The Adelaide media world is agog about the final days and eventual death of radio and PR man John Trenorden. This is how the coverage has unfolded in Crikey’s sealed sections this week and read to the bottom for one surprisingly sympathetic column.


Sealed section February 4

It is less than a month since David Hookes died and now another South Australian radio identity, John Trenorden, who was charged with murder on Monday, has been found dead in his cell.

While the circumstances surrounding Trenorden’s death are obviously totally different from those of David Hookes, it will be interesting to see how the media covers the death of yet another colleague.

Trenorden was known as a very blokey kind of guy, who could move easily from the media to the macho world of motor industry PR.

A subscriber who knew him writes:

“He wasn’t an alcoholic, but he liked to play hard, and be the dispenser of largesse.

He liked taking journalists to lunch, and he had an unfortunate preference for topless restaurants, of which there were an inordinate number in Adelaide, it seemed to me.

Trenorden would engage the waitresses in racy conversation in an apparent attempt to pick them up – more likely just showing off – and scribblers like me with deadlines would have to politely decline an invitation to kick on into the afternoon.”

As much of the media had difficulty revealing that Hookes was separated from his wife and seeing another woman, it’s hard to know how they will cope with the late Trenorden’s murder of a woman.

A journalistic sympathiser has already written into Crikey with a very sensitive interpretation of the events surrounding Trenorden’s death.

He even says, “of course, if it was some scumbag druggie who had killed his partner we would invariably dismiss it as “expected” and turn the page,” but as a friend and a colleague it will be hard for many in the media to do that.

Check out what the sympathiser had to say here.

Sealed section February 5

The suicide in custody of Adelaide businessman, former PR manager for Mitsubishi and journalist John Trenorden three days after he was charged with the murder of woman has the local tight-knit media community abuzz.

Everybody knows Trenorden was grossly sexist.  It is not going too far to say that he was a misogynist.

Trendorden, however, was also into extreme sadomasochism directed against women – and that one of these escapades gone wrong is said to have lead to the murder charge being laid.  The Adelaide Advertiser reported on Monday that Acting Chief Inspector of Sturt CIB, Sid Thomas, said there was a ‘bizarreness to the incident’.  Photos exist of his sexual adventures.

The episode is more than just the subject for gossip.  There are serious questions for the state government and prison officials, too:

* Why was Trenorden being held at the state’s highest security prison, Yatala, rather than the Adelaide Remand Centre

* Had Trenorden already harmed himself in the immediate aftermath of the incident that lead to charges being laid?  Again, the Advertiser reported, “It is understood he was in need of medical assistance when arrested by police”?

* Did Trenorden make any other attempts at self-harm after his arrest?

* If so, why was Trenorden alone in a cell on a regular two-hour watch when police and prison officers were aware of the risk?

* AAP has reported Trenorden’s lawyer, Michael Woods, said his client was deemed a suicide risk when he was arrested and placed in the city watchhouse before Monday’s court appearance.  Adelaide’s Channel 10 said last night Trenorden was arrested while trying to throw himself in front of cars.

* So what action was taken to protect Trenorden and why did it fail?

Correctional Service Minister Terry Roberts said in a media release yesterday that “a full compliment of staff was on duty”.  Yeah, but if their presence did b*gger all, it doesn’t matter how smart they looked in their uniforms or how straight they stood, does it?

The Advertiser reports today “In a suicide note found in his Yatala cell yesterday, Mr Trenorden, 53, describes how he “bluffed” the prison doctors so he would not be held under observation. He says his intention in doing so was to enable him to finish what he failed to complete on Sunday morning.”

Further details are on the Advertiser’s site here.

Sealed section February 6

The late Adelaide PR and media identity and “businessman” John Trenorden was described as a “fading star” in yesterday’s Australian.

Too right.

In the report of his arrest for murder on Monday, the Adelaide Advertiser reported “In last week’s Sunday Mail, Mr Trenorden ran an advertisement for his newest business, Desire Me Fashion. It offered the chance to sell an ‘on-line retail fashion range’ – including swimwear and wedding gowns – from home.”

If it wasn’t a pyramid scheme, it looked like one.  It reeked of scam.  Indeed, South Australian Consumer Affairs officials were believed to be keeping an eye on his affairs.

Trenorden appears to have become an aficionado of an internet marketing company Smart Ecreation.  Here’s what the introduction from their founder Andy Uhlig on their website says:

“Welcome! “I invite you to join us in creating business success on the internet.

“Success?  “What does it mean to you? Read on and you may just find what you are looking for to reach your goals and dreams.”

Etc etc

Trenorden liked it.  Read his September 2003 paean to Smart Ecreation here.

PS:  Someone in Adelaide has a sense of humour befitting the shallow bush grave capital of Australia.  Local media and PR identities report getting calls from the dead:  “It’s Trenorden here, call me
back” seems to be turning up on voice mail and answering machines around town.

PPS: We finally had some death notices for the victim today – why did they take a week?  Did the Tiser hold them over for some reason?


A more sympathetic view

By a journalist who knew him
First published Feb 2

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.