When insecurity overwhelmed



She was so beautiful he couldn't take his eyes off her. In the hubbub of the crowded departure lounge of Australia's Sydney International Airport 33-year-old businessman Patrick Joiner was transfixed by the dark-haired girl calmly processing his ticket and handing back his travel documents with a smile.

In that moment, on a wet Wednesday in July 1997, Patrick Joiner had seen the girl he wanted to marry and he knew nothing would change his mind.

Nor was he deterred by the fact that the airline girl dealing with hundreds of passengers every day was almost certainly unaware of his existence. To 27-year-old Mary Seretis he would be nothing more than a business-class ticket to Singapore.

If that was the case, Patrick Joiner was determined to change it. Finding a sheet of paper in his briefcase he wrote: "Thank you for brightening my day", returned to the departure desk and pressed the paper into her hand.

During her break after the Singapore flight had departed, Mary showed the note to her friend and workmate Jodie Plum. "What was he like?" asked the intrigued Jodie. "Quite handsome actually," Mary said. "Bet I'll never see him again." But she was wrong. Returning to Australia from his business trip as a sales executive for a specialist computer firm, Patrick Joiner still had the airport girl very much on his mind.

He looked up the phone number of the airline she worked for, got a work number for Mary and began to bombard her with phone calls. "Please come to dinner with me," he begged. "I can't stop thinking about you."

"At first I wondered if he was some sort of nutter," Mary told her friend  Jodie, but finally she agreed to meet Patrick in a busy Sydney restaurant — and knew immediately she had made the right decision. How could she have known that it was a mistake which would cost her life?

Certainly Patrick Joiner seemed to have everything going for him. He was well-paid, successful, ambitious and handsome. More important to Mary he seemed charming, considerate, kind and caring. Soon they were seeing each other nearly every day and within a couple of weeks, Mary was certain she had at last found her true love.

Three months later Patrick asked Mary to marry him and she immediately agreed. The wedding date was set for October, 1998 but it wasn't long before Mary wondered if she really knew the man she was now calling "Mr Wonderful."

Like all brides she loved making wedding plans but Patrick continually complained about the number of guests being invited. "It's our day and we don't need anyone else," he grumbled.

He also complained about the amount of time Mary spent with her best friend Jodie. "You're always out with her," he said. "You should be spending all your time with me."

Soon Mary was trying to understand what had happened to the man she had fallen in love with. He had turned into a moody paranoid stranger.

But eventually, Mary convinced herself that things would change once they were married — and for a while it seemed she was right. They bought a white Victorian-style house in a Sidney suburb and Patrick went back to being the caring happy man she had fallen in love with. He spoiled her with romantic presents and would cook special dinners. He would call her at work at the airport and pick her up when she had finished her shift.

But when he started phoning her six or seven times a day her bosses began to complain and Mary had to ask Patrick to stop calling. "It's not that I don't want to talk to you — we're just so busy," she said.      

After six months of marriage Mary was alarmed by the increase in Patrick's paranoia and insecurity and persuaded him to go with her to visit a therapist. To her surprise he admitted to the therapist, Dr Geoff Price that the relationship had problems and they were mostly his fault.

"He really wants to make our marriage work," Mary told Jodie Plum. "I really think everything's going to be OK from now on." The next day she disappeared.

Two days later, Patrick Joiner phoned Sydney police. "My wife has gone missing," he said. "I haven't phoned before because I was sure she would come back but she hasn't and I'm starting to get really worried." Later in a statement he said: "We had spent a weekend at the Royal National Park and had a really happy time.

On the way back we stopped at a roadside restaurant. "We were in her car. During the meal she just got up and said she had to go somewhere and drove off in the car. I don't know why. I assumed she would come back but she didn't and eventually I got a taxi back home. We hadn't had a row or anything. It is a complete mystery to me."

As a massive police search was launched, Patrick Joiner grabbed the headlines as the tragic husband desperate to find that his wife was safe and sound.

He appeared on TV appealing for information and sent a message, published by Australian newspapers, which read: "To my beautiful Mary. I cannot find you. I've looked everywhere. Just call me when you get home. Love forever, Patrick."

At first police had no reason to link him with the disappearance ... until they began receiving calls from people who claimed to have seen Patrick Joiner driving his wife's VW car after she was supposed to have disappeared.

He was on a remote road to a Sidney suburb called Redfern. So what was he doing there? Joiner's reaction was to categorically deny being in the car and to claim that all the witnesses had been mistaken.

But now detectives were treating Joiner as a suspect rather than a distraught husband. Finally after hours of interrogation, Detective Peter Appelby told Joiner: "We know you are responsible for your wife's disappearance. You might as well admit it now. I suppose you wanted to teach her a lesson. When she walked away it is only natural to let your temper get the better of you..."

Detective Appelby later admitted he was not expecting the outburst that followed. In an alleged statement, Patrick Joiner told him: "I didn't mean to hurt her. I was terrified that she would leave me. I just don't know what happened next."

But in another statement, read out to a Sydney Crown Court, Patrick Joiner did remember. And he admitted that his image as a loving husband had been an elaborate sham. Almost from the start of his marriage he had been cruel and violent to the girl he claimed to adore.

Whenever she did anything which displeased him, Joiner hit or punched his wife and, incredibly she never answered him back ... until they went on the weekend to the Royal National Park in October 2000. The statement claimed: "We had a row and she answered me back. I slapped her and then I slapped her again and she stumbled and fell backwards against some rocks. I saw a red puddle forming round her head where she had fallen against the stones.    

"I felt for her pulse and it was then that I realised she was dead. I panicked and put her into the back of the VW and drove to Redfern where I dumped the car on some scrubland on a remote dirt road. The body was in it. I can show you where it is."

In August 2002, after calling him a "liar and a violent cowardly bully," Judge John McVeigh jailed Patrick Joiner for a minimum of 18 years for manslaughter and assault. "That should give you plenty of time," the judge told him," to learn to curb your temper."

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