The West Australian

KILL OR BE KILLED?

THE FIRST CHAP­TER: THE IN­CAR­CER­A­TION OF JODY GORE

- EX­CLU­SIVE ANNABEL HEN­NESSY

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.

PA­PER TRAIL

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.”

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