Ditched in an icy grave
Three little boys drowned... Was their daddy a murderer?
Father’s Day 2005, and mum-of-three Cindy Gambino’s heart was full.
In front of her, a beautiful family moment was unfolding.
Her boys Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, gave their father Robert Farquharson his presents – a framed photo of them and a set of pans.
It was bitter-sweet – the gifts a reminder of one family broken into two, the pots a stark reminder of Robert’s separate home.
The pair had divorced after their relationship had fallen apart, plagued by debt, and life’s stresses.
Cindy and Robert had agreed a regular custody arrangement – but today, Cindy had offered her ex-husband an extra access visit – a special treat for Father’s Day. Telling her boys how much she loved them, she hugged them tight, before waving them off from her home in Winchelsea, Australia. The trio left with their dad, climbing into his car and setting off on the 12-mile ride to his home in Geelong. They had takeaway fried chicken for dinner and Robert bought Jai a cricket ball and Tyler and Bailey each a DVD. Climbing back into the car that evening, the boys started the journey back to their mum’s. And a catastrophic chain of events was set in motion. After crossing a railway overpass three miles from Cindy’s home, the car went onto the wrong side of the highway.
Sweeping across a grassy area, then down a slope, the car smashed through a wire fence, narrowly missing a tree and plunging into a large dam.
While Robert swam to safety, his trapped sons tragically sank with the car.
There’d been no hope of survival in the icy water, and the three young boys lost their lives that night.
Cindy would soon get a knock on the door from her ex-husband and then her world would fall apart. A frantic search-and-rescue operation was launched and, at 2pm the next day, police divers discovered the little boys’ lifeless bodies, still in the submerged car. The ex-couple comforted each other as their boys were later laid to rest at their local cemetery. But, shockingly, after a police investigation, the police ruled the tragedy a murder. Robert Farquharson was arrested and charged with killing his boys. Cindy supported him, insisting that he wouldn’t have intentionally killed their children. ‘It’s either a tragic accident or a premeditated, deliberate, wicked act of revenge by the defendant against his former wife,’ magistrate Jon Klestadt
said as the case was committed to trial.
In August 2007, Farquharson pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder.
He claimed that he’d had a coughing fit that made him black out.
But prosecutors claimed he was seeking a sick revenge against his ex-wife Cindy Gambino, and had deliberately driven the car into the water.
They said Robert had resented Cindy after she’d left him.
Cindy later told the court that there had been tensions between them since they’d split in 2004.
Robert had allegedly been annoyed she’d started a new relationship, fearing her new man would take his place as the boys’ father.
But Cindy said that she’d reassured him this wouldn’t happen.
She added that Robert was angry she’d kept the better car when they’d broken up and resented the level of monthly child-support payments he had to make.
Speaking of Robert’s defence that he’d had a coughing fit, she agreed her husband used to suffer with his breathing.
But she admitted she’d never seen him pass out, as he alleged he’d done on the night of the boys’ deaths.
Talking about her exhusband’s character, she said discipline always fell to her.
‘Rob was a bit of a softie,’ she added.
When Robert took the stand, he broke down as he remembered the gifts he’d received from his sons hours before they’d died.
Then he explained about his coughing fit, and hearing Jai say something about water as his son grabbed his arm.
‘I just remember it being darkness,’ he told the court.
Robert said he had no idea they were in a dam.
Clambering out, he thought he’d be able to reach the boys again but, as he got out, the car plunged underwater. ‘All I can remember is screaming for help,’ he said. Robert flagged down a passing car and they drove to Cindy’s before returning together to the dam. Asked by the defence counsel Peter Morrissey why he didn’t help, as strangers jumped in in a bid to save the boys, Robert said, ‘I thought they were dead.’ Later, his older sister told the court that, on the anniversaries of the boys’ deaths, she would drive him to the cemetery. There, he would cry for hours over his sons’ graves. It seemed as if Robert Farquharson was a father grieving for his three young sons, wrongly accused of their murder.
But the prosecution painted a different picture – of a man whose resentment towards his ex-wife had taken hold of him that fateful night.
‘The prisoner killed not one, but all three of his children, wiping out his and his ex-wife’s family in one act,’ the prosecutor Andrew Tinney said at the pre-sentence hearing.
But defence counsel Peter Morrissey begged for mercy.
‘It could not be doubted that he had a very genuine love for those boys, as attested in sworn evidence,’ he said.
Robert Farquharson may have loved his sons, but was he blinded by his overwhelming desire for revenge against his ex-wife?
Would he do anything to make her pay?
Or was what happened truly just a tragic accident?
LIVES: THREE LOST Tyler Jai, Bailey and
What do you think? Turn for the verdict…
The jury found Robert Farquharson guilty of the murders of his three sons.
Supreme Court Judge Justice Philip Cummins sentenced Farquharson, 38, to serve three life sentences, with no minimum terms.
Judge Cummins said, ‘The aim was to ensure all three were killed so their mother was left with no consolation.’
In December 2009, the conviction was overturned by appeal judges and a retrial was ordered.
But in July 2010, the second jury found Farquharson guilty of murder yet again.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a 33-year minimum.
AL INTENTION KILLER? Dad Robert
Robert and Cindy, together at the boys’ funeral
Pulled from the water: the car in which they died