Times of Oman
Nov 30, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 10:03 PM GMT
Great injustice - Silently Darryl Beamish was ready to face the gallows
August 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Darryl Beamish on release from jail.

Most days when it's fine, a tall balding man of 73 takes a stroll with his wife and dog along the beach near Sydney, Australia. He may spend the afternoon in the garden of his suburban bungalow or dozing in front of daytime TV. What may seem a boring, even pointless, life to some, is the nearest thing to heaven Darryl Beamish has ever known and he treasures every single day.

And for good reason. Until nearly a decade ago, Darryl Beamish had spent most of his adult life either locked in jail or waiting to die on the gallows for a murder he claimed he didn't commit.

Now a free man for the first time since 1959, Darryl attributes his good fortune to Broken Lives, a book written by Australian campaigning journalist Estelle Blackburn, which pressured the authorities to reopen his case.

After five failed appeals, his conviction was finally overturned and what had been called the greatest injustice in modern Australian criminal law, was finally put right.

But Darryl Beamish did not hear the historic Appeal Court announcement. Nor had he heard the sombre words of the judge who had sentenced him to death in 1960. For Beamish has been unable to hear or speak since birth.

But he could write. And in a written statement after the appeal decision he explained: "I don't want financial compensation. All I have ever wanted is truth and justice. I just want everyone to know for sure that I didn't kill anyone.

"I have always told the truth. The deaf have many problems being misunderstood by people who can hear. I did not understand what was happening at the police station or at my trial in court."

The ordeal that enmeshed Darryl Beamish began in December 1959 when wealthy and beautiful 22-year-old Jillian Brewer, a leading figure in the society life of the Australian city of Perth, was attacked in her luxury apartment on Stirling Highway in the fashionable suburb of Cottesloe.

Jillian Brewer fought the fight of her life, but she lost. Her attacker used a hatchet and a pair of scissors to inflict appalling injuries after a struggle during which furniture was broken, crockery and ornaments smashed and curtains torn down.      

Why would anyone kill Jillian Brewer? Nothing appeared to have been stolen from her apartment; she had no apparent enemies and came from a close and loving family. Not even a reward of $20,000 brought any information. For four months, police vainly sought a breakthrough. When it finally came, it was the prelude to one of the most controversial and baffling cases in Australian legal history:  In April, 1960, Darryl Beamish, then 20, was arrested on charges of minor theft. He admitted the offences and agreed to be bailed, but there was clearly something else on his mind.

Through a sign-language interpreter, Beamish then apparently admitted to the murder of Jillian Brewer. He had no history of violence and was regarded by all who knew him as a harmless and rather sad individual. But at his trial in Perth nine months later, Beamish claimed through his lawyers that the confession of murder had been forced out of him by detectives.   
Nevertheless, Beamish was found guilty of wilful murder and was sentenced to death. Although he appealed unsuccessfully three times against the conviction given to him, his sentence was eventually commuted to life imprisonment.

There the matter rested for three years when Beamish's lawyers received a statement from a 33-year-old criminal named Eric Cooke, in jail awaiting execution for five murders, claiming that Jillian Brewer was one of his victims and Darryl Beamish was completely innocent.

Confident that a pardon would be little more than a formality, Beamish's lawyers again appealed against the conviction.

The case was heard in March 1964 by three judges who were deeply suspicious of Eric Cooke's confession, deciding that much of it did not tie in with known facts.

The judges believed that Cooke h

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