Sunday, January 25, 2009

Justice finally done over a very sad story

A CORONER who cleared a woman of killing her baby sister when the woman was two — finding that her mentally ill mother was instead responsible for the death — has commended the now 49-year-old for her "extraordinary strength and courage" in pursuing the truth.

Ann Kramer grew up thinking she had killed her sister Margaret Loomes, who was six-months-old when she died in March 1961. In an inquest into the baby's death the same year, Coroner Harry Pascoe found that Ann had accidentally suffocated Margaret while playing with her in her crib in their Clayton home. The girls' mother, Phyllis Loomes, told police she went into the rear bedroom to get Margaret for a bath and found Ann, two years and nine months, kneeling on the bed with her arms across her little sister in the crib. She said Margaret's head was covered by a blanket and plastic bag, and she was not moving.

But confessions by Mrs Loomes before her death in 1983 led a Supreme Court judge to overturn the original finding last October. After a new inquest, coroner John Olle yesterday found that Mrs Loomes had killed Margaret.

Ann Kramer and her 77-year-old aunt, Joan Keating, Mrs Loomes' sister, cried and embraced when Mr Olle gave his finding. Both women told police that Mrs Loomes had confessed to them that she was responsible for Margaret's death.

Mr Olle said Phyllis Loomes had placed a plastic bag over Margaret's head, which she falsely attributed to Ann, because she was not coping with her infant. He said Mrs Loomes was probably suffering post-natal depression at the time. Mr Olle noted that Mrs Loomes suffered significant mental illness. He said she was admitted to various psychiatric institutions between 1960 and 1980, whose patient records contained references to killing Margaret.

In 1980, Mrs Loomes was charged with murdering her former husband, Colin, by striking him with a heavy object. She was found unfit to plead at the Victorian Supreme Court in 1981 and committed suicide at Pentridge Prison two years later.

In a statement to police in May last year, Mrs Kramer said: "I grew up thinking I had killed my little sister. As I grew older I had terrible guilt and thought that I must have been jealous of my little sister. "Even though I knew as a child I couldn't have known the danger of plastic bags, I still thought that maybe I had been mean to my little sister because I didn't want to share my parents with her. "It was something I was ashamed of and tried hard to put out of my mind, although I was frequently reminded of my guilt when my mother told people that she had seven children, but only six were living."

Police reopened the investigation into Margaret's death after she wrote to the State Coroner in 2006 to challenge the official version. Her mother told her in the early 1970s that she had killed Margaret because Mr Loomes had not wanted another daughter, and she had been "sick" at the time.

Mrs Kramer addressed Mr Olle from the courtroom floor to express her gratitude "for the opportunity to finally have the truth heard and understood". "The reason it's taken so long is because, with our family history, it was thought better to ignore this and pretend it didn't exist — but it did for me," she said. "When mum confessed I felt better, relieved, but it didn't make everything OK because everyone thought I was a murderer. It has caused me considerable distress. "This has not been easy for some members of my family, some of them think it would be best left unexamined, because life is easier that way." She commended her aunt for supporting the renewed investigation and focusing on events that were "extremely difficult for her to relive".

Mr Olle had high praise for both women. "The burden carried by Ann Kramer is now lifted," he said. "Throughout her life, culminating in her determination to right a wrong, she has displayed extraordinary strength and courage. Her Aunty Joan has also displayed enormous courage, to ensure that the truth has prevailed." The women held hands as they left court after the finding.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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