The West Australian
KILL OR BE KILLED?
THE FIRST CHAPTER: THE INCARCERATION OF JODY GORE
An Aboriginal woman who suffered decades of abuse before killing her ex-partner in what she claims was self-defence is fighting to have her murder conviction overturned. In the first part of a special investigative series, The West Australian sheds new light on the case of Jody Gore. The Kununurra woman killed Damian “Jonesy” Jones in 2015 with a yellow kitchen knife. An officer said Gore was screaming “you don’t know what he’s done to me” when he arrived at the scene. Yet, despite Gore having a body ridden with scars from abuse, a jury took only hours to convict her of murder in 2016. Now on dialysis, she may die before her sentence is over.
There is a permanent droop in Jody Gore’s left eyelid. It’s from the time her ex-lover woke her up by punching her in the face.
Most people don’t notice it, but for Jody it’s part of the map on her body that she uses to trace 20 years of beatings.
It starts in 1998 on her left wrist. There’s a scar from the time he used a knife to slash her. Next it’s 2005 and on her chest is the mark from when he attacked with scissors.
That was one of the few times she went to hospital.
Emergency department notes from the night state “patient has no idea how she got her injury”. Jody mostly treated her own wounds. She didn’t want him to go to jail.
On her back there’s a white line. That time he used a broomstick. Move back to her face and on her right cheek there’s a dent from a flogging with his fist.
And then there’s the scars you can’t see. Like the one from her mother’s house in Wyndham when he chased her with a hammer and started reading from the Bible.
Or the time he was staying at her house in Kununurra in 2012 when he ran at her with an iron rod.
They were broken up then. Truth is she lost count of how many times he said he was going to “bash and kill her”.
‘YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT HE’S DONE TO ME’ The “he” is Damian “Jonesy” Jones.
The man Jody loved and feared from when they met in 1994 when she was just 22 to 2015 when, at a friend’s 29th birthday in Kununurra, Jody stabbed him in the heart with a 10cm vegetable knife.
James Major, a volunteer ambulance driver, told police when he arrived at the scene Jody was screaming: “You don’t know what he’s done to me. He’s given me scars. I’ve got scars to show.”
Jonesy died about 5.14pm on June 13, 2015 at a house that the Nullywah Aboriginal community locals call The Ranch.
Aged 39, Jonesy had a long history of drug and mental health problems. Most of his life he had been unemployed and he had one adult son, Nathaniel, from a relationship prior to Jody.
“I never grew up with you and nan but I always knew you was my dad,” Nathaniel wrote in the eulogy book.
Jody was arrested the night of the stabbing and in August 2016, a 12-person jury at a WA Supreme Court trial in Kununurra took just two hours and 39 minutes to find her guilty of murder.
They rejected her claim she was acting in self-defence.
Supreme Court Justice Lindy Jenkins sentenced Jody to life in jail with a minimum 12 years non-parole. She is on dialysis for kidney failure and there is a possibility she will die behind bars. At the time, Jody’s trial was not a big news story.
You didn’t hear it at the start of the 6pm news bulletin on TV. It didn’t dominate breakfast radio. And the newspapers didn’t consider it front page news. But in Kununurra, a town in the far-north Kimberley, Jody’s friends and family were in shock.
A 44-year-old Aboriginal woman, Jody was the guardian for her three nieces aged 7, 9 and 11. She’d previously worked as a childcare worker and for the Kununurra Economic Development Commission.
Her only criminal history was two fines she had received in 1994 when she was 22 for disorderly conduct. By all accounts she had never been a violent person.
“Knowing that Jody is in a prison where she is not, in my opinion, a criminal of any type is heartbreaking,” the manager of the local renal health clinic where Jody attended dialysis three times a week wrote in a letter of a support.
‘ENTIRELY OUT OF CHARACTER’ In her sentencing comments, Justice Jenkins said Jody was “an articulate, intelligent woman” and the murder was “entirely out of character”. Justice Jenkins, however, said Jody was “grossly intoxicated” when she stabbed Jonesy and had acted out of anger after he had assaulted her and stolen her money.
This is what the court heard about the night of June 13, 2015:
Jody had been drinking rum and whiskey while playing a $10 card game with her friends at the birthday party on a plastic table on the veranda of the house.
Jonesy turned up drunk. He demanded money from Jody before grabbing cash she had stuffed in her bra and punching her in the face.
Jody claims she had started to fight back before being pushed over when someone else pulled Jonesy off her.
He was looking for a rock to throw at her, she claims, when she looked up at him from the ground. He was a crack shot, she told the court. She said it was fear for her life that drove her to run to her handbag and pull out a vegetable knife she had with her for chopping food.
When she turned around Jonesy, she said, was standing right behind her and that she instinctively stabbed him. The State said Jody didn’t act in self-defence; she acted in anger. They used a neighbour as a key witness who testified they overheard Jody shouting that she was going to stab Jonesy. Justice Jenkins said while she accepted Jonesy had provoked Jody by assaulting her, the violence between them had “ceased” and that Jody had stabbed him because she was angry he had stolen her money. “A reasonable person would not have thought that it was necessary for you to physically assault the deceased in any way, in order to defend yourself from his harmful acts,” she said. “There is far too much drunken violence in the Kimberley. Offenders must appreciate if they commit offences of this
nature, they will receive significant sentences.”
FIGHT TO FREE JODY
The West Australian has visited Jody’s family in Kununurra as part of a special investigation of the case and how the legal systems deals with domestic violence victims who have killed abusive partners in what they claim was self defence. It comes as advocates against domestic violence have raised fears that courts are failing to properly recognise the controlling nature of abuse or how often women are killed by their partners when dealing with these cases.
Jody’s family believes the long history of domestic violence was downplayed in her trial and that she has unjustly spent more than four years behind bars in Bandyup Women’s Prison.
Jody and Jonesy had been in a de facto relationship from 1994 to about 2008, but after they broke up she continued to act as a carer for him and allowed him to stay with her. In her sentencing comments, Justice Jenkins said she accepted that Jody had been regularly assaulted during their relationship, but said the violence ended after they separated.
“Up until the day he died, there had been no incidents of violence between the two of you since your separation, although he had made threats towards you,” Justice Jenkins said. “There is no evidence that prior to that date you had ever fought back or assaulted the victim.”
Jody’s family, however, said the physical violence continued after the split. Cousin Cissy Gore-Birch said Jody had been psychologically controlled.
“It was a long-term, psychological, crazy relationship and we’d tell Jody, ‘Why don’t you let him go?’, but he’d just keep coming to her house harassing her, throwing rocks, trying to break into the house,” Ms Gore-Birch said.
“She wasn’t allowed to get on with her own life . . . they split up for years and she was still caring for him.
“She had a split lip, she had a black eye, she had a busted lip, she was always physically abused from this person and she would always continue to stay with him to protect him because she knew that no one else was going to protect him because of his mental illness.”
Kelwyn Gore, another cousin, said he had witnessed Jonesy abusing Jody when he stayed at Jody's house in 2012.
This was years after she and Jonesy had split. “Once she woke me up (in the) early hours (because) Jonesy was hitting her with a stick across the head. Even when Jody wasn’t with him he’d still come abusing her and swearing her,” Mr Gore told The West Australian.
A WA Police incident report from September 2011, obtained by The West Australian as part of the investigation, also reveals police had been called to Jody’s house in Wyndham for a “domestic violence” incident relating to Jonesy. No charges were laid, but polices notes stated he was “staying with Gore as he has no where else to stay”.
Again the incident happened years after Jody and Jonesy’s breakup in 2008 when Justice Jenkins said the physical violence had stopped.
Cousin Kerrianne Trust, pictured opposite page, who remembers once seeing bruises down Jody’s back from when Jonesy had bashed her with a golf club, said Jody had wanted to protect him from the law because of his mental health issues.
“Up here, for Aboriginal women to be treated like dirt (is) not unusual,” Ms Trust said. “Even if you’ve sort of split up with your partner, your partner can still think that they own you, so they can still come back at any time and be violent.”
Ms Trust said she had two cousins who had been murdered by their husbands in Halls Creek in the 1980s. Jody’s sentence made her angry. She said she was also concerned about the fact there had only been one Aboriginal person on the jury.
“To me Aboriginal women . . . mean nothing to the law system,” Ms Trust said. “You have to look at the background and what led up to that night.”