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My family was ripped apart by violence - and the killer was not a 'good bloke'

May 17 2018 By Rebecca Poulson, Our Watch Ambassador

The Margaret River tragedy was a bone-chilling and blatantly violent attack, allegedly by a grandfather who killed his wife, his daughter, and his daughter's four children before killing himself.

Media reporting on family violence Image

The hushed horror that follows such a tragedy takes me immediately and painfully back to the day I turned 33, when four members of my own family were senselessly ripped from my life at the hands of someone who was once part of our family.

My four-year-old niece, Malee, and my one-year old nephew, Bas, were killed by their father - my brother-in-law, Neung, who also murdered my own father on that day, Peter Poulson. My father fought to his death trying to protect his grandchildren.

Neung died later that day from self-inflicted knife wounds.

The murder was callously carried out by a father who was supposed to love and care for his children - who was supposed to keep them safe from harm.

As always, when another of these horrific tragedies occurs, I have followed how the media has reported on the Margaret River case, in which Peter Miles allegedly shot his wife, Cynda, daughter, Katrina, and her children Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Arye, 10, and Kadyn Cockman, 8. I have noted how the perpetrator’s personality and standing among the community has been described. Once again, we are reading glowing character references of the perpetrator from stunned neighbours.

One article referred to alleged killer Peter Miles as a "good bloke" whose actions were completely "out of character". The article implied that he was well-liked among his community and to those who knew him, was respected and "down to earth".

My response to this and reporting on similar cases is the same – good blokes do not murder their families. They don’t abuse their wives. They don’t harm their daughters and sons. And they certainly don’t murder their grandchildren.

The media must stop reporting these blokes as good. We also need to consistently call these tragedies for what they are, which is another case of family violence.

It has also been reported that the four children killed had autism. As a mother of a child with autism, I am perplexed as why this was included in the news. The only conclusion I can draw is that the reports are offering the perpetrator a justification for his actions. The message is clear: because the four children had higher needs, the stress on the perpetrator must have been far too great - making any abuse or murder more understandable.

I didn’t read the media reports about the deaths of my loved ones in 2003 until years later, but I still felt the painful blows of each word when the story was sensationalised.

Seared into my memory is one of the headlines about my experience which read: “My Family were slashed to death” and another with a dripping blood red font next to a close-up photo of my face.

Also included in the stories were unnecessary, gratuitous details on the number of knife wounds that were inflicted on little Bas and Malee. Of what interest was that to the public?

We cannot in all conscience call ourselves the lucky country until we have all made our best efforts to address violence against women and children. For the thousands of silent victims who suffer in their homes, we must name family violence for what it is.

The media is in a unique situation to use its power to help these silent victims. For some like Cynda, Katrina and her four children it is too late, but we can help those suffering now and prevent any more victims in our future.

This piece was originally published on The Sydney Morning Herald.