Family hides as tribunal frees killer

By: Tony Koch

A TERRIFIED mother and her three children are in hiding after she was told the killer of her eldest daughter has been granted leave from mental hospital after just 2 1/2 years.
Friends and family of Robyn Clarke have spirited her and her three remaining children, Erin, 18, Patrick, 16, and Shannon, 8, away from their Gold Coast address which is known to the criminally insane killer.
Mrs Clarke has been told by the Mental Health Tribunal's patient review body that Claude John Gabriel, 23, has had ``leave'' approved.
She has been told she will not be given any other information on Gabriel who stabbed 17-year-old Janaya Clarke 13 times just hours after he met her on the Gold Coast in November 1998.
Mrs Clarke does not know when or where Gabriel will be at any time, or whether he will be under escort.
As well, she was told that she was not allowed to tell any news media of his release.
Gabriel can never be charged with murder because the Mental Health Tribunal chaired by Justice Richard Chesterman assessed that at the time of the crime he was suffering a mental illness and therefore not able to be tried before a jury.
Instead, he was confined as a patient at the John Oxley Hospital at Wacol, from which he escaped a year ago and was caught on the way to the airport.
A close friend of Mrs Clarke said the family was devastated and questioned how a person could coldly stab to death a teenage girl and 30 months later be found by ``experts'' to be mentally fit to be back in society.
``How could they be sure he won't do it again,'' the friend said. ``Robyn is beside herself with terror.
``This is just appalling. She has been the victim since Janaya was killed while this man has been given leave -- no doubt preparatory to release altogether.
``I just wish some of these Queensland politicians or these doctors could see what it is like to be a victim -- see what Robyn and the children are going through -- and then perhaps they would not be so keen to be a bleeding heart for a vicious murderer.
``Robyn's treatment by the patient review tribunal in not even allowing her to attend hearings is just dreadful. She has not only lost her daughter, she has lost her own life, and now she is in hiding and ordered by these faceless bureaucrats not to tell anyone about it.
``Well, I'll tell the bloody world. And let them put me in jail for it if they want.''
Homicide Victims Support Group spokesman Ted Flack said it was outrageous that justice had been denied to Janaya Clarke's family.
``The Victims of Crime Act acknowledges international principles for victims, but the Mental Health Tribunal (legislation) has absolutely no concern for them,'' he said.
``The decision to grant leave to this killer offends any sort of notion of protection of society which is an important element of the justice system.
``In particular there is no protection for the Clarke family. The threat that hangs over that family -- real or imagined doesn't matter -- is a terrible burden. We are outraged that no appropriate advice about where or how this person may be at large in the community is made available to the family.''
Mr Flack said it was outrageous the system completely failed to provide any assurance to the family ``that they could get on with their lives -- broken as they are as a result of their experience''.