herald

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Fury as Jill body photo shown at men's fundraiser

A CRIME scene photo of tragic Jill Meagher's body lying in a shallow grave was shown to an audience of hundreds of men by a leading homocide detective who investigated her murder in Australia.

Victoria Police has offered the force's sincerest apologies for what it called an "unfortunate error".

The photograph of the murdered Irish woman was shown by homicide squad veteran, Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles, as part of a talk about his job at a charity event.

The image caused distress to members of the 400-strong audience at a Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia fundraiser in Bendigo last Friday.

And acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Fontana has since apologised for Mr Iddles' actions.

APOLOGIES

"This was a deeply unfortunate error of judgment and my sincere apologies are extended to Jill's family, friends, the community, and in particular to her husband, Tom," he said.

Jill's mother-in-law Joan Meagher, who lives in Cabinteely, Dublin, said that she was taken aback by the incident.

"We hadn't heard about this and I'm shocked by it.

"Why would anyone show such an image to a fundraiser for a men's cancer?" she told the Herald. "I don't know in what circumstances it was shown, but it hardly seems appropriate and I can only imagine that people were shocked at seeing it.

"I can only hope that it was a genuine and unfortunate mistake on behalf of the man giving the talk, and I'm not calling for him to resign because we just don't know enough about the situation," Joan explained.

Jill's grieving husband Tom remained in Australia for the trial of Adrian Bayley, who was given a life sentence for Jill's rape and murder in September 2012. He has since moved back to Ireland.

Members of the audience at the charity fundraiser have said they were upset by the graphic image shown to them.

"I was shocked, and where I was sitting a few people looked at each other and there were raised eyebrows," one said.

Another said the picture had appeared abruptly on the screen. "I looked but I had to look away," he commented. "It was a photo in a shallow grave; obviously, they had just opened it."

Australian newspaper The Herald Sun reported that some audience members were also perplexed that Detective Sen-Sgt Iddles discussed personal details of the Meagher family after the picture of her semi-naked body was shown.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Fontana said Det Sen-Sgt Iddles has been one of Victoria Police's most dedicated and hardworking detectives for more than 30 years.

WARNED

Local National Party MP Damien Drum said the talk had been "outstanding" and the audience had been warned about the content.

"I was there supporting prostate cancer and I found the presentation appropriate given the context of a homicide detective talking about the work that homicide detectives do day in day out," he said.

The use of the image in the talk has also been defended by the Prostate Council of Australia.

Event organiser Keith Sutherland said the charity lunch went "exceptionally well".

"We were just trying to get the message out to 400 local men about prostate cancer," he said. "We raised AUS$70,000 (€47k)."

cfeehan@herald.ie

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