The bizarre story of the murder of radio journo and PR man John Trenorden’s partner and the subsequent death of JT himself has hit close to home for many in the media as this story reveals.

Phones are running hot in Adelaide and interstate today, as they did over the weekend, upon the news of John Trenorden’s death.

For those not aware of who he was, the headline, “Radioman on Kill Charge”, which appeared in that august journal, The Advertiser, will jog memories. He had been a news reader, reporter and, later, media manager at Mitsubishi Motors before establishing his own business in recent years.

Last weekend he was implicated in the death of Penelope Christopher, his partner, at Glenelg. Her body was discovered by relatives – along with the results of a fire.

He was implicated and later picked up by police after response to reports of a man attempting to throw himself in front of cars at a nearby suburb, Warradale.

The death of Ms. Christopher remains an awful thing. So also  the death of John Trenorden, to be investigated in a police and coronial enquiry.

This commentary does not seek to excuse or reduce the impact and effect of Trenorden’s act at Glenelg.

Rather, because of his public and professional profile, friends, associates and acquaintances, these circumstances serve to highlight that none of us are beyond being in the situation of the victim or the offender.

These events also serve to highlight issues that may contribute to circumstances in which these types of acts can occur and which, not withstanding considerations of personal responsibility, society generally has failed to address

Well before his name hit the media the grapevine was abuzz with the news that he had, apparently, killed someone. The shock really came about because it was so unexpected. Of the “…he is never the sort of person who…” type shock. There was also dismay. Dismay of the unspoken but real fear “… if he could do that, could I?”

It seems unlikely that any good can come of this awful business.

A life was lost, then another.

The authorities stand to be vilified. The suspect was picked up after demonstrating behavior that was threatening to his well-being. He was subsequently locked up but not placed on a satisfactory suicide watch. Given that he had been demonstrating an intent to commit suicide immediately prior to his arrest, what greater signal do police, court or prison authorities require? A large neon sign perhaps? Prison bans instituted by the union may have had a role but in whatever event, heads must roll. Let’s hope that the enquiry(/ies) do not pull their usual whitewash.

The events leading to the incident at Glenelg are unclear but it is likely that, as in so many of these cases, there were circumstances that contributed to the murder rather than it being simply a spur of the moment assault.

The mental health condition of John Trenorden is suspect and the extent of any depression a cause of concern. His friends state categorically that, given his usual demeanor, this act was so out of character that one has to suspect depression or a similar factor, diagnosed or not, was at work.  Again, not an excuse but perhaps it allows us an understanding of the circumstances.

Depression has an enormous impact on this and other countries. It is certainly under-diagnosed and still suffers the stigma associated with so many imbalances of the normal mental condition.

You all know the statistics so, simply put, we all have a fair chance of experiencing a level of depression at some stage in our lives. It is a debilitating and awful thing. This is not the place for a discourse on depression or its manifold causes, but you can begin to appreciate that perhaps if Trenorden, a man with such a gentle public persona, was driven to this act by its influence we had all better be on guard and attempting to lead gentler, simpler lives (something we could all do a bit more of I suspect). Perhaps light will be shed upon enquiry. Let’s hope so.

Whatever the causes, our mental health as a community could be a whole lot better. As an issue, mental health should rank with cancer, heart disease, obesity and smoking as the major conditions to get on top of.

Prison procedures generally stand as a disgrace. All normal there of course.

In phone calls today the suggestion has been put that, even if Trenorden were not depressed, his realization that he would be likely in receipt of a life sentence, would have been enough to see him look to exit this world. And he did.

This writer has commented on prisons before. They are invariably staffed by people regarded by Peter Ustinov as “…prison guards. You can say no more about a person if they are a prison guard, it says it all about them.” Indeed.

Prisons remain a source of brutalisation, a reservoir of infectious diseases and a crime polytechnic. The notion of reform is, in most cases, laughable because it is not addressed in the way it needs to be (although some are clearly beyond reform), of revenge at a distance sad, example setting dismissible.

Prisons need to be there for one reason, and one reason only, the protection of the community from those that would do physical harm to others and those who simply continue to offend.

In essence, you ought only be a candidate for a prison sentence if you have raped, assaulted, murdered, supplied illegal drugs or are a non-violent repeat offender (second offence). In other words we would be doing ourselves a favour if we focused on using prisons primarily  to protect ourselves form those that would do us physical harm.

That would certainly put Trenorden in a prison situation were he still alive. Justifiably, because he killed once and the potential for him to have done so again was there with greater emphasis. A candidate for reform? He was already, I suspect, so full of remorse, so reformed, that the realization of his actions were simply too much to cope with. What options were really open to him? Given his background, age and outlook what would you have done?

Let’s use this business, if any good whatsoever is to come of it, to again push for positive reform of the mental health and prison services, to encourage development of counseling services and coping skills. We owe it to ourselves to help one another. Perhaps such moves might reduce the frequency of these terrible things.

Of course, if it was some scumbag druggie who had killed their partner we would invariably dismiss it as “expected” and turn the page. But Trenorden stands as a silent reminder of the old adage: There, but for the grace of God, go I.

No sympathy for John Trenorden

G’day Crikey,

Lacking a ‘yoursay’ on this most recent of tragedies, I couldn’t help but write via this email address regarding the article published on Crikey regarding the death of Adelaide newsreader/journo/spindoctor/perennial prick John Trenordan.

Look, I don’t know the bloke and have no sentimental attachment due to familiarity of vocational circumstance or otherwise.  But I’ve got express my disappointment at the sympathetic nature of the article published this week. 

One must always take the musings of the Murdoch press with some measure of salt – however if only half of the story published on today’s News Ltd website is true, then this guy was a serial bastard, user and yet another of my gender who finds it acceptable to totally abuse the women folk.  When is the typical Aussie bloke going to consistently stand up and understand that some rather important aspects of his role as a man and as a partner are to care for, protect, respect and live with the woman in his life? 

To sympathise with a man who appears to be a serial predator – and one THAT KILLED SOMEONE – seems more than just a little inappropriate.  To blame his suicide on depression rather than opportunistic cowardice seemed to me to be a major miscarraige of journalistic integrity.  Depression is certainly a topic of importance in our community and debilitates a large number of people.  I’m all for generating discussion about depression and it’s toll on people.  This guy, according to my limited reading, seemed to be a cause of depression for many rather than a victim.  Bloody Jeff seems a more appopriate poster child for this particular cause.

‘There but for the grace of God go I”?  Not even close.  I’m not bragging here but if I’m even one percent down the Trenordan road that I’ve read a limited amount about, then I’ll exile myself to Baghdad.