Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Schools in South Africa: Prof. Jonathan Jansen

by Prof. Jonathan Jansen (Vice-Chancellor and Rector: University of the Free State)

If I had to make the choice with my own children today, I would seriously consider not sending my child to school in South Africa, for one simple reason: I do not trust a system that makes it possible for a child to pass Grade 12 with 30% in some subjects and 40% in other subjects. I would be filled with fear when I discover that you can get 32% in mathematics and 27% in physical science and still get an official document that says you can continue to study towards a Bachelors degree at university. I would worry myself senseless when I enrol my child in Grade 1 knowing that she could be among the more than half-a-million children who would not make it through to Grade 12. I would be horrified at the possibility that the principal might force her to do mathematical literacy because someone decided she could not do pure mathematics, because it would make the school’s pass averages look bad. And I would be angry when I find that she is guaranteed to be among the 96% pass rate for Life Orientation when all the other subjects in the national Senior Certificate have pass rates way below this number.
It is extremely difficult to fail Grade 12 in South Africa today. You have to put in a special effort, miss your classes, deliberately provide wrong answers to questions, and hand in your paper early during an exam session and maybe, just maybe, you will fail.

But you would not sense this crisis in the Grade 12 examinations because the major newspapers, with one or two exceptions, have swallowed the lies from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) that more than 70% of our children “passed” this national examination. Never before have there been so many distinctions, we are told. More children are qualifying to study at university, we are informed. Education is getting better and better every year; we should all be happy.

There is nothing to be happy about. How do I know this? First of all, a large percentage of the students who passed Grade 12 will struggle to pass in the first years of university, not only in fields that require mathematics and science. University lecturers will tell you that in their experience, students over the years have gotten weaker even as the matriculation results on the outside get stronger.

Second, all universities, as a result, spend huge amounts of management time discussing the problem of what in my business we call ‘throughput rates.’ We worry, as university leaders, about the large numbers who drop out or repeat courses and years, simply because we made the mistake of believing that a pass in Grade 12 means a student is qualified to study at university. We are penalised in the government subsidy for high failure and drop-out rates, and we scramble every year to improve the throughput rate. We fail to do this effectively.

Third, students graduate from weaker universities with the same conceptual and skill limitations with which they came through school. Where does this deficiency show up? In the workplace. Talk to any employer in business and industry and they will tell you the same story: today’s graduates are weak, even incompetent, in the basic skills of reasoning, writing, and computing; they cannot work in teams; they are inarticulate in public; they cannot solve complex problems; they lack the rigour of hard work; there is, in other words, a huge gap between what the school or university diploma says, and what graduates can actually do in the real world.

This is the reason why many universities set or participate in other admission examinations to find out what students really know before they select them. Medical schools, for example, take the National Benchmark Tests very seriously as an additional measure of student knowledge in mathematics and languages. The greater the inflation of the NSC marks, the more ridiculous the selections for medicine. That is why you find students easily obtaining 7 distinctions with averages in the 90s with hundreds of other students from our top schools. The point is this: the more you push up student marks from below, the more you push the top-performing student marks into the ridiculous 90s.

What can prospective university students do? If your average mark in the NSC is below 70%, you should consider not going to university and, if you do, be prepared to work very, very hard in order to survive if you go to one of the top 9 universities in South Africa. In other words, do not take your school marks too seriously; you will be disappointed. It should be completely normal for you to obtain four or five distinctions, because the level set for passing is so low.

What can parents do? Be happy with you child about his or her top marks in school, but keep their feet on the ground. Be realistic about your own expectations. Seven A’s is no longer a guarantee of a place in medicine or architecture because there are simply too many students doing well at that level. Ignore completely the marks in Life Orientation—virtually everybody gets more than 70 or 80 percent, unless they spent time in prison. In other words, encourage your child to think of distinctions as completely normal and no longer as the exception.

What should universities do? At the University of the Free State we have increased our admission standards. We will not participate in this fraud that transfers the failures of primary school into secondary school (note how many students receive automatic promotion), and the failure of secondary schooling into university education. I have asked my senior colleagues in some disciplines, like Medicine, to consider going beyond familiar paper-and-pencil tests and interview the top students. We have taken our marketing efforts to the top schools in the country, of all colours and classes, so that Kovsies stands out as a top academic university among its peers. We have introduced more demanding courses for undergraduate students, and we have hired more top professors to join our excellent team of academics. We require class attendance in more and more modules, and we do not spend funds on students who fail a course or module. We have tightened the rules for progression so that a student who repeatedly fails is gently coaxed out of the university.

If we do not do this as universities, it is only a matter of time before ALL 23 institutions of higher learning become like our schools—good on paper but weak in reality. It is then also on a matter of time before this country with its still enormous potential becomes yet another failed African state.
We dare not let this happen. We must push back against mediocrity. We must measure our success not by the results of the students who pass well, but by the results of the hundreds of thousands who fail and pass poorly every year.

9 January 2012

The "Family" Murders

Adelaide — Australia's City of Corpses

Map of Australia with Adelaide locator.
Map of Australia with Adelaide locator.
Laid-back Adelaide, the capital of South Australia with its population of one million, is small in comparison to most of the other capital cities of Australia. Rich in culture and beauty, Adelaide and its surrounding districts are responsible for some of the finest wines in Australia.
Throughout Adelaide, seemingly on every corner, are houses of worship of all denominations. For this reason Adelaide is referred to as the City of Churches. And they have never had to canvas for business. South Australians are notoriously reverent.
Adelaide's Skyline
Adelaide's Skyline
But there is an inexplicable dark side to Adelaide. Some are now choosing to call it the "City of Corpses." And it is not hard to understand why. Per capita Adelaide and environs has recorded more of Australia's most notorious crimes than any other Australian capital city. In the annals of Australia's most horrific crimes, laid-back Adelaide's sinister past (and present) makes other cities look like Camelot.
Here's just some of Adelaide's appalling track record of carnage in modern times;
1958: Rupert Max Stuart rapes and murders nine-year-old Mary Olive Hattam at Thevenard.
Rupert Max Stuart
Rupert Max Stuart
1966: The three Beaumont children aged 4, 7 and 9 are abducted from Glenelg Beach.
Glenelg Beach
Glenelg Beach
1971: In South Australia's worst mass murders, ten members of the Bartholomew family, comprising of eight children and two women, are shot to death by a man at Hope Forest.
1972: Homosexual Adelaide University Law lecturer, Dr. George Duncan is thrown into the Torrens River and drowns. Two Adelaide vice squad detectives are eventually charged with the death.
1973: Schoolgirl Joanne Ratcliffe, 11, and Kirsty Gordon, 4, disappear from Adelaide Oval while attending a football match and are never seen again.
Adelaide Oval
Adelaide Oval
1976-77: In Australia's worst serial murders, seven women aged 15 to 26, go missing in and around Adelaide over a 51-day period from Christmas 1976. Their skeletal remains are discovered in the Truro district in the Adelaide foothills several years later in what becomes known as The Mass Murders of Truro. James Miller is sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for his part in the murders.
James Miller
James Miller
1979: David Szach murders his lover, lawyer Derrance Stevenson, and conceals the body in a freezer in Parkside.
1979-83: Between 1979 and 1983 in what would become known as "the Family Murders," five men are abducted, drugged, held captive, sexually assaulted, hideously mutilated and murdered.
1984: Sexual sadist Bevan Von Einem is tried for the horrific torture and murder of a 15-year-old youth. Later, Von Einem is charged with numerous other horrendous crimes relating to the "Family Murders."
1994: A letter bomb kills Sergeant Geoff Bowen at the Adelaide offices of the National Crime Authority.
1999: In "the case of the casked cadavers in the crypt," six bodies are found in casks filled with acid in a bank vault in rural Snowtown, which leads police to the discovery of another five bodies buried in and around Adelaide. Four men are charged with murder.
Of these cases there are four that are deeply etched into the annals of Australia's most notorious crimes. They are; The Truro Murders, The Snowtown Serial Murders, The Missing Beaumont Children and The Family Murders. The Truro and Snowtown Murders are already covered in The Crime Library.
The mysteries of the missing Beaumont children and the Family Murders could have been linked by the sinister activities of a monster.

The Missing Beaumont Children

The Beaumont children (left to right), Arna, 7, Grant, 4 and Jane, 9
The Beaumont children (left to right), Arna, 7, Grant, 4 and Jane, 9
Adelaide, the beautiful garden "City of Churches," situated on the torpid Torrens River first came under the national spotlight on 26 January, 1966 when Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and 4-year-old Grant Beaumont disappeared from South Australia's Glenelg Beach at about 11:15 a.m. while on an outing alone. Their disappearance made headlines all around Australia.
Torrens River, Adelaide
Torrens River, Adelaide
On that morning the weather was fine and the forecast was for a hot and steamy day, ideal conditions for a day at the beach. The Beaumonts were an average Australian family living at suburban Somerton Park, not far from the beach, and the children's father, a traveling salesman, had opted against joining his children at the beach for the day and instead chose to visit on a client. It was a decision that would prove fateful.
At 10 a.m. the children took the bus to the beach, which was only a few minutes ride away. The eldest girl, Jane, was considered old and responsible enough to mind her two siblings. She assured her mother that that they would be home on the midday bus. They caught the bus at the stop just 100 yards from their front door. The bus driver confirmed later that he dropped them five minutes later at Glenelg beach.
When they didn't arrive home their mother wasn't unduly concerned. Children simply didn't go missing in suburban Adelaide, especially from a crowded beach area. She concluded that they must have decided to walk home and had spent their bus fare money on sweets and she would hear the usual ruckus as they ran in the front door at any minute.
When Mr. Beaumont arrived home in the mid-afternoon and his children still weren't home he went looking for them. When they still hadn't been sighted four hours later he notified police and a massive search was launched. By morning their photographs were being circulated to every newspaper across the country telling of every mother's worst nightmare.
Police were left with the three possibilities: that the children had run away; drowned in the surf or had been abducted and were being held for ransom. The only ray of hope was the sighting of the children in the company of a tall blond or light brown-haired young man in blue swimming trunks. Then another witness came forward and said that he had seen the children with the same young blond man in a park opposite the beach and then walking away with him behind the Glenelg Hotel.
Then the local postman came forward and said that he had seen the trio walking up Jetty Road away from the beach and toward their home at about 3 p.m. They were laughing and holding hands.
The police received hundreds of calls about possible sightings of the Beaumont children but they all proved to be fruitless. They had vanished without a trace and have never been seen since.
But there would be a glimmer of hope, albeit a very horrific glimmer, of finding out what happened to the Beaumont children, many years in the future at the committal hearing of one of the most evil murderers in Australia's history.

The Family Murders

At around midnight on a chilly autumn night in May 1972, on the banks of the Torrens River which flows through the heart of Adelaide and is a notorious "pick up" area frequented at night by homosexuals, Adelaide University lecturer Dr. George Duncan and Roger James were attacked by four men, bashed and thrown in the river and left for dead.
Duncan, a frail man with just one lung as a result of juvenile tuberculosis, was drowned. Severe bruising beneath his arm pits indicated that he had been man-handled and thrown into the freezing river by a number of people.
Roger James escaped with a broken ankle and had been saved by a tall young blond man in his mid-20s, who just happened to be passing by at the time, a Bevan Spencer Von Einem, a name that would be of enormous significance in the time to come.
The body of Dr. George after being pulled from the river.
The body of Dr. George after being pulled from the river.
Dr. George Duncan's death was treated as murder and within days the spotlight fell on three senior Vice Squad detectives who were alleged to have gone to the Torrens River that night in search of "poofters" to bash after they had attended a drunken send-off for one of their comrades. Witnesses said that the detectives were accompanied by a tall civilian whose name never came to light.
All three detectives were called upon to give evidence into a Coronial Inquest into Dr. Duncan's death but all refused to answer any of the incriminating questions put to them and were immediately suspended from duty.
A subsequent police inquiry failed to find sufficient evidence to recommend a prosecution of the three police officers. The public were outraged and while the whole matter stank of a cover-up, there was little that could be done and the incident was soon forgotten... for the time being.
In June 1979, while the God-fearing citizens of Adelaide were trying to come to terms with the murders of seven young women in the Truro Serial Murders, the hideously mutilated body of 17-year-old Alan Barnes was found on the banks of the South Para reservoir northeast of Adelaide. He had been reported missing seven days earlier.
His "fresh" corpse indicated that he had died the day before he was discovered. A post-mortem examination revealed that he had died of massive blood loss from ghastly injuries inflicted upon his anus by a large blunt instrument, while he was still alive.
Neil Muir
Neil Muir
Two months later police were called to investigate what looked like human body parts found in plastic bags that had floated to rest on the banks of the Port River at Port Adelaide. They turned out to be the dissected remains of 25-year-old Neil Muir, neatly cut into many pieces, placed in the garbage bags and thrown into the river.
Peter Stogneff
Peter Stogneff
In June 1982 the skeletal remains of 14-year-old Peter Stogneff who had gone missing ten months earlier were found at Middle Beach, north of Adelaide, cut into three pieces as if by a surgical saw.
On 27 February 1982, 18-year-old Mark Langley disappeared while walking near the Torrens River. Nine days later his mutilated body was found in scrub in the Adelaide foothills. Among the mutilations was a wound that appeared to have been cut with a surgical instrument that went from his navel to the pubic region. The hair around the area had been shaved as it would have been in an operation in a hospital. Part of his small bowel was missing. The post-mortem revealed that Mark had died from a massive loss of blood from gross injuries to his anus.
By now the zealous press was convinced that the murders were the work of a group of surreptitious Adelaide homosexuals in very high places throughout the community; politicians, judges, religious leaders and the like, who paid handsomely for kidnapped young men who they drugged and kept alive for their pleasure. When the victim was no longer any use to them the procurers disposed of the bodies.
The press christened this unconfirmed clandestine group "the Family" and from then on the case was referred to in the national press as the Adelaide Family Murders.
Note: Two of the three detectives who allegedly threw Dr. George Duncan in the River Torrens in May 1972, and left him to drown, were eventually brought to trial in 1987 in the South Australian Supreme Court, charged with manslaughter.
After a three- week trial, they were found not guilty.

The Tall Blond Man

Working on the now obvious assumption that the murders were the work of the same individual(s) and that the person(s) they wished to talk to most of all was a homosexual, South Australian Police Major Crime Squad detectives infiltrated the vast South Australian homosexual network. Through their secret contacts they came up with a short-list of possible suspects consisting of known deviants and "closet" kinks known only in the homosexual sub-culture.
Bevan Von Einem
Bevan Von Einem
One such person of interest was a tall, blond, well-groomed, 37-year-old accountant named Bevan Spencer Von Einem. Openly homosexual, Von Einem was well known to police as a frequenter of homosexual pick-up spots or "beats" as they were more commonly known. Von Einem also had a reputation as being particularly fond of young boys, a pastime scorned by the homosexual community.
Von Einem was brought in and questioned at length about the Barnes and Langley killings. He vigorously denied any knowledge of the murders other than what he had read in the papers and the rumours he had heard that were circulating about the specific injuries to the victims. Police had no choice but to let him go. For the time being.
Richard Kelvin
Richard Kelvin
On 23 July, 1983, a fifth victim turned up. Seven weeks earlier, 15-year-old Richard Kelvin was abducted a short distance from his North Adelaide home and his body was found by an amateur geologist off a track near One Tree Hill in the Adelaide foothills. The boy was wearing a Channel Nine T-shirt, jeans and sneakers — the clothes he had on when he left his parent's home on June 5.
He went to a bus stop only 200 yards from his home that afternoon to catch a bus to say goodbye to a friend. Several neighbours reported hearing calls for help at about that time and police were convinced he had been kidnapped.
Police search the area where Kelvin's body was found.
Police search the area where Kelvin's body was found.
No real attempt had been made to conceal the body. Police weren't surprised that the post-mortem revealed that the lad had similar grotesque wounds to the anus as the other victims.
The examination also revealed that the teenager had been heavily drugged and had been kept alive for up to five weeks before he was murdered. Richard's body was found to contain traces of four different drugs.
Police rounded up the usual suspects once again and this time Von Einem aroused their suspicions by not protesting as vehemently to their questioning as he had previously. Task force detectives decided to search Von Einem's house and give him and his clothing a thorough scientific once-over. It paid off in spades. In Von Einem's possession they found three of the drugs taken from the dead boy's body and found Von Einem's hair in the deceased's clothing.
Von Einem was charged with the murder of Richard Kelvin. At his trial Von Einem pleaded not guilty and even though he was faced with undeniable evidence that he had been in Kelvin's company, he denied ever having known the boy. Then in a complete turnaround Von Einem said that he had picked Kelvin up one time when he was hitchhiking and dropped him off near his home.
The jury was obviously unimpressed and found him guilty of murder. Bevan Spencer Von Einem was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 24 years which was later increased to 36 years on appeal by the Crown, a record for South Australia.
But that was not to be the end of it. Not by a long shot.

More Murder Charges

The detectives who had worked on the Kelvin case were absolutely convinced that Von Einem, either alone or with others, most likely with others, was responsible for the deaths of the other youths, or in the very least knew who was. And they had very good reason to be.
Apart from the fact that most of the other victims had suffered the identical anal injuries as Kelvin and had died in similar circumstances, their homosexual informants told them that it was common knowledge that Von Einem regularly picked up young hitch-hikers, drugged them and then sexually abused them.
The detectives worked tirelessly on new leads and new witnesses. After four years they visited Von Einem in Adelaide's Yatala Prison where he was being held for his own safety in the protective custody division and charged him with the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley.
Yatala Prison
Yatala Prison
At Von Einem's committal hearing held in 1990, the Crown chose to pursue a committal for Von Einem on the lines that "similar fact evidence" was admissible and alleged that if Von Einem was guilty of the Kelvin murder then he must also be guilty of the murders of Barnes and Langley as they were identical in every fashion.
And further more, the Crown alleged, it had circumstantial evidence that could back this up. Magistrate David Gurry allowed Crown Prosecutor Brian Murray, Queens Council, to proceed along these lines. It would prove to be a disastrous ploy.
And if the packed public gallery thought they had heard stories of unbelievable horror as the evidence unfolded of how the boys had died from the injuries inflicted upon them, then they must have thought that the Crown had saved the most shocking allegations for last.
If what they were about to hear was true, Bevan Spencer Von Einem would go down in history as one of the most sadistic monsters the world has ever known.

The Case for The Crown

The Crown prosecutor called 22 witnesses which included former hitchhikers and associates of Von Einem. The police had really done their homework and had left no stone unturned in their efforts to nail what they believed was the most heinous killer in Australian history.
The first prosecution witness would only give testimony under an alias of "Mr. B" for his own protection and his name was withheld from publication by court order. Mr. B claimed that he believed that Von Einem had killed 10 young people, including five children who had disappeared 24 years earlier.
Mr. B denied that he was a "perpetual liar," and that a reward over the unsolved murders of several Adelaide teenagers, which stood at $250,000, had anything to do with his giving information to police.
In an angry outburst, Mr. B claimed that consideration for relatives of the deceased was part of the reason he was telling what he knew of Von Einem's activities. "I have given a lot of consideration to the relatives of the kids. They deserve to know what's really happened," he told the court.
Yatala Prison
Jane, Grant & Arnna Beaumont
Mr. B was a former friend of Von Einem's and a homosexual. He said he had evidence that linked Von Einem with the five Family murders and also the disappearances of the three Beaumont children in 1966 and the 1973 disappearance of schoolgirls Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirsty Gordon from Adelaide Oval. The courtroom was stunned. They couldn't believe what they were hearing.
Allan Barnes
Allan Barnes
For four days Mr. B testified how he and Von Einem picked up young boys who were hitchhiking and drugged them and raped them. On the night that Alan Barnes had died he and Von Einem went looking for hitchhikers after meeting on the banks of the Torrens River.
He said that they gave Alan Barnes a lift and gave him alcoholic drinks containing a very strong sedative called Rohypnol which they knew that when mixed with alcohol would induce unconsciousness. They all then went into a café where Barnes was obviously affected by the drug and was showing signs of passing out.
Sample of Rohypnol pills.
Sample of Rohypnol pills.
Von Einem went away and made a phone call and when he came back said that he had rung a friend and had arranged to meet him back at the Torrens River. They met up with a man known only as "Mr. R." Von Einem went for a walk with Mr. R and came back ten minutes later and asked if Mr. B would like to go with them while they "performed some surgery" on the now unconscious Barnes.
Von Einem went on to say that they also intended to take videos of what happened, then kill Barnes and throw his body from a bridge. Mr. B told the hushed courtroom that he had declined the offer and Von Einem, Mr. R and the unconscious Barnes had driven off.
Mr. B said that he saw Von Einem a few days later and he said that the youth had died and that Mr. R was concerned about what Mr. B knew about what happened. Von Einem then warned him that if he said anything to anyone about what he had seen then he would be implicated in the murder as well.
Mr. B then explained that since that night his life had been a mess and he lived under the constant threats of an "Adelaide businessman."

Resolution to the Beaumont Children Mystery?

Mr. B said that Von Einem had also told him that he had picked up the Beaumont children at Glenelg Beach on 26 January, 1966. Von Einem had told him that he went to the beach regularly to have a perve on people in the showers and had picked up three children and had performed some "brilliant surgery on them" and that he had "connected them up" and one had died. Von Einem said that he had dumped the childrens' bodies at Moana or Myponga, south of Adelaide.
Mr. B also said that Von Einem told him that he had also picked up two children at a football match and killed them and even though Von Einem didn't mention any names it seemed apparent that he was talking about Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirsty Gordon who had gone missing from the Adelaide Oval in 1973. Mr. B said that Von Einem didn't elaborate any further.
Mr. B alleged that an Adelaide trader who he says could have helped kill Alan Barnes was in court while he was giving his evidence. "You've got no idea what I've had to go through... coming here... facing crap like (the Adelaide trader) sitting in the body of the court," he said.
The magistrate, Mr. David Gurry, immediately suppressed the name of the Adelaide trader whom Mr. B claimed could have helped kill Alan Barnes. The man's counsel said the trader categorically denied being with Von Einem and Barnes the night Barnes was last seen alive.
The trader was not called as a Crown witness. The trader's counsel said that his business of 20 years would be ruined if he was identified and also challenged Mr. B's claim that the trader was in the public gallery listening to evidence.
Garry Wayne Place, an insurance worker in his 30s, said that he came forward late the year before as he had "had enough" after 11 years of telephone threats to his life if he talked. Mr. Place said that the last anonymous call was about a week earlier and the caller told him to "keep your mouth shut or you and your wife will get it."
Mr. Place told the court that Alan Barnes had introduced Von Einem one Saturday at an Adelaide hotel about a week before his murder. Barnes had also introduced three other people with Von Einem — a doctor whose name sounded like Goodard, a man called Mario, and a woman. There had been talk about a party that night where there would be "women, drugs, booze — anything you like."
Later that week Place and Barnes had gone to a hotel where Von Einem had told him (Place) that if he provided sex, he would get "drugs, women, anything" and the same things would be provided if he brought along some young lads.
Mr. Place told the court that the first threatening telephone call came the night he learnt that Alan Barnes had been murdered. A muffled male voice had said something like: "Keep your mouth shut or you're going to get it," and there had been about 20 other calls that night.

Committal and Dismay

Bevan Von Einem
Bevan Von Einem
If the parents of the missing children were holding their breathes in the hope that Von Einem was going to admit guilt and tell police where their remains were, then they were sadly mistaken. Von Einem vigorously denied any involvement in the abductions of the children and lashed out at Mr. B claiming that Mr. B was merely out for a portion of the $250,000 reward on offer.
Mark Langley, 18
Mark Langley, 18
But the circumstantial evidence against him appeared to be overwhelming. After two months of hearings, on May 11, 1990, Bevan Spencer Von Einem was committed to stand trial in the South Australian Supreme Court on charges of having murdered Alan Barnes and Mark Langley.
Immediately Von Einem's defence council lodged an interjection to have the trial put on permanent stay of proceedings due to the fact that no matter what, their client could not possibly get a fair hearing due to the amount of public animosity toward him and the over-exposure of the committal hearing in the newspapers.
It didn't work. The trial judge, Justice Duggan chose to throw it out. But there were other matters about the forthcoming trial that worried His Honour. At a pre-trial hearing Justice Duggan ruled the "similar fact evidence," so successfully used in the committal hearing by the Crown prosecutor, as inadmissible. This ruled the evidence presented at the committal all but useless.
The Crown tried different tactics. It would present two separate trials for the murders of Barnes and Langley. But a couple of days later the Crown withdrew the murder charge against Langley considering that they could build a stronger case by trying Von Einem on the Barnes murder alone, the case for which they had the strongest evidence.
Then came the killer blow. After lengthy consideration, Justice Duggan ruled that evidence from the Von Einem trial and conviction for the murder of Richard Kelvin was disallowed. Justice Duggan also ruled inadmissible any evidence about Von Einem's alleged involvement with hitchhikers and his purported associates.
The Crown case was in tatters and if it went to court without their evidence the Crown didn't have a prayer of gaining a conviction. To their disgust, on 1 February, 1991, the Crown had no choice but enter a nolle prosequi (unwilling to pursue) on the second charge of the murder of Alan Barnes.
To the detectives who had worked tirelessly on the case for years it was a bitter pill to swallow. To the parents of Alan Barnes and the other young men who were so inhumanely violated and died such ghastly deaths at the hands of suspected respectable citizens it meant that their nightmare of wondering would go on.
And to many Australians, there is little doubt in their minds that "the Family" of depraved and murderous pedophiles did, and possibly still does, exist in South Australia.
They also believe that there are more victims as yet unaccounted for. Transient hitchhikers from other states and young tourists perhaps. And those same believers are also convinced that the tall, blond, well-groomed accountant with the aristocratic name, Bevan Spencer Von Einem, knows all of the answers of where the bodies are buried and who the guilty parties are.
But while he rots in Yatala Prison he is keeping his dark secrets to himself.


This Day in History: Jan 31, 1945: The execution of Pvt. Slovik

On this day, Pvt. Eddie Slovik becomes the first American soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion-and the only one who suffered such a fate during World War II.

File:US28th Infantry Division.svg

Pvt. Eddie Slovik was a draftee. Originally classified 4-F because of a prison record (grand theft auto), he was reclassified 1-A when draft standards were lowered to meet growing personnel needs. In January 1944, he was trained to be a rifleman, which was not to his liking, as he hated guns.


In August of the same year, Slovik was shipped to France to fight with the 28th Infantry Division, which had already suffered massive casualties in France and Germany. Slovik was a replacement, a class of soldier not particular respected by officers. As he and a companion were on the way to the front lines, they became lost in the chaos of battle and stumbled upon a Canadian unit that took them in.


Slovik stayed on with the Canadians until October 5, when they turned him and his buddy over to the American military police. They were reunited with the 28th Division, which had been moved to Elsenborn, Belgium. No charges were brought, as replacements getting lost early on in their tours of duty were not unusual. But exactly one day after Slovik returned to his unit, he claimed he was "too scared and too nervous" to be a rifleman, and threatened to run away if forced into combat. His confession was ignored-and Slovik took off. One day later he returned and signed a confession of desertion, claiming he would run away again if forced to fight, and submitted it to an officer of the 28th. The officer advised Slovik to take the confession back, as the consequences were serious. Slovik refused and was confined to the stockade.

The 28th Division had many cases of soldiers wounding themselves or deserting in the hopes of a prison sentence that might protect them from the perils of combat. A legal officer of the 28th offered Slovik a deal: dive into combat immediately and avoid the court-martial. Slovik refused. He was tried on November 11 for desertion and was convicted in less than two hours. The nine-officer court-martial panel passed a unanimous sentence of execution, "to be shot to death with musketry."


Slovik's appeal failed. It was held that he "directly challenged the authority" of the United States and that "future discipline depends upon a resolute reply to this challenge." Slovik had to pay for his recalcitrant attitude, and the military made an example of him. One last appeal was made-to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander-but the timing was bad for mercy. The Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest was resulting in literally thousands of American casualties, not to mention the second largest surrender of an U.S. Army unit during the war. Eisenhower upheld the death sentence.

Eddie Slovik

Slovik was shot and killed by a 12-man firing squad in eastern France. None of the rifleman even flinched, firmly believing Slovik had gotten what he deserved.

1975 Private Eddie Slovik Army Execution Firing Squad Antoinette Press

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Flood wreaks havoc in Europe, 1953
General Interest
The death of Guy Fawkes, 1606
Germany resumes submarine warfare, 1917
Viet Cong attack U.S. Embassy, 1968
Apollo 14 departs for the moon, 1971
Samuel Goldwyn dies, 1974
Norman Mailer is born, 1923
American composer Phillip Glass is born, 1937
Old West
Author Zane Grey is born, 1872
Clinton authorizes loan to Mexico, 1995
Doug Williams leads Redskins to Super Bowl victory, 1988
Vietnam War
Viet Cong attack U.S. Embassy, 1968
North Vietnam presents nine-point peace proposal, 1972
World War I
Germans unleash U-boats, 1917
World War II
The execution of Pvt. Slovik, 1945

Saturday, January 28, 2012

This Day in History: Jan 30, 1948: Gandhi assassinated

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, is assassinated in New Delhi by a Hindu fanatic.

Born the son of an Indian official in 1869, Gandhi's Vaishnava mother was deeply religious and early on exposed her son to Jainism, a morally rigorous Indian religion that advocated nonviolence. Gandhi was an unremarkable student but in 1888 was given an opportunity to study law in England. In 1891, he returned to India, but failing to find regular legal work he accepted in 1893 a one-year contract in South Africa.

Settling in Natal, he was subjected to racism and South African laws that restricted the rights of Indian laborers. Gandhi later recalled one such incident, in which he was removed from a first-class railway compartment and thrown off a train, as his moment of truth. From thereon, he decided to fight injustice and defend his rights as an Indian and a man. When his contract expired, he spontaneously decided to remain in South Africa and launched a campaign against legislation that would deprive Indians of the right to vote. He formed the Natal Indian Congress and drew international attention to the plight of Indians in South Africa. In 1906, the Transvaal government sought to further restrict the rights of Indians, and Gandhi organized his first campaign of satyagraha, or mass civil disobedience. After seven years of protest, he negotiated a compromise agreement with the South African government.

In 1914, Gandhi returned to India and lived a life of abstinence and spirituality on the periphery of Indian politics. He supported Britain in the First World War but in 1919 launched a new satyagraha in protest of Britain's mandatory military draft of Indians. Hundreds of thousands answered his call to protest, and by 1920 he was leader of the Indian movement for independence. He reorganized the Indian National Congress as a political force and launched a massive boycott of British goods, services, and institutions in India. Then, in 1922, he abruptly called off the satyagraha when violence erupted. One month later, he was arrested by the British authorities for sedition, found guilty, and imprisoned.

After his release in 1924, he led an extended fast in protest of Hindu-Muslim violence. In 1928, he returned to national politics when he demanded dominion status for India and in 1930 launched a mass protest against the British salt tax, which hurt India's poor. In his most famous campaign of civil disobedience, Gandhi and his followers marched to the Arabian Sea, where they made their own salt by evaporating sea water. The march, which resulted in the arrest of Gandhi and 60,000 others, earned new international respect and support for the leader and his movement.

In 1931, Gandhi was released to attend the Round Table Conference on India in London as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress. The meeting was a great disappointment, and after his return to India he was again imprisoned. While in jail, he led another fast in protest of the British government's treatment of the "untouchables"--the impoverished and degraded Indians who occupied the lowest tiers of the caste system. In 1934, he left the Indian Congress Party to work for the economic development of India's many poor. His protege, Jawaharlal Nehru, was named leader of the party in his place.

With the outbreak of World War II, Gandhi returned to politics and called for Indian cooperation with the British war effort in exchange for independence. Britain refused and sought to divide India by supporting conservative Hindu and Muslim groups. In response, Gandhi launched the "Quit India" movement it 1942, which called for a total British withdrawal. Gandhi and other nationalist leaders were imprisoned until 1944.

In 1945, a new government came to power in Britain, and negotiations for India's independence began. Gandhi sought a unified India, but the Muslim League, which had grown in influence during the war, disagreed. After protracted talks, Britain agreed to create the two new independent states of India and Pakistan on August 15, 1947. Gandhi was greatly distressed by the partition, and bloody violence soon broke out between Hindus and Muslims in India.

In an effort to end India's religious strife, he resorted to fasts and visits to the troubled areas. He was on one such vigil in New Delhi when Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist who objected to Gandhi's tolerance for the Muslims, fatally shot him. Known as Mahatma, or "the great soul," during his lifetime, Gandhi's persuasive methods of civil disobedience influenced leaders of civil rights movements around the world, especially Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States.

Nathuram Godse Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

Nathuram Godse approached Gandhi on January 30, 1948 during the evening prayer and bowed. One of the girls flanking and supporting Gandhi, Abha Chattopadhyay, said to him, "Brother, Bapu is already late" and tried to put him off but he pushed her aside and shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range with a semi-automatic pistol. Gandhi died almost immediately. After shooting, Godse did not try to run or threaten anyone else. He was attacked and pinned to the ground by the crowd around him and was subsequently arrested when a small group of police officers arrived on the scene a few minutes later.


Following the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi, he was put on trial beginning May 27, 1948 at Peterhoff, Shimla which housed the Punjab High Court.
On November 8 1948, Godse delivered his statement[6] in court enunciating the reasons and motives for the assassination.
As I grew up I developed a tendency to free thinking unfettered by any superstitious allegiance to any isms, political or religious. That is why I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and the caste system based on birth alone. I openly joined anti-caste movements and maintained that all Hindus are of equal status as to rights, social and religious, and should be considered high or low on merit alone and not through the accident of birth in a particular caste or profession. I used publicly to take part in organized anti-caste dinners which thousands of Hindus, Brahmins, Vaishyas, Kshatriyas, Chamars and Bhangis participated. We broke the caste rules and dined in the company of each other.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Excerpts from Para. 26, 27)
He listed Dadabhai Naoroji, Swami Vivekananda, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak as his influences, along with the ancient and modern histories of India, England, France, America and Russia, and the tenets of Socialism and Marxism. (Para 27)
All this reading and thinking brought me to believe that above all it was my first duty to serve the Hindudom and the Hindu people, as a patriot and even as a humanitarian. For, is it not true that to secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores of Hindus constituted the freedom and the well-being of one fifth of human race ? This conviction led me naturally to devote myself to the new Hindu Sanghatanist ideology and programme which alone I came to believe, could win and preserve the national independence of Hindusthan, my Motherland and enable her to render true service to humanity as well.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Para. 28)
He dismissed Gandhi's policies of truth and non-violence as "nothing new or original" and considered them "implicit in every constitutional public movement". He defended the use of righteous violence against aggression and quoted the examples of Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind Singh. He rebuked Gandhi for his "self-conceit" for condemning them as misguided patriots.However,Gandhi had referred to the issue in a completely different way.
He accused Gandhi of paradoxically being a "violent pacifist" who brought calamities to the country through non-violence. According to Godse, Gandhi developed a "subjective mentality under which he alone was to be the final judge of what was right or wrong" and accused him of having too much power.
If the country wanted his leadership, it had to accept his infallibility; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on in his own way. Against such an attitude there can be no halfway house. Either Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision, or it had to carry on without him. He alone was the judge of everyone and everything; he was the master brain guiding the Civil Disobedience movement; no other could know the technique of that movement. He alone knew when to begin it and when to withdraw it. The movement might succeed or fail, but that could make no difference to the Mahatma's infallibility. 'A Satyagrahi can never fail' was his formula for his own infallibility and nobody except himself knew what a Satyagrahi is.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Excerpt from Para. 69)
Godse rebuked Gandhi's "childish insanities and obstinacies". According to Godse, Gandhi did not allow any room for people to disagree with his "irrational" policies. Thus, Godse held Gandhi's irresponsibility as the cause of "blunder after blunder, failure after failure, and disaster after disaster".
Godse accused Gandhi of having a blatant pro-Muslim policy and quoted Gandhi's support for Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) (which was synonymous to Urdu[7]) as the national language of India after the Muslims objected to Hindi and claimed that all of Gandhi's experiments were at the expense of the Hindus.

Gandhiji began to hold his prayer meetings in a Hindu temple in Bhangi Colony and persisted in reading passages from Quoran as a part of the prayer in that Hindu temple in spite of the protest of the Hindu worshippers there. Of course he dared not read the Geeta in a mosque in the teeth of Muslim opposition. He knew what a terrible Muslim reaction would have been if he had done so. But he could safely trample over the feelings of the tolerant Hindu. To belie this belief I was determined to prove to Gandhiji that the Hindu too could be intolerant when his honour was insulted.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Para. 35)
He explained that Gandhi's unfair treatment and hypocrisy was the cause of his anger.
The fact that Gandhiji honoured the religious books of Hindus, Muslims and others or that he used to recite during his prayers verses from the Geeta, the Quoran and Bible never provoked any ill will in me towards him. To my mind it is not at all objectionable to study comparative religion. Indeed it is a merit.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Para. 48)
He quoted numerous examples of Gandhi's bias such as the fast for the payment of Rs. 55 crores to Pakistan, his support for the Khilafat movement and the invasion of India by the Amir of Afghanistan, his denunciation of the Arya Samaj which included several nationalist leaders, his silence over the subsequent murder of Swami Shraddhanand by a Muslim, his support for the separation of Sind, his placation of Jinnah and the Muslim League, his denial of slaughter and forced conversion of Hindus by Muslims in the Moplah Riots despite evidence to the contrary, opposition to the singing of Vande Mataram, his contrasting treatment of Hindu and Muslim princes, support for cow-slaughter, opposition to Shivaji's Flag, his hypocrisy over the violent Quit India movement (by his call to "Do or Die"), among others. (Para. 69)
Godse firmly believed in a secular State and was opposed to the supremacist demands of the Muslim League (Para 51).
Godse accused Gandhi of infatuation with the Muslim League even after the massacre of Hindus by Muslims after Direct Action Day and despite their increasing disloyalty and treason to the Interim Government. He also denounced the Congress, which had boasted of its "nationalism and secularism", of surrendering to Jinnah and accepting Pakistan at the "point of the bayonet".
This is what Gandhiji had achieved after thirty years of undisputed dictatorship and this is what the Congress Party calls 'Freedom'. Never in the history of the world has such slaughter been officially connived at or the result described as Freedom, and 'Peaceful Transfer of power' If what happened in India in 1946, 1947 and 1948 is to be called peaceful one wonders what would be the violent. Hindu Muslim Unity bubble was finally burst and a theocratic and communal State dissociated from everything that smacked of United India was established with the consent of Nehru and his crowd and they have called it `Freedom won by them at sacrifice'. Whose sacrifice?
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Excerpt from Para. 69w)
According to Godse, Gandhi did not impose any conditions on Muslims because Jinnah and the Muslim League were not at all perturbed or influenced by his fasts and attached no value to his voice. He also criticized Gandhi's epithet "The Father of India" for failing in his paternal duty as he consented to its partition. He claimed Gandhi failed in his duty and proved to be the father of Pakistan.
His inner-voice, his spiritual power, his doctrine of non-violence of which so much is made of, all crumbled against Jinnah's iron will and proved to be powerless.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Para. 91)
He criticized Gandhi's non-violent policy during the communal clashes:
"We should with a cool mind reflect when we are being swept away. Hindus should never be angry against the Muslims even if the latter might make up their minds to undo even their existence. If they put all of us to the sword, we should court death bravely, may they, even rule the world, we, shall inhabit the world. At least we should never fear death. We are destined to be born and die; then why need we feel gloomy over it? If all of us die with a smile on our lips, we shall enter a new life. We shall originate a new Hindustan."

Had this act not been done by me, of course it would have been better for me. But circumstances were beyond my control. So strong was the impulse of my mind that I felt that this man should not be allowed to meet a natural death so that the world may know that he had to pay the penalty of his life for his unjust, anti-national and dangerous favouritism towards a fanatical section of the country. I decided to put an end to this matter and to the further massacre of lacs of Hindus for no fault of theirs. May God now pardon him for his egoistic nature which proved to be too disastrous for the beloved sons of this Holy Land.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Para. 140)
Godse foresaw that he would be hated by the people, his future would be totally ruined, and that he would lose all his honour, which he held more valuable than his life, if he were to assassinate Gandhi. However, he considered that Indian politics in Gandhi's absence would be practical, able to retaliate and be powerful with the armed forces, and that "the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan".
He then confessed that he fired the shots at Gandhi on January 30 1948, on the prayer-grounds in Birla House.
I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus. There was no legal machinery by which such an offender could be brought to book and for this reason I fired those fatal shots. I bear no ill will towards anyone individually, but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy, which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Excerpt from Para. 135)
He then accused Prime Minister Nehru of hypocrisy with his speeches of secularism, because he was instrumental in creating the Islamic state of Pakistan along with Gandhi's persistent policy of appeasement towards the Muslims.
Finally, I now stand before the court to accept the full share of my responsibility for what I have done and the judge would, of course, pass against me such orders of sentence as may be considered proper. But I would like to add that I do not desire any mercy to be shown to me, nor do I wish that anyone should beg for mercy on my behalf. My confidence about the moral side of my action has not been shaken even by the criticism levelled against it on all sides. I have no doubt that honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof someday in future.
Nathuram Godse, Answer to the Charge Sheet (Para. 150)
In the light of the statement, Justice Khosla commented :
The highlight of the appeal before us was the discourse delivered by Nathuram Godse in his defence. He spoke for several hours, discussing, in the first instance, the facts of the case and then the motive, which had prompted him to take Mahatma Gandhi’s life. The audience was visibly and audibly moved. There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. Many women were in tears and men coughing and searching for their handkerchiefs. The silence was accentuated and made deeper by the sound of an occasional subdued sniff or a muffled cough…
I have however, no doubt that had the audience of that day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse’s appeal, they would have brought in a verdict of ‘not guilty’ by an over-whelming majority.’


On November 8, 1949, Godse was sentenced to death. Among those calling for commutation of the death sentence for the defendants were Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as Gandhi's two sons, who felt that executing their father's killers would dishonour his memory and legacy which included a staunch opposition to the death penalty. Godse was hanged at Ambala Jail on November 15, 1949,[8] along with Narayan Apte, the other conspirator. Savarkar was also charged with conspiracy in the assassination of Gandhi, but was acquitted and subsequently released.


Millions of Indians mourned Gandhi's assassination. The Hindu Mahasabha was vilified and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the RSS, was temporarily banned. However, investigators could find no evidence that the RSS bureaucracy had formally sponsored or even knew of Godse's plot. The RSS ban was lifted by Prime Minister Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in 1949.
The RSS, to this day denies any connection with Godse, and disputes the claim that he was a member[5].
After the assassination, many criticized the Indian government for not doing more to protect Gandhi who, earlier in the week, had been the target of a bomb plot by the same conspirators who later shot him. Of particular concern, was the fact that a Bombay detective had wired the names and descriptions of the assassins along with the fact that they were known to be in Delhi stalking Gandhi. On the other hand, Gandhi had repeatedly refused to cooperate with his own security and had resigned himself to a violent death which he accepted as an inevitable part of his destiny.
A film, Nine Hours to Rama, was made in 1963 and was based on the events leading up to the assassination, seen mainly from Godse's point of view. The film Hey Ram, made in 2000, also briefly touches upon events related to the assassination. The popular Marathi language play Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy (Marathi: मी नथुराम गोडसे बोलतोय)("I am Nathuram Godse, Speaking") was also made from Godse's point of view.[9]


  1. ^ Jeffrey, Robin (1990). India, Rebellion to Republic: Selected Writings, 1857-1990. Sterling Publishers. p. 105.
  2. ^ Gandhi and Godse: a review and a critique By Koenraad Elst,Original from the University of Michigan ISBN 8185990719, 9788185990712
  3. ^ Time (14 February 2000). "His Principle of Peace Was Bogus". Retrieved 3 July 2007
  4. ^ The Hindu (18 August 2004). "RSS releases 'proof' of its innocence". Retrieved 26 June 2007
  5. ^ a b Zee News(IANS) (30 December 2010). "RSS denies Godse was its member, rebuts Cong claim". Retrieved 1 November 2011
  6. ^ http://satyabhashnam.blogspot.com/2009/02/may-please-your-honour-nathuram-godse.html
  7. ^ Indian critiques of Gandhi by Harold G. Coward page 218
  8. ^ The Times (London), pg. 3. 16 November 1949.
  9. ^ Rediff on the NeT. There is a play called Gandhi vs Godse to make the point of Godse's."Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy - The Transcript". "Watch Marathi Play on Youtube


  1. Elst, Koenraad Gandhi and Godse - a Review and a Critique, Voice of India, 2001. ISBN 8185990719
  2. Godse, Nathuram, Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, Surya Bharti, Delhi, India, 2003. OCLC 33991989
  3. Godse, Nathuram May it Please Your Honor!, Surya Bharti, India, 2003.
  4. Khosla, G.D. Murder of the Mahatma and Other Cases from a Judge's Notebook, Jaico Publishing House, 1968. ISBN 0-88253-051-8.
  5. Malgonkar, Manohar (2008). The Men Who Killed Gandhi, New Delhi: Roli Books, ISBN 978-81-7436-617-7.
  6. Phadke, Y.D. Nathuramayan

Friday, January 27, 2012

This Day in History: Jan 27, 1888: National Geographic Society founded

On January 27, 1888, the National Geographic Society is founded in Washington, D.C., for "the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge."

The 33 men who originally met and formed the National Geographic Society were a diverse group of geographers, explorers, teachers, lawyers, cartographers, military officers and financiers. All shared an interest in scientific and geographical knowledge, as well as an opinion that in a time of discovery, invention, change and mass communication, Americans were becoming more curious about the world around them. With this in mind, the men drafted a constitution and elected as the Society's president a lawyer and philanthropist named Gardiner Greene Hubbard. Neither a scientist nor a geographer, Hubbard represented the Society's desire to reach out to the layman.

Nine months after its inception, the Society published its first issue of National Geographic magazine. Readership did not grow, however, until Gilbert H. Grosvenor took over as editor in 1899. In only a few years, Grosvenor boosted circulation from 1,000 to 2 million by discarding the magazine's format of short, overly technical articles for articles of general interest accompanied by photographs. National Geographic quickly became known for its stunning and pioneering photography, being the first to print natural-color photos of sky, sea and the North and South Poles.

The Society used its revenues from the magazine to sponsor expeditions and research projects that furthered humanity's understanding of natural phenomena. In this role, the National Geographic Society has been instrumental in making possible some of the great achievements in exploration and science. To date, it has given out more than 1,400 grants, funding that helped Robert Peary journey to the North Pole, Richard Byrd fly over the South Pole, Jacques Cousteau delve into the sea and Jane Goodall observe wild chimpanzees, among many other projects.

Today, the National Geographic Society is one of the world's largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions. National Geographic continues to sell as a glossy monthly, with a circulation of around 9 million. The Society also sees itself as a guardian of the planet's natural resources, and in this capacity, focuses on ways to broaden its reach and educate its readers about the unique relationship that humans have with the earth