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Nov 17, 2011

Roebuck's death: a good man, a bad man or something in between?

Peter Roebuck has died leaving more question marks than the most enthusiastic YouTube commenter, and given the closed nature of South African policing, straight answers may never be forthcoming, writes freelancer Geoff Lemon.


I was late to hear about Peter Roebuck’s death. Camping in a state forest near Narrandera, with New South Welsh clocks showing the early hours of Sunday, it was just one part of an outside world kept at bay. Come Monday evening, the news as fresh a shock as in any earlier iteration, I found myself tracing the story’s evolution back to its beginning.

The process has been desperately sad. As a fellow writer of sport, I held Roebuck above most others. As someone for whom cricket is about emotional resonance more than entertainment, Roebuck’s voice was part of my life, the soundscape of summer nostalgia as much as highway air past the car window or the shriek of seagulls.

At the same time, while bleakly, it has been instructive and fascinating to see how the various strands of media handle a case so complex and ambiguous. Roebuck has died leaving more question marks than the most enthusiastic YouTube commenter, and given the closed nature of South African policing, straight answers may never be forthcoming.

Reports through Sunday were brief, bare, and often wrong. Found dead in a hotel room. Fallen from a window. Police had spoken to him earlier that day. Were with him at the time. Visions of foul play circled thick and dark as evening bats.

On Monday came the obituaries. “Tragedy far greater than 47 all out has struck cricket, and this should be a Roebuck column. But it isn’t one, and can’t be one, and never will be one again, because the tragedy is Peter Roebuck. He is dead.” So wrote Greg Baum, in a front-page piece choked with emotion. Details were still hazy, but the final sentence of Baum’s quote was deemed the important part. Responses flowed accordingly — Neil Manthorpe, Vic Marks, Tim Lane all paid their respects.

As early as Monday night though, online reports were emerging, passed on in Tuesday’s papers. That Roebuck had been accused of sexual assault, that the visiting police were of the relevant ilk. That investigations were under way.

The eulogies, of course, have been heartfelt, mostly from colleagues and friends. In general coverage, though, the overwhelming sensation has been uneasiness, a media shifting awkwardly on its chair. As yet, they still don’t have a fix on this story. They want Roebuck to be a good man or a bad man. The prospect that someone might be both is too much to bear.

The stakes, given the conservative presentation of news, are high. No outlet wants to say nice things about someone who turns out to be bad, or ill about someone good. Early reports had more hedges than ever shared an advertising hoarding with Benson.

But ultimately, the lure of the lurid is strong. While Fairfax papers have stood by their man, others here and overseas have been sketching an unpleasant narrative, though one built sufficiently on insinuation and clever positioning that it can be backed away from at short notice.

Essentially, it is the suggestion of Roebuck as a long-term sexual exploiter of boys.

The main thing mentioned in each suggestive news piece, and embraced by vicious blogs as vindication, is the current accusation of assault. Apparently a reminder is due that allegations do not equal guilt, and that sexual impropriety is the easiest charge to make and the hardest to dispel. Just ask Anwar Ibrahim.

The accusation itself has been given little study. Various reports have it as an “attempted sexual assault”, a hazy concept if ever there were one. Attempting a nightclub kiss could be classed as such if the recipient were not amenable.

It is in keeping with the implied narrative that every report refers to the complainant specifically as a “young man”. The man was 26, not the youth implied. To suggest he lacked the capacity to deflect an advance is specious.

Then there’s the possibility of a set-up, which no report I’ve read has yet considered. There are two potential motivations. Sexual accusations are frequently used in blackmail, especially in poorer countries. A high-profile foreigner with a seemingly large supply of philanthropic dollars, Roebuck would have been an obvious target.

Or something bigger? Roebuck was the single most outspoken critic of Zimbabwean politics in the cricketing world. He knew a lot about the country, and castigated Zanu-PF politicians and Zimbabwe Cricket Board officials specifically and by name. Much of the diplomatic pressure on Zimbabwe comes from cricketing nations such as Australia and Britain, who are more often than others minded of its existence. Roebuck was a wicked acacia thorn in Mugabe’s side.

Trading on one infamous incident in Roebuck’s past, a sexual allegation would be a most effective means of discredit. That a Zimbabwean national should make the accusation within days of Roebuck’s arrival in Africa, after seeking him out online and arranging a hotel meeting, is worthy of note and investigation. Strange that no allegations were ever made in the many years Roebuck spent in Australia.

After the assault allegations, most reports have also touched on Roebuck’s charity house in Pietermaritzburg. Again, the emphasis is on age, citing “young men” and often “boys”. The “boys” in question are mostly in their mid-20s and going through university. The coaching of language gives a different impression.

Look, says the implication. Here is a young African man accusing Roebuck of assault. Here are other young African men under his care and control. Some of the internet’s fouler repositories have taken this to its furthest conclusion, painting Roebuck as a colonialist pervert creating stockpiles of the vulnerable to satisfy his rampant demand for flesh. They have even read sexual malice into some of his sponsored orphans calling him “dad”.

The suggestions are beyond obscene. Roebuck’s students past and present have greeted his death with shock and grief, and described him in glowing terms, as a generous man and a genuine father figure. Not one has suggested any impropriety on his part. Not one has been asked how they feel about his life’s best work being twisted into de facto evidence against him.

All this nudging, rustling, and whispering is essentially based on the one incident. In 1999, we’ve been told countless times in the past few days, Roebuck caned three white South African cricketers. This was well before his charity work started, when he was taking on aspiring players in England for a training regime.The cricketers are always described as “boys”, despite being 19, and perfectly old enough to have told him to go and jump if they had chosen. The only one contacted by the media this week said he bore Roebuck no ill will, and described him as “a brilliant mind”.

Yes, it’s an odd one, but the level of assumption is unsupportable. Every report has implied a sexual aspect to the caning, when Roebuck belonged to a generation that was routinely caned at school. Much has been made of the judge’s line about it being “done to satisfy some need in you”, without quoting the subsequent sentence in which he refers to establishing a position of power, not to getting one’s rocks off.

This doesn’t mean I’m here to make the case for caning. But presumptions about things that don’t involve you are easy to get wrong. The most prosaic intent can become sinister in the telling. In 2003, I was spotted breaking into a Carlton apartment and leaving with a bag of women’s underwear. As it happened, my girlfriend’s faulty front door latch sometimes needed to be popped with a credit card, and it was my turn to make the run to the laundromat. Cuff me.

Whatever happened in Roebuck’s case, the caning trial was an utter humiliation, and probably the lowest point of his life. He went to ground afterwards, and thought about staying down. Whether he did or didn’t have a case to answer in South Africa, it seems likely that his memory of that first case led to his fatal despair in contemplating fighting another.

It is a sad end. Alive, Roebuck could perhaps have cleared his name. Now, the investigation will likely trail off. Conjecture will continue. The nation’s news services will maintain their vacillation between respecting the revered writer and sniping at the potential villain. We probably won’t get an answer. Roebuck will neither become a comfortably good man nor an entirely bad one. Like the hypocritical mass of the rest of us, he’ll fall somewhere in between.


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63 thoughts on “Roebuck’s death: a good man, a bad man or something in between?

  1. SusieQ

    Having just read the article about the 26 year old in the online papers, this is a different take on things entirely and much welcome.
    Much more balanced than a dreadful effort by The Blot in yesterday’s Herald Sun, against which, interestingly, only 2 comments were published, although I’m sure there would have been a lot more.

  2. Jim Reiher

    This article is probably right… but I do wonder what we would be saying if it were an Australian Catholic priest on business in South Africa. If the evidence was identical and the circumstances the same, what would we be writing about a priest in this situation? How would we be talking about the 1990’s canning incident?

    Would we be as careful with the evidence? As keen to believe good, as quickly as many are to believe bad? There are some rotten apples in the Catholic Church, of course, and even though I am not a Catholic, I honestly believe that the overwhelming majority of their priests are good and caring people who dont do the wrong thing.

    But that said…. how would I approach this story if it were about a priest?

    We dont want to believe bad of a cricket sportswriter, but we love to believe evil of certain catagories of people in the community.

  3. Luke Smith

    Yes, Bolt was very careful to stick with the word ‘boys’ to describe the 19 year-olds who were caned by Roebuck. A new low, if that’s possible.

  4. Rourke

    Great analysis Geoff, completely agree. SusieQ: Bolt’s blog had over 100 comments on this article, don’t know why the article itself doesn’t show them. Quite a few were well-written demolitions of his premise, and he got some facts wrong (is that habitual now?)

  5. Charles Dodgson

    I knew Peter. We met through a mutual friend, here in Sydney, and I shared a couple of meals with him and a few coffees down at Bondi. We discussed politics, mostly, and some cricket. I used to work as a journalist and Peter would interrogate me about the detail of Indian telecommunications policy, or Chinese censorship. He was genuinely interested in all that the world had to offer. I have been grieving since I heard of his death. I have lost a friend and because, as Geoff so eloquently says, a connection to the “emotional resonance” of cricket in an Australian summer.

    Once, Peter and I walked along the promenade at Bondi discussing Zimbabwean politics. Peter was hoping that I might be able to use some of my journalist connections to have some more exposure of the Zanu-PF. Peter detailed some of the crimes he had witnessed. I know Peter had enemies in Zimbabwe.

    My feeling is that Peter has been murdered. I suspect that some of his enemies paid some money and eliminated an irritant.
    Of course, I have no proof and can never obtain proof. So I must suffer the laziness of the Australian media as they accept the police version of the events.

    Thank you Geoff, for writing the only decent report I have read since the death of my friend.

  6. bally

    Great article, thanks Geoff. Roebuck’s death is a reminder of many things, including the approximate nature of depression and its derivatives all around us. Of how fortunate we were to have his eloquent and insightful commentary on cricket and the game of life.

    I thought Andy Bull’s article in the Guardian was also appropriate to the man we must now remember rather than look forward to hearing and reading. In it, Roebuck’s wonderful Cricinfo article about Kumar Sangakkara and his fight to save Sri Lankan cricket, was quoted. The final paragraph of that piece might equally be applied to much of the media commentary since his death:

    “That is the crux of the matter. When cricket falls into the hands of the narrow-minded it withers. To prevent that it’s essential that men like Sangakkara speak out, and that governing bodies accept their responsibilities. So much has been accomplished. The Berlin Wall has fallen, apartheid is gone, the Arab uprising is underway, a Muslim has played for Australia, and a Tamil has taken 800 Test wickets for his beloved country. Just that there is a lot more to do. Cricket is connected with the world and ought not to pretend otherwise.”

    Likewise, when the media falls into the hands of the narrow-minded, we all wither.

    Vale Peter Roebuck, who was anything but narrow-minded. His readers’ and listeners’ lives have withered a little with his passing.

  7. Luke Smith

    Jim, your reference to priests is in light of child molestation, not sexual encounters with adult men. Surely the difference is very obvious. There’s no excuse for making this association.

  8. Geoff Lemon

    Thanks for that comment Charles – it always means a lot to know when a piece has made a difference to someone. In all the speculating, it’s far too easy to forget that people are real, and that many around them are affected.

    I too think the manner of his death is suspicious, but that suspicion was allayed in part by Jim Maxwell’s version of events. Maxwell was with Roebuck in his room just a couple of minutes before he died, and said that he was in a visibly distressed state. There were two police present, one of whom left the room with Maxwell. A minute later Roebuck had fallen. Given we can confirm there was only one policeman with him at the time, it seems unlikely that he would have been dispatched then. Or that he would even have been allowed to telephone Maxwell in the first place.

  9. liliwyt

    how would I approach this story if it were about a priest?

    Or a Muslim Imam?

    Or a Labor politician with a liking for strip clubs or gay bars?

    I take your point, though Jim. It shouldn’t be one rule for one group and another rule for another. All stories need to be told without innuendo and hearsay as a substitute for facts.

    Perhaps, rather than asking how we would react if it were a “favourite whipping post” story, we should be asking why are the dog whistles out for this particular story?

    And, if there is substance in the political innuendoes made in Charles’ comment and Geoff’s story (which could be argued are skating as close to the line as the sexual innuendoes), then I think the Australian media has a responsibility to make sure that story is told. With the facts. Not supposition.

  10. Ilona

    Jim, the Irish found that somewhere between 3 and 6 per cent of catholic priests in that country sexually abused children. A small minority, sure, but still a horrendously high figure. Your comparison is fallacious.

  11. Microseris

    Being human means we all have our faults whatever they may be. I have however, no doubt he was a decent person whatever his faults.

    His writings could articulate the subtext of events and veer between gravitas and whimsy. His was always the first article I would read to put the score in context and cricket and summers will be less without him.

  12. Pete from Sydney

    I didn’t know Peter, liked some of his articles, didn’t like others. I too am a bit pertrubed about the whole thing, but particularly the fact that maybe the truth is that what happened actually happened…we’re always quick to point the finger at other country’s police forces.

    Isn’t it also plausible that is was a last dispairing act by a man-in the heat of the moment?


    The only witness to Mr Roebuck’s death has a bit explaining to do at an inquest.

  14. shepherdmarilyn

    He commentated on a corrupt sport. He didn’t save the world from hunger.

  15. Mike Jones

    I think the point that one’s beliefs and personal experience impact the take on the story is very pertinent. A male friend of mine who is a major cricket fan was s*xually abused by a local town mayor. I wonder what his take is on this debacle.

    Is it true that Roebuck was convicted of caning three boys on their naked buttocks – as was reported in some rag ? True or not true ? If true – one has a right to hold suspicions – if not a conviction that a much respected sports media identity was at very least a bit suss or maybe having an each way bet.

    The age of the person alleging s*xual assault is not necessarily relevant. In a poor country, being sponsored for university – a ticket out of poverty is a powerful attractant. Would a young poor black man exchange this for s*x with a comparatively wealthy white man ? Surely not. Never happened. I accidentally forgot that Dolly pedo chap who was arrested in South Africa.

    I think the moral of the story is that if you want to create a charity for male students – men or boys, you had better not have an equivocal local social track record – you need a wife and kids to avoid suspicion. Notice how NOBODY is suggesting that our cricket journo was knocking off shielas with the enthusiasm of a certain famous spin bowler or a rugby league player.

    I’m not in any way suggesting that our cricket writer was a confirmed Catholic priest, but I am suggesting that people who want to do a white wash on the basis that the chap was a great sports writer – are potentially as misguided as those who find him guilty without the evidence.

  16. Mark from Melbourne

    Jim is obviously a reader of the Bolt’s blog as this is the tack he took. I commented “Scurrilous muckraking” at the time but no idea if it got published. I would repeat the same comment to Jim here.

    If you have a point to make then make it carefully. Comparing Roebuck’s known transgressions and even allowing for the current complaint to be proven, doesn’t even get us remotely close to the same situation as priest’s abusing their position of trust and power to abuse children, nor to cover up for other priests. And dont forget that the outrage over the paedophile priests has taken decades to grow to the crescendo we hear now.

  17. puddleduck

    I didn’t know Peter Roebuck, but always enjoyed his commentary and writings on cricket. It sounds as if he was doing a lot of good for young people in Africa – a bottomless pit of need if ever there was one. He seemed also to do it without the need for fanfare.

    I didn’t know about his political stance, but can only applaud it. Zanu-PF supporters wouldn’t be above slating him, or worse, if his opposition was so open and resolute.

    I’ve noticed a few of the things Geoff Lemon describes in this article in the media coverage – insinuations, innuendo and ‘cute’ use of language, and something else: hints of homosexuality, and running that together with paedophillia. I’m a conservative person in some respects, but I think putting the two together is going too far.

    Some slug in the Sydney media has been saying in print that he felt uncomfortable at a dinner with Mr Roebuck. Didn’t have the guts to say anything at the time. I’ve felt uncomfortable in a range of situations, but sometimes that’s my problem, not the problem of the other person. The words ‘media whore’ for this ghastly poring over a personal tragedy – and likely a tragedy for the men (yes, men, not children) who Mr Roebuck was supporting.

    I doubt that many peoples’ lives could stand up to the scrutiny of a media pack going through their rubbish, real or metaphorical.

    NOT the media’s finest hour. RIP Peter Roebuck.

  18. Geoff Lemon

    Thanks for being so helpful, Marilyn. I guess we should never mourn any person’s death, because none of those people yet has solved the world’s problems in their own lifetime.

    He did spend almost his entire income in the last few years feeding, clothing, housing and educating those less fortunate, which is a damn sight more than almost anyone else can say.

  19. Kevin

    I’m pleased to be able to read this article by Geoff Lemon which offers a different perspective. I had become increasingly uncomfortable with what I had been reading about in regards to Peter.

    It is easy to make snide insinuations about someone who has passed. In the past few days I have wondered about Peter’s philanthropic work thinking surely if there was something untoward about his long-standing work this would not have gone unnoticed over the years, especially as he was of such high profile.

    The manner of Peter’s death and the minutes leading to it raises more questions in my mind than the history of his personal life over the past years does.

  20. Holden Back

    The bigger point is that our capacity for detailed understanding of any human situation is being corroded by the tabloid driven need to make snap judgements of absolute right or wrong. Or polity is much the worse for it, but also our society’s capacity for compassion.

  21. Peter Wesley-smith

    A very humane and articulate article, Geoff. I hope Crikey will devote some resources to finding out more about the case. I assume there’ll be an inquest, when the testimony of the policeman will become available.

  22. Jim Reiher


    I know of some reports in the popular media over the years, that accused specific priests of certain grave acts against minors, only to hear later that the minor was over 18. That sounds pretty close to this story. [Again: I actually think our article here is probably well spot on, so I dont want to put down Mr Roebuck.] But my reflection was not an inappropraite comparison or question to raise. I just wanted to challange myself and others, about how we so quickly write off some people and so quickly defend others. We seem to want to believe the best or worst of some, depending on what group they belong to.


    3-6% – it is a horrible statistic. I agree. But you know what that also tells me? That 94-97% of all Irish Catholic priests do the right thing, can be trusted, and should not be painted with the same brush. 94-97%!

    You know … if we could really find out… I mean really find out… we just might discover that 3-6% of all sports journalists watch kiddie p_rn or worse. Maybe. (Maybe not… but even then, it would mean that 94-97% of them are decent people.) I definitely do not want to down-play the evil nature of child abuse. But neither do I want to write off whole groups of people where the overwhelming majority do the right thing, because of the evil done by a small minority of them. What I think the Catholic church needs on this issue, is more open transparency and a demonstrated willingness to deal quickly, honestly, and in full cooperation with the law, when the child abusers are discovered. Their willingness to cover things up in the past is appauling.

  23. Doug from Parkdale

    Agree that Roebuck was a complex person; that he was a superb writer and commentator (I say that having subbed his material many years ago — it used to arrive handwritten, in capital letters); that people can have good and bad sides; that paedophilia should not be equated with homosexuality (or vice versa).
    That said, the author should have mentioned the ages of the boys (men?) Roebuck was found guilty of caning, and the fact that the caning was, according to reports at the time, applied to their bare buttocks.
    These are relevant — essential — facts given the territory the piece traverses.

  24. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Many people close to Australian Cricket hated Roebuck – continue to do so if some of the online comments I’ve seen are anything to go by. He had the temerity to ask hard questions, and call Australian sportsmanship into question – all in an English accent.

  25. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Why not actually read the article @DOUG. 20th paragraph. “The cricketers are always described as “boys”, despite being 19, and perfectly old enough to have told him to go and jump if they had chosen.”

  26. Oscar Jones

    Probably the most laughable and shameful of comments about Roebuck has come from an Andrew Bolt column where he infers the associated guilt of Fairfax and ABC journalists because of yet unproven accusations and a whole lot of innuendo.

    Using Bolt’s criteria for this guilt, Bolt himself must share guilt over the hacking scandal.

  27. david

    Jim Reiher why are you using Peter Roebucks death from what ever cause and whatever reason, to justify your person pilgrimage. Unless you have something of value to offer, leave it to the majority of the main stream media to try and find a ‘grubby’ angle

    Marilyn your personal ‘bent’ is well known to bloggers nation wide. As usual you add nothing here.

    Thanks Geoff for the most constructive article about Peter’s life and death I have read, I agree we will probably never know the truth. However I do not believe it is as sinister as some would want.

  28. Oscar Jones

    Stevo the Working Twistie : surely you know by now that in the self-regulated media a 19 year old ‘victim’ is a boy whereas a 19 year old perpetuator of a crime is a man.

  29. Modus Ponens

    Don’t wait for an inquest or justice – the south african police leave a lot to be desired (and have less finance than the private security force).

    We will never get to the bottom of this mystery.

  30. SmellyOne

    When people talk of Roebuck being a serial perpetrator of sexual assault, you say the level of assumption is unsupportable. Yet in the next breath you are implicating the Zimbabwean Government in his murder. And others are suggesting the South African police were involved. I think we all need to calm down.

  31. Geoff Lemon

    @Smellyone: I’m talking about the Zimbabwean government, who is known to have killed and allowed the killings of tens of thousands of people, including writers, over several decades, to hold on to power and keep its critics quiet. What a shocking thing to suggest. I shall write a letter of apology to Mr Mugabe forthwith.

    My point about Roebuck is that there is no actual evidence to support such insinuations, and yet they are being made. Spot the difference.

  32. Jeremy Williams

    Yeah a lot better than the incredible nastiness by bolt – I thought my god, guilt or innocence the man has just suicided how about a bit of sensitivity for his loved ones.

  33. zut alors

    A very thoughtful article, Geoff.

    So, what’s the moral of the story? If you’re a homosexual male play it safe and don’t engage in any philanthropic activity or kindness which involves other males younger than oneself lest it be miscontrued. Sad.

  34. zut alors

    should read: lest it be misconstrued

  35. Melissa

    I have a slight issue with the references to the young men as being ‘old enough to say no’. While they are over the age of consent, that doesn’t mean they can’t be sexually assaulted. In sexual assault, dynamics of power, swayed by relative age, wealth, fame etc are often a key factor.

    I was a big fan of the man, and I don’t necessarily believe he would have breached consent with young people, but you can’t reject the possibility of sexual assault simply because they were legal adults.

  36. Dogs breakfast

    “He commentated on a corrupt sport.” That, I can’t agree with.

    I always thought he commented about life, politics and humanity using cricket as a guise, a stage.

    I wouldn’t normally read a cricket article if my life depended on it, but I would read Roebuck.

    A beautifully weighted article Geoff, you can be proud of that one. I wondered if anyone would have the courage to address things openly without doing a Bolt. You have done that, and included things I would never have considered.

    A few heretofores and ne’er-do-wells and you could have had a cracking article there.

    Judging character is a complex thing. Best to steer clear of making those judgements public unless you really have to.

    But public malign gossip seems to be the done thing these days.

  37. Peter Ormonde

    So sad … a wonderful writer and a good man – apparently deeply flawed. Why are we like this?

  38. Johnfromplanetearth

    Conspiracy theories already? Defending the indefensible?

    “So that was your intention all along? To lure me and pretend you were interested in forming some father – like relationship, yet your intention was to do the sick perverted, disgusting things you did to me”? ~ Itai Gondo the 26year old man from Zimbabwe. He has been traumatised.

    Roebuck was a brilliant Cricket commentator and writer and this was his public life, in private it is obvious he battled inner demons and urges that eventually spiraled out of control. The allegations were damning and Roebuck had no answer to the charges, it has been reported he was in total despair by his colleague Jim Maxwell. In a few minutes of interrogation he saw his career ending and his life ruined, if these charges were untrue and fabricated then he could easily have proven that.
    Roebuck must’ve have known these charges were going to stick.
    Itai Gondo now feels distressed because people are blaming him for the death when he in fact was the victim.
    It’s a sad end no matter which way you look at it.

  39. Jason Bryce

    “Sexual impropriety is the easiest charge to make and the hardest to dispel.”

    Actually sexual crimes are the hardest to report and easiest to defend. This story is a disgrace.

  40. Jim Reiher

    Mark from Melbourne – I stopped reading Bolt years ago: he makes me so angry with his hateful themes, and hyper conservative nonesense. I cant stand his stuff. On the rare occasion when he says something with a half truth in it, even then it is barbed: it acts as a cover for a dig at some minority group. I am rather horrified to think that I said anything that might resemble something he said.

    David – I did not raise my reflection to push any ‘personal pilgrimage’. I simply asked a question of all of us (myself included); why are we so quick to defend some people and so quick to condemn others? All we have are media reports on issues, and yet we often think the best or the worst of different people when the limited popular material comes our way. Why? I suspect it is because of “what they are involved in” (cricket journalism; the Catholic church; whatever), and we reject or accept them on that basis. I like to chew on the nature of hypocricy, inconsistency and motivation – in myself and in others. And even if it ruffles the featers a bit to do so, it is a healthy thing to do. It helps us grow. It hopefully helps us iron out our inconsistencies and become more conmsistent and more tolerant people over time. I chose a controversial comparison – Catholic Priests – but I felt it was a safe example because I am not of the Catholic fold. I certainly did not want to offend or hijack the conversation.

    But I will drop it. I agree with your main thought: lets leave Peter Roebuck’s memory in a positive light. My intention was never to hurt that.

  41. Jim Reiher

    sorry for my poor spelling! “feathers” instead of “featers’; and “consistent” instead of “conmsistent”.

  42. Lawyercat

    Jason rumours of sexual impropriety are easy

    sexual impropriety and sexual crimes are often not the same.

    what is disgraceful anbout the article

  43. david

    Johnfromplanetearth thanks for your self appointment of God, Judge and Jury.
    Guilty you decided, wearing your 3 hats, case closed.
    I also see the puritans coming out of the woodwork, they with snow white unblemished characters, sickening.

  44. Jason Bryce

    Dear Lawyercat,

    Lemon doesn’t say anything about rumours, he says ‘charges’ are easy to make.

    But all evidence from Australia and elsewhere is that these charges are the hardest of all to make and that is very traumatic for the victims to even make the complaint.

    And the evidence also indicates that sex charges are the easiest of all to defend. Only poor pathetic sex offenders are ever imprisoned for long periods. Rich powerful men defend themselves against sex charges quite often.

    More disgracful is how the writer uses outdated prejudice and old fashioned attitudes to cast unsupportable aspersions about the victim’s character and motives – he’s making it up coz he’s a Mugabe lackey. Where is the evidence that he is making it up? Where is the evidence that he is working for Mugabe? There is none at all but let’s write it anyway to cast doubt on the character of the victim.

    Is that how the media should treat alleged sex assault victims?

  45. Lawyercat

    alleged victim Jason

    as to evidence that sexual charges are easy to defend quote some.

  46. Jason Bryce

    Mr anonymous lawyercat –

    Str8 off the top of my head and without suggesting any guilt of course, I can think of three powerful Australian men who easily dismissed sex charges against them in the last few years – the church’s George Pell, the fmr NSW senior prosecutor Patrick Power who got slap on wrist after 70 references from Sydney’s law community and Charles Bowers, the former AEC boss who was posted to East Timor. Bowers didnt have to defend himself coz after being committed for trial (that means a judge thought there was enough evidence to support a conviction) Nick Cowdery dropped the action.

    Now you tell me what basis you have for claiming sex charges are easy to make? That is the kind of attitude that stops ALLEGED victims from coming forward.

  47. Charles Dodgson

    yes Geoff, Jim’s presence does seem to suggest Peter took his own life. But it is just as likely he was coerced out of the window once Jim and the second policeman left the room. My point is that everyone, Maxwell included, assume he killed himself. From my knowledge of Peter, I think that is unlikely; while I do think it is likely his enemies found a way to silence him.

    Everyone wants to pass a moral judgement on the man. The words of my Sunday School teacher come back to me: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    Just a personal aside: you may have noticed that I am named after an ancestor who has been judged similarly to Peter. In Lewis Carroll’s case it was for taking photographs of children. Given my family connection, we have done an enormous amount of research into this and found that the entirety of this innuendo is based on a single comment made by Alice’s mother, who had a motive to destroy Dodgson’s reputation. Dodgson ceased photography immediately. There was never any evidence of wrong doing and years after his death Alice, herself, confirmed the rumours were baseless. Still, to this day, commentators are willing to jump on the salacious bandwagon. I recently heard an ABC interview with Simon Winchester on the topic. Winchester documents how someone’s reputation can be trashed by selectively placing some suggestions of moral opprobrium. The interviewer, despite Winchester’s logical and evidenced rebuttals, insisted on maintaining her lascivious line of questioning. Winchester was annoyed. My point is that people are lazy and willing to think the worst of others. It takes effort not to judge.

  48. Lawyercat

    Mr Jason I said rumours not charges.

    Oh committal means a magistrate (not a judge) thinks there is enough for a charge to proceed not for a conviction. The DPP is independent and the thought that Nicholas Cowdery would drop an action that was likely to succeed is laughable.

  49. Anne Elk

    Peter Roebuck was the voice of ABC cricket for me, and I always listened for his opinions on the match, the state of the game, and world issues as I truly valued his insights.
    His death is a major loss to the game, and the world is indeed a much darker place without him. I never met him but I certainly wish that I had had the opportunity so many people have had, but will always have the greatest respect for him.
    The piece by Geoff is an excellent summation of the media frenzy of mis-information, sensationalism and innuendo that followed the news I first heard on Sunday morning

  50. Geoff Lemon

    Jason Bryce:

    Clearly you’ve misunderstood my point in a fairly thorough fashion. You’re right that in cases where a genuine assault has occurred, it most often goes unreported, and even if it is reported, rarely results in a charge or conviction. This wasn’t what I was talking about.

    I was talking about fabricating accusations in order to slander someone. If this is someone’s aim, the easiest accusation is of some sort of sexual crime or impropriety. Such an accusation is substantial, emotive, and as difficult to totally disprove as it is to prove. Meaning that even if the case is dismissed, a stain is left on the character of the person accused, precisely because we know that many guilty parties do go free due to lack of evidence. A verdict of not guilty does not provide public exoneration.

    There are two sides to such accusations: people who have truly been assaulted, and people who are falsely accused. Both exist. Both are victims. Contrary to your statement, I haven’t declared that the man in this case is either. I’ve simply said that the possibility and motives for a false accusation have not been adequately declared or considered.

    If you can point out just what’s so disgraceful about considering all possibilities, I’d be fascinated to hear it.

  51. Mike Jones

    Anne Elk, I used to enjoy reading Roebuck’s pieces in the SMH too, but you are ignoring the fact there is an alleged victim of sexual assault here, which would not of itself be a condemnation of Roebuck – but let’s not forget that Roebuck had a conviction for caning three men about the backside “for breaking the rules of his house”. Give me strength, don’t you think that that in itself is just a tiny bit suss ?

    I agree with the comment above suggesting that innocent men with sufficient status and wealth to defend themselves, falsely accused, do not jump out of windows. Jim Maxwell has been quoted as saying that it was most likely that Roebuck jumped and that there is no evidence that he was pushed or thrown out of the window – unless of course it was the man in the book depository or on the grassy knoll.

  52. Peter Ormonde


    I don’t think anyone is in a rush to pass judgement on Peter Roebuck. It is just a sad end for a great writer. The details, the causes and the reasons will no doubt be revealed over time. But till then it is just worth reflecting on the great entertainment and commentary he provided for us. I for one will miss him in my summers.

  53. Jason Bryce

    Dear Geoff Lemon,

    Roebuck was great writer and you liked him and you are sad he is gone. I get that and respect that part of it.

    But it is you “fabricating accusations in order to slander someone.”

    All I think is you have no reason or basis for starting myths and rumours about Itai Gondo – who speaks out here for News Limited –


  54. Geoff Lemon

    I haven’t started myths or rumours. I’ve suggested two possible reasons why these accusations may have been made falsely, which have not been mentioned in news reports. I’ve not once said that Gondo made them up. I’ve said it’s possible he made them up, just as its possible he didn’t. The reasons I’ve given are pretty obvious possibilities, yet other news reports have conspicuously ignored these.

    The basis of our legal system is innocent until proven guilty. If someone makes an accusation, there is an obligation to examine the validity of the accusation and the motive of the witness. In essence, you seem to think we should accept his account as fact simply because he told it to a newspaper.

  55. Johnfromplanetearth

    DAVID: For God’s sake man have a look at what happened and don’t accuse me of being judge and jury you ignoramus. The man was distressed and in despair then jumped out of a window to his death, now why did he do that? He was accused, he considered himself guilty, judged himself and carried out his own sentence. If these allegations were made up then a good lawyer would’ve punched holes through the lies with ease. Itai Gondo has come forward and has given us his statement and that was quoted, now he feels he is being blamed for this tragic death. Roebuck’s personal flaws are well known, i am sure he has done a lot of good with his kindness and generosity, but he obviously mis- read the situation with Itai Gondo. What anyone does in their private life is their business if it is consensual, Roebuck appears to have forgotten that. The whole story is one of sadness and despair.

  56. Masocha Conant

    Geoff to even suggest, however remotely the chances might be, that the Zimbabwe government had anything to do with his death is mischief at the very least and deeply offensive to us Zimbabweans. We hate Mugabe’s ‘murderous regime’ just as much as you do, but when such base less allegations and insunuations are made, then everybody needs to step back a little, as one reader suggest, and examine their motives and concience.
    By all means ignorantly villify the country as much as you like but never stoop so low. In an a otherwise excellent article, clearly here you were clutching at straws; and it is highly suspicious how you tried to lump the South African police in it. Clearly one black government is as equally bad as the next, and this one is happens to be following the path of Zimbabwe? I”m quite certain had this incident happened in Australia, and the allegation made still by a Zimbabwean student there, no such supposition about Australian police would have been made. Thus, the two faced nature of your article was breathtaking in every way .
    Most of Roebuck students were almost exclusively Zimbabwean, so why this inference that it is particularly suspicious that the person who happened to make the allegation was student. Maybe attempted setup by the “student” himself might have sufficed. That the govt was involved is ludicrous.
    By all means this murderous Ziimbabwean government had, as they say, quite bigger fish to fry

  57. david

    Masocha Conant…your ‘loyalty’ to the Magabe murdering regime is abhorrent, you are being, with respect, ridiculous. On one hand you claim hate for Mugabes murdering, evil despicable thugs then procede to announce it is “deeply offensive to us Zimbabweans” to suggest their involvement. For Gods sake they think of nothing about committing the most despicable acts.
    Your racist inferences about the author are equally uncalled for. The Sth African police, whether you like it or not, have got form and for all we know the two officers concerned were white.
    Anyone needs to step back and be calm I suggest you should be first in line.

    Good day.

  58. dan meek

    I literally put palm to face on reading this hoary old clanger: “sexual impropriety is the easiest charge to make and the hardest to dispel”. This is a paraphrase of the “cautionary rule” once read out by old white male judges to juries, that rape is an easy complaint to make and a difficult one to disprove.

    In fact, the shockingly low conviction rates in trials for rape prove the opposite is true. That’s in the cases that survive all the way from complaint to prosecution; most people who experience rape or sexual assault don’t report it. The cautionary rule is a relic and has been abolished in jurisdictions all around the common law world. It would take an incredibly brave man to report a sexual assault by another man, not least in Zimbabwe. So how about we wait for more facts to emerge before smearing rape complainants as a class of people?

  59. Geoff Lemon

    Masocha, your argument is a curious one. You say yourself that Zimbabwe’s government is “murderous”, then you claim that it is offensive to suggest they could have been involved in slander or murder.

    Zimbabwe’s government has murdered, beaten, intimidated, harassed, and exiled journalists and writers over several decades. Just read Basildon Peta. Roebuck was a high-profile international critic of that government. To suggest they had a motive for discrediting or killing him is hardly controversial.

  60. david


    You did it again..you on the turps or something stronger? but whatever, your usual standards apply. Name calling exposes the weakness of your response ‘Your Honour’.

  61. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Charles Dodgson, you might have been debating from a reasonable standpoint until you committed the ultimate hypocrisy. You advised that people should not be lazy and willing to think the worst of others, and then, without any evidence whatsoever, you accuse an unknown policeman of murdering Roebuck. “But it is just as likely he was coerced out of the window once Jim and the second policeman left the room.” That’s pretty grubby.

  62. Charles Dodgson

    I disagree with you Hugh. Policemen have a duty of care toward those they detain. Either the policeman failed to prevent Peter harming himself, or else he initiated the action. In either case he is culpable.

  63. Johnfromplanetearth

    DAVID: You are an imbecile! You have no idea about life, you have no idea about anything at all. I rarely resort toname calling, but the jury has convicted you of being a complete and utter idiot!

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