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Certain Admissions
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Certain Admissions

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1731,017,968 (4.4)No n'hi ha cap
Certain Admissions is Australian true crime at its best, and stranger than any crime fiction. It is real-life police procedural, courtroom drama, family saga, investigative journalism, social history, archival treasure hunt - a meditation, too, on how the past shapes the present, and the present the past. On a warm evening in December 1949, two young people met by chance under the clocks at Flinders Street railway station. They decided to have a night on the town. The next morning, one of them, twenty-year-old typist Beth Williams, was found dead on Albert Park Beach. When police arrested the other, Australia was transfixed: twenty-four-year-old John Bryan Kerr was a son of the establishment, a suave and handsome commercial radio star educated at Scotch College, and Harold Holt's next-door neighbour in Toorak. Police said he had confessed. Kerr denied it steadfastly. There were three dramatic trials attended by enormous crowds, a relentless public campaign proclaiming his innocence involving the first editorials against capital punishment in Australia. For more than a decade Kerr was a Pentridge celebrity, a poster boy for rehabilitation – a fame that burdened him the rest of his life. Then, shortly after his death, another man confessed to having murdered Williams. But could he be believed? 'Haigh's work is a mesmerising detective story itself . . . [it] finds a new twist in the archives.' The Saturday Paper 'A beautifully written, tirelessly researched and ultimately very compelling and true story . . . Fascinating and tragic.' Herald Sun 'The trial of John Bryan Kerr was the first murder trial that I read about in detail, as a boy of eleven. I longed, even then, to know the whole story. Gideon Haigh's book has made the wait worthwhile.' Gerald Murnane 'Gideon Haigh understands the real tragedy of murder - it is never really solved.' P. M. Newton.… (més)
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Títol:Certain Admissions
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Informació:Penguin Books Australia
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Etiquetes:House Box 1, Soft

Detalls de l'obra

Certain Admissions: A Beach, a Body and a Lifetime of Secrets de Gideon Haigh

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Intriguing case of a famous unsolved murder in Melbourne. On December 27, 1949, 21 year old Beth Williams was supposed to meet a date "under the clocks" at Flinders St Station, but was stood up. Instead she had a chance meeting with John Bryan Kerr, a suave and immaculately dressed young man with a troubled past. The next morning, Beth's partially naked and strangled body was found on the beach at Albert Park. Kerr was immediately arrested and subjected to a highly dubious interrogation by Melbourne's Homicide Squad, who were noted for their ability to force confessions from reluctant suspects. Kerr strenuously maintained his innocence, and the best police could produce was an unsigned "confession". Kerr was tried three times, the first two trials were deadlocked, but in the third, a highly unsympathetic judge managed to force a guilty verdict and Kerr was sentenced to hang. His sentence was eventually commuted to 20 years, of which he served 12. To the end of his life he continued to protest his innocence. Not long after his death, another man confessed to Beth's murders and others, but as the author discovered the confession was highly dubious. Haigh's diligent pursuit of the truth through dusty and forgotten files produces many intriguing questions but few answers, and in the end, he has no real solution to the question of who murdered Beth Williams, but a stunning piece of evidence leads him to reconsider the possibility that Kerr was guilty all along. Well-researched, tantalising and brilliantly written, this is really a classic of Australian cold case murder. Haigh confirms his reputation as one of Australia's best non-fiction writers with this fascinating work. ( )
  drmaf | May 8, 2018 |
In a leadup event to the 2016 Bendigo Writers Festival, Gideon Haigh came to Dunolly for a discussion with Rosemary Sorensen about CERTAIN ADMISSIONS. A true crime book that I'd been aware of for quite a while, this was the prefect opportunity to sit in the wonderful surrounds of the restored Court House, with a glass of wine and listen to a fascinating session about a case that I'd never heard of before this book.

The research, including the employment of genealogists to investigate family trees and backgrounds, and the thought that has gone into this book is clear on every page. As Haigh discussed the genesis of the book, from the conversation that started it, through to the incredible levels of research and detail he looked into, it became clear that not only is this a most fascinating case, it's one that, at the end of the book, readers will most likely still be divided as to John Bryan Kerr's guilt or innocence.

It's also a timely reminder of how badly victim's have, it seems, always been treated, particularly when they are female and, most especially, when they are young and pretty. Newspaper reports of the time are breathtaking in their disrespect, and the "celebrity" built up around the young, handsome and quite debonair chief suspect just flat out odd.

There's also a circus aspect to the trials and a weird sort of celebrity bad-boy image built around Kerr - to be fair not all of his own making at that time - that might be put down to the lack of entertainment options in those day, but really seems like a sad indictment of the worst of voyeuristic human nature. There are also chilling reminders of the difference in policing styles - the idea that the police made up their minds of who was guilty and then a case was "built" to suit that decision - as opposed to current day investigation principles.

Haigh digs through a wealth of materials about John Bryan Kerr - from the trial records to current day newspaper reports, and the recollections of people who knew him. He also does this with the full knowledge and support of the woman he married after having served his time, and their daughter. Haigh's respect and care of their feelings and sensibilities is palpable within the narrative - this is an author whose touch is respectful but thorough, careful and considerate of all sides of what is, after all, the story of the death of a young woman, and a man who lived his life protesting his innocence until the end.

All of which makes CERTAIN ADMISSIONS an excellent true crime novel. It's beautifully constructed and written, engaging, involving, and never resorting to sensationalism. Respect for the subject, and the participants is palpable, as is the struggle that the author had in constructing the story in a fair and accurate manner. It's a considered and careful progression through the facts, always ensuring that the reader is aware when the author is extrapolating or drawing conclusions (done sparingly). It highlights the difficult position the author of this sort of work, without overtly inserting themselves into the narrative. It personalises everyone as much as possible - the victim, the convicted, the police investigator and the family, in particular, of John Bryan Kerr. It's also one of those books that comes to an ending which allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about what happened the night that Beth Williams died.

https://www.austcrimefiction.org/review/review-certain-admissions-gideon-haigh ( )
  austcrimefiction | Aug 23, 2016 |
Beth Williams was 20 when she was strangled to death on a Melbourne beach in the early morning hours of December 28th, 1949. John Bryan Wallace Kerr, who is the central character of Certain Admissions, was convicted in the Victorian Supreme Court of murdering her and sentenced to death by hanging. This was his third trial. Juries in the preceding trials were unable to agree. He was consistent in his denial that he was the murderer. Kerr did not hang. Though he could gain no credit for remorse, his sentence was commuted to life. He was released in 1962 and eventually established a new life for himself as ‘John Wallace’, revealing his true identity only to trusted friends. He married, had children, divorced amicably and worked for decades as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company before retiring and eventually succumbing to age and illness in 2001. During the years when he served his time in Pentridge prison Kerr’s parents campaigned for his release, claiming that justice had miscarried. His wife and daughter, equally convinced of his innocence, sought a posthumous pardon in 2012 based on a hearsay confession, almost certainly false, by a mentally unstable man who said he had killed Beth Williams and two other women.

Gideon Haigh provides a richly detailed and intimate account of Kerr’s three trials and the prosecutors, police, witnesses and judges who participated in the proceedings. He has interviewed survivors and sought out their children and friends in search of some revealing slip or revelation about a man who had good reason to conceal his past. Trove has been ransacked for greyscale newspaper photographs that evoke Melbourne in the post war decade in all its tawdry glitter. Certain Admissions is written in a style of chatty and occasionally jarring journalese. No newsworthy ‘angle’ or promising digression is left unexplored. There is a recurring note of grimy authenticity in Haigh’s descriptions of the police investigations and the murder trials that followed.

Haigh’s quest for the truth about the murder of Beth Williams, which began with his examination of the records of botched police investigations and failed prosecutions, turned into a biography of John Bryan Kerr as he encountered the people who had known him. Haigh argues that the case against Kerr depended essentially on the jury assessment of ‘the kind of man’ he was. In the long retrospect since his conviction in 1950, Kerr’s entire life became Haigh’s subject matter. His quest ends inconclusively with the admission that he remained ‘suspended between balanced disbeliefs’ in search of an unattainable truth.

The murder of Beth Williams was the tragic result of a conjunction of chance events. She had a date with a sailor who failed to meet her at their rendezvous under the clocks at Flinders Street Station. Her sailor had been delayed by a chance meeting with two fellow crewmen. As Beth waited for her date she encountered Kerr, a fleeting acquaintance, who was on his way home after a lucky win on the Moonee Valley races. They began a casual conversation and, when the sailor failed to appear, dined together expensively and afterwards went to a party together. When the party broke up in the early hours of the morning they were driven to Middle Park, a beachside suburb where Beth lived. According to Kerr, they parted before reaching her lodgings and he made his own way home to Toorak. He was the last person known to have seen her alive. Kerr’s defence counsel would ask the jury to infer that she had been the victim of an inexplicable attack by another person.

The prosecution case against Kerr was circumstantial, apart from an unsigned confession of guilt which he said was a police fabrication. The contained the ‘certain admissions’ of the title. Fabrication is quite possible. In the absence of any direct evidence of the identity of a killer, the Homicide Squad had few investigative resources in those years beyond forced or fabricated confessions. In court, Kerr maintained his innocence and testified in a clear, precise and sonorous voice. He was an impressive witness. He had been educated at one of Melbourne’s most exclusive private schools. He was young man of 24, darkly handsome and dressed with impeccable taste. Kerr was meticulous - a man of polished surfaces. The sonorous voice had been cultivated in amateur theatrical productions and by his subsequent training and intermittent career as a radio announcer. In Pentridge he used the same skills to establish and captain the prison debating team. The three murder trials were a Melbourne sensation, stimulated by the breathless newspaper coverage by local journalists. Spectators, predominantly women drawn by the perverse glamour of a prosecution for murder, crowded the galleries of the Court and queued on the footpaths to wait their turn for admission to the court.

The guilty verdict that concluded the third trial before Justice Charles Lowe probably resulted from the more extensive evidence of Kerr’s character and previous conduct that he permitted the jury to hear. There had been earlier incidents that could support the inference that Kerr had strangled Beth Williams in a moment of impulsive rage. Kerr, it now became apparent, was an arrogant, quarrelsome narcissist. When drunk he was prone to episodes of irrational anger and threatened violence followed by amnesia. On these occasions his friends and associates had restrained him, with some difficulty.

A circumstantial case of murder supported by a dubious confession and evidence of prior occasions of irrational violence is suggestive but far from a conclusive proof of guilt. Kerr had not inflicted serious harm on anyone on those earlier occasions. Police were not called. It is possible that Beth Williams was killed after they parted, in another chance encounter with a stranger. In Pentridge Prison Kerr was a model prisoner, though disliked by many of the prison staff and inmates for his arrogance and privileges as the captain of the debating team. In 1956 he was chosen as a member of the Victorian team to debate Queensland in the opening round of the annual Interstate contest, held at Pentridge. The topic was poignant in its whimsical appeal to the prison audience: ‘Luck Plays the Major Role in Shaping Man’s Destiny’. The Victorian team were required to argue the negative case. The Victorians won, Kerr arguing in an emotional address that ‘Man is the handiwork of God. He has the singular gift of free will’. Luck, he declared, is ‘like a ship that passes in the night’, without lasting effect.

Luck and bad luck are inseparable, however, from the circumstances surrounding the murder of Beth Williams and the criminal trials that followed. It is possible, though unlikely, that Kerr was wrongly convicted. If he was innocent he, as well as Beth Williams, was the victim of cruel mischance. Her loss was the greater of course, for his life was spared. If Kerr was rightly convicted of her murder the element of mischance remains, though the implications are more troubling. It was, perhaps, the fatal conjunction of alcohol and some triggering event or argument on a man of his volatile and irrational temper that ended with strangling of Beth Williams on that deserted Middle Park beach. But for their chance meeting under the Flinders Street clocks the course of Kerr’s life suggests that he might have ended his days as one of that uncounted company of men whose propensity for murder remains unconsummated because it is never put to the test. ( )
1 vota Pauntley | Jan 21, 2016 |
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Certain Admissions is Australian true crime at its best, and stranger than any crime fiction. It is real-life police procedural, courtroom drama, family saga, investigative journalism, social history, archival treasure hunt - a meditation, too, on how the past shapes the present, and the present the past. On a warm evening in December 1949, two young people met by chance under the clocks at Flinders Street railway station. They decided to have a night on the town. The next morning, one of them, twenty-year-old typist Beth Williams, was found dead on Albert Park Beach. When police arrested the other, Australia was transfixed: twenty-four-year-old John Bryan Kerr was a son of the establishment, a suave and handsome commercial radio star educated at Scotch College, and Harold Holt's next-door neighbour in Toorak. Police said he had confessed. Kerr denied it steadfastly. There were three dramatic trials attended by enormous crowds, a relentless public campaign proclaiming his innocence involving the first editorials against capital punishment in Australia. For more than a decade Kerr was a Pentridge celebrity, a poster boy for rehabilitation – a fame that burdened him the rest of his life. Then, shortly after his death, another man confessed to having murdered Williams. But could he be believed? 'Haigh's work is a mesmerising detective story itself . . . [it] finds a new twist in the archives.' The Saturday Paper 'A beautifully written, tirelessly researched and ultimately very compelling and true story . . . Fascinating and tragic.' Herald Sun 'The trial of John Bryan Kerr was the first murder trial that I read about in detail, as a boy of eleven. I longed, even then, to know the whole story. Gideon Haigh's book has made the wait worthwhile.' Gerald Murnane 'Gideon Haigh understands the real tragedy of murder - it is never really solved.' P. M. Newton.

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