mr Vla­hov’s broth­ers who were there to dis­cuss is­sues sur­round­ing a suc­ces­sion plan for the fam­ily farm.

The farm was es­tab­lished in the 1930s, but the busi­ness had strug­gled since the death of pa­tri­arch Tom Vla­hov last year.

The Week­end West was told yes­ter­day that con­flict over the han­dling of Tom Vla­hov’s will had strained fam­ily ties.

The break­down of Rod­ney Vla­hov’s mar­riage had added to the pain.

Po­lice were last night piec­ing to­gether the mo­ments be­fore and af­ter the shoot­ing, with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion fo­cus­ing on what hap­pened in the of­fices of Douglas, Cross & Cham­ber­lain. WA Po­lice As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Mur­ray Smal­page could not con­firm whether Mr Vla­hov had in­tended to kill Mr Cham­ber­lain, or had been aim­ing at one of his si­b­lings.

A coro­nial in­quiry will in­ves­ti­gate whether Mr Vla­hov’s weapon jammed, or whether it was wres­tled off him by oth­ers in the room.

Mr Cham­ber­lain was mar­ried to a lo­cal GP and had two young chil­dren.

In a state­ment, the fam­ily said: “Philip was a much-loved hus­band and fa­ther, and was well known in the Ger­ald­ton com­mu­nity. We wish to thank the com­mu­nity for its sup­port at this ex­tremely dif­fi­cult time.”

Mr Smal­page said ma­jor crime squad de­tec­tives, the homi­cide squad and other spe­cial­ists would in­ves­ti­gate. He urged any­one strug­gling in their per­sonal or pro­fes­sional life to seek help.

The Ger­ald­ton com­mu­nity also con­veyed their shock, with friends, col­leagues and com­mu­nity lead­ers ex­press­ing grief.

“The com­mu­nity is quite numb at the mo­ment,” Chap­man Val­ley Shire pres­i­dent An­thony Far­rell said.

If you or some­one you know needs sup­port, con­tact Life­line on 13 11 14.

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