Murder of Janine Balding
An image of Janine Balding
|Date||8 September 1988|
|Sentence||Life imprisonment plus 25 years|
|Publication bans||Four of those convicted were minors at the time of the offence, and their names suppressed|
Janine Kerrie Balding was a homicide victim who was abducted, raped and murdered by a homeless gang of five (four youths and an adult) on 8 September 1988, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Balding's murder is often compared to the notorious 1986 murder of Sydney nurse Anita Cobby.
Balding was born on 7 October 1967 and lived in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales before moving to Sydney and gaining employment as a teller at a branch of the then State Bank of New South Wales on George Street. She was due to marry her fiancé Steven Moran in March 1989. The couple had purchased a house in Berkeley Vale, approximately 50 km (31 miles) north of Sydney, and rented out that house to help finance their wedding.
Abduction and murder
These persons were Bronson Blessington, Matthew Elliott, Stephen 'Shorty' Jamieson, Wayne Wilmot and Carol Ann Arrow.
Blessington had met Jamieson and Elliott at a homeless shelter named 'The Station' in the Sydney CBD earlier that day and had proposed "Why don't we get a sheila and rape her?", a quote which became infamously known through Australian news media. The idea was agreed to. Arrow and Wilmot joined in. The victim, who was to be picked at random, became Balding.
She was driven in her vehicle to the side of the F4 Freeway at Minchinbury in Sydney's west, and during that time was partially stripped of her clothing and raped at knifepoint by Blessington, Jamieson and Elliott. Arrow and Wilmot were in the car but did not rape her. On arrival at Minchinbury, she was again raped. She was then dragged from her vehicle, gagged with a scarf, hog-tied, then lifted over a fence and carried into a paddock by Blessington, Jamieson and Elliott. She was then held down and drowned in a dam on the property.
- Matthew James Elliott, aged 16 at the time of the murder
- Bronson Matthew Blessington, aged 14 at the time of the murder
- Stephen Wayne 'Shorty' Jamieson, aged 22 at the time of the murder
- Wayne Lindsay Wilmot, aged 15 at the time of the murder
- Carol Ann Arrow, aged 15 at the time of the murder
All five members of the group were arrested and charged over the murder of Balding and each faced court. After weeks of deliberations and testimonies, Elliot, Blessington and Jamieson were each given life sentences plus 25 years, while Wilmot was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail and Arrow released on a good behaviour bond as the pair did not participate in the rape and murder.
The sentencing of Blessington and Elliot became a topic of extreme controversy, because at the time they committed the murder and were sentenced, they were aged 14 and 16, respectively—becoming the youngest killers in Australia to be convicted and given the maximum sentence for murder.
In sentencing the defendants, Justice Newman said:
- To sentence people so young to a long term of imprisonment is of course a heavy task. However, the facts surrounding the commission of these crimes are so barbaric that I believe I have no alternative other than to impose upon [these] young prisoners, even despite their age, a life sentence. So grave is the nature of this case that I recommend that none of the prisoners in the matter should ever be released.
In 2007, Elliott and Blessington were granted an additional appeal based on a staple missing from their files. Essentially, it was argued, because the Crown indictment was not stapled to the court file, it was not "fixed" to the court file as required by law and the judgement was therefore not technically finalised. The High Court of Australia subsequently rejected this ground of appeal.
|Stephen Wayne Jamieson||Murder||Sentenced to life imprisonment plus 25 years|
|Matthew James Elliott||Murder||Sentenced to life imprisonment plus 25 years|
|Bronson Matthew Blessington||Murder||Sentenced to life imprisonment plus 25 years|
|Wayne Lindsay Wilmot||Accessory to murder||Sentenced to nine years and four months' imprisonment (later extended by six months for escaping lawful custody, and served 7½ years before being paroled. Currently incarcerated for multiple parole violations.)|
|Carol Ann Arrow||Accessory to murder||Sentenced to a three-year good behaviour bond plus 19 months of time served in custody|
Jamieson is currently housed in Goulburn Correctional Centre in maximum security.
Blessington is currently housed in Mid North Coast Correctional Centre in maximum security. After being sentenced in 1990 at age 16, Blessington served two years in Minda Youth Detention Centre and stated that he had become a born-again Christian. A day after turning 18 he was transferred to Long Bay Correctional Centre where he served some time prior to being transferred to Goulburn Correctional Centre. He served some years there prior to being transferred to the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre. In 2012 he was reclassified from maximum security to medium security until July 2015, when he was again reclassified and returned to maximum security.
In 1998, Wilmot returned to prison for seven years after an attempted abduction and rape of a young girl in Western Sydney just two years after being released for time served over the accessory to murder of Balding. Wilmot was then linked to an earlier attack on a 19-year-old woman at Leightonfield, New South Wales after undertaking a DNA testing program for prisoners.
In 2003, the NSW Innocence Project (a joint project by the NSW Police Force, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Privacy Commissioner) used the latest DNA techniques to review the DNA evidence of the crime. This was done because Jamieson denied taking part in the murder, and one of the murderers had claimed that it was 'Shorty' Wells (rather than 'Shorty' Jamieson) who had committed the murder.
The DNA results demonstrated that Jamieson's DNA was not found in a rectal swab taken from the victim at autopsy, and neither was the DNA of Wells. Police Minister John Watkins announced that the NSW Innocence Project would be suspended. Arrow subsequently stated that Jamieson was one of the murderers.
In late October 2014 the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that the sentences of Blessington (then 14) and Elliott (16) breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee asked the Australian Government to "review the case and remedy the human rights breach".
In February 2016, Blessington lodged an appeal to be released from prison given he was only 14 at the time he committed the murder. Blessington claimed "he found God", that he was remorseful for his actions and was a changed man. Despite these claims, Janine's family reported that nearly three decades on from the murder, it had not received any formal apology or letter from Blessington expressing such remorse and did not believe he had changed.
Janine's mother Beverley co-wrote, with journalist Janette Fife-Yeomans, a book entitled The Janine Balding Story – A Journey Through A Mother's Nightmare, in which she relates how her family coped with the loss of Janine, of the police investigations and the lengthy trials. In October 2013—shortly after what would have been Janine's 46th birthday—and after suffering from and battling two-and-a-half years of depression, Beverley Balding died after a short stay in hospital. She is buried alongside her daughter in the Wagga Lawn Cemetery.
- Howard, Amanda. "The Murder of Janine Balding". Crimeweb. Archived from the original on 5 March 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Prisk, Max; Stephens, Tony; Bowers, Michael (2005). The Big Picture: Diary of a Nation. Sydney: Doubleday. p. 363. ISBN 978-1-74166-574-1.
- Kidd, Paul B. The Australian Crime File(2005), The Five Mile Press: Melbourne
- Sheppard, Julia (1997). Someone else's daughter: the life and death of Anita Cobby. Sydney: Pan Macmillan. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-7329-0916-1.
- Dean, Anabel (28 November 1988). "Youth Had Knife: Balding Witness". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Kevin, Greene; Debus, Bob (3 May 2005). "Bronson Blessington Sentence Redetermination Application". Parliament of New South Wales. Sydney. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Fife-Yeomans, Janet (9 July 2007). "Crime file review after killer appeal". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Jacobsen, Geesche (8 November 2007). "Balding's killers lose bid to appeal". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- "Teen killers of Janine Balding have received 'cruel, inhumane and degrading' punishment: UN". Sydney Morning Herald. 21 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
- Bolton, Katrina (9 November 2003). "A Question of Innocence". ABC Radio National. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 8 April 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- "Shorty Jamieson Was Killer". The Daily Telegraph. 22 July 2006.
- Webster, Michelle (27 November 2009). "'Killer should stop wasting public money'". The Daily Advertiser. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Allard, Tom (22 November 2014). "Teen killers of Janine Balding have received 'cruel, inhumane and degrading' punishment: UN". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
According to the UN, the prison term and highly remote prospect of parole breached article 7 of the covenant – that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". The sentence contravened another article in the covenant – that juveniles be punished as minors and that penitentiary systems have rehabilitation as an "essential aim".