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$425k payout ‘miserly’ for deaf-mute’s jail hell

June 3rd, 2011 Australia



A DEAF-MUTE man who spent 15 years in jail for a murder he did not commit was yesterday awarded $425,000 by the West Australian government — 50 years after he was convicted and banished to Fremantle Prison.


But while the ex gratia payment to Darryl Beamish was intended to show the state’s “sincere regret”, it instead sparked a public outcry in which the Barnett government was accused of being “mean”, “miserly” and an embarrassment.

Mr Beamish, 71, who communicates only through sign language, declined to comment directly, but his lawyer, Michael Dawson, said they were “a little disappointed”.

He said his client had not wanted to look greedy and asked for $500,000, which was “a fraction of what he probably deserved”.

“So to knock $75,000 off just struck me as being bizarre and really unexplainable,” Mr Dawson told The Australian.

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But he said his client was pleased to have some security as his wife, Barbara, was increasingly frail and, in a severe blow, her eyesight was failing, affecting her ability to see him “sign”.

Mr Beamish was jailed in 1961 for the murder of Melbourne heiress Jillian Brewer and spent decades trying to clear his name.

Notorious serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke — the last man hanged in WA — confessed to the crime but was originally not believed.

It was not until 2005 and his sixth appeal that the conviction was finally quashed.

Mr Beamish is the last of a high-profile trio of wrongly convicted West Australians to receive

ex gratia payments.

Andrew Mallard received $3.25 million in 2009 after serving 12 years for a murder he did not commit, and John Button was awarded $460,000 in 2003 after serving 10 years for killing his girlfriend, Rosemary Anderson, another of Cooke’s victims.

Yesterday, Mr Button said the payment to Mr Beamish was not enough and the lack of an apology was a disgrace.

The pair knew each other in prison and he said what they went through was hell.

“To me it was hell, the worst hellish nightmare I’ve ever encountered — and for him (Mr Beamish) it was 100 times worse,” Mr Button told The Australian.

“Getting any money helps, but it’s a massive disappointment that what they give comes with no apology and no sincerity. It leaves a shocking taste in your mouth.”

Talkback callers labelled the payment mean and embarrassing.

Opposition legal affairs spokesman John Quigley said Mr Beamish had been “shafted by the legal system” and was now being shafted by the Barnett government. “This is a miserly amount. His situation was appalling. He was mute, he could not articulate, he was vulnerable. It’s unimaginable,” Mr Quigley said.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said ex gratia payments were not intended to provide full compensation but showed the state’s regret and gave Mr Beamish “a measure of comfort and financial security”.