Piecing together anatomy of murder

WITNESSES are helping police reconstruct the final moments of Michelle Beets’s life.Detectives spent yesterday piecing together the hours after Ms Beets finished her shift at Royal North Shore Hospital on Tuesday to the moment she was found dead on the verandah of her Chatswood house about 6.20pm.Results of an autopsy, which would show the type of blade used to kill her, were expected last night.Police cordoned off a toilet block in a nearby park where they found bloodstains, leading them to suspect the killer may have tried to clean himself after the attack.They suspect the killer, described as a man wearing a green hoodie and backpack, may have fled there, but because of a malfunction in a nearby council security camera they could not see any images.Police have lots of footage from other security cameras and they locked down Holland Street again last night so that the dog walkers who disturbed Ms Beets’s killer could go through what they saw and heard.Ms Beets got home late because her car would not start after she stopped to buy groceries.The acting commander of the homicide squad, Detective acting Superintendent Mick Sheehy, said it was too early to tell if Ms Beets had been targeted or if she interrupted a burglary.Superintendent Sheehy said there was no clear evidence that the killer was waiting but there was evidence suggesting that someone had tried to break into the rear of the house.”It is a horrific, gruesome crime but it is far too early to identify whether it be targeted or an unfortunate timing incident,” he said.Superintendent Sheehy also confirmed that Ms Beets’s house alarm had been triggered minutes before she got home.Ms Beets’s partner of 19 years, a Sydney lawyer, David Grant, had given a statement to police about her movements and any associations or conflicts which could have contributed to the murder.Her brother, Marty Beets, said Mr Grant was staying with friends and was too upset to talk: ”He’s in total shock.” Last night Mr Grant was due to identify his partner’s body, which is being held at the Glebe morgue.Yesterday flags flew at half mast at Royal North Shore Hospital, where Ms Beets worked in the emergency department for 25 years. Colleagues were offered counselling.
Nanjing Night Net

Inquest to reopen as Wilhelm walks

”FINALLY it has come to an end,” the judge said as he sentenced Mark Wilhelm yesterday.But as Wilhelm left the Supreme Court – with a conviction, but no other penalty – the former coroner under whose scrutiny the case of Dianne Brimble developed its high public profile decided there was unfinished business.Jacqueline Milledge, who is now a local court magistrate, will reopen the inquest to make findings about Mrs Brimble’s death, and recommendations, including those about the cruise ship industry.The inquest had been terminated, after 17 months, in July 2007, when Ms Milledge referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider charges against three people.Yesterday Justice Roderick Howie convicted Wilhelm, who pleaded guilty to supplying Ms Brimble with GHB, also known as fantasy or liquid ecstasy, before she died in his cabin on a P&O cruise ship in September 2002.Living a ”hell of a seven years” of public humiliation and personal anguish over her death was enough punishment for Wilhelm, Justice Howie said.Mrs Brimble’s first husband, Mark Brimble, has campaigned for reforms of the cruise ship industry since her death from an overdose of GHB and alcohol on board the Pacific Sky.Mr Brimble would not comment on Wilhelm’s sentence, but said: ”Evil does not have the last word. God does.”Since Mrs Brimble’s death there have been reforms in the cruise ship industry, but Mr Brimble, who is also the Australian representative of the International Cruise Victims Association, believes a similar incident could still happen.P&O and Royal Caribbean have introduced changes including drug sniffer dogs at the wharf, luggage searches and CCTV cameras on board. But Mr Brimble said not everyone has learnt the painful lessons: ”We may have changed a company, we haven’t changed an industry.”Last year, police services around the Pacific agreed on who is responsible for incidents at sea involving passengers from various states. All incidents now have to be assessed by experienced investigators.P&O now treats all security incidents as suspicious and has implemented clear procedures for the preservation of crime scenes. The inquest heard that the occupants of the cabin in which Mrs Brimble died were allowed to remove their belongings, including the drug which contributed to her death. This hampered the police investigation, which led to the need for an inquest.Both P&O and Royal Caribbean said they had implemented responsible service of alcohol procedures.P&O said it had a ”zero tolerance” for excessive behaviour. The company said disruptive passengers were now sent home from the next port.But Mr Brimble said he hoped the coroner would make a recommendation for a body to monitor the industry and oversee the investigations of crimes at sea.A date for the resumption of the inquest has yet to be set.
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They ran the state, and now in retirement they’re running up bills

RETIRED premiers spent more than $1.2 million in taxpayer-funded expenses last year on top of their parliamentary pensions.The former Liberal premier Nick Greiner spent more than $500,000 on an office, chauffer-driven car, first-class flights and secretarial staff in 2009, 17 years after he left office.Neville Wran’s perks cost the state $411,483 last year, despite the former Labor premier leaving Parliament in 1986.Bob Carr, who retired in 2005, cut his expenses by more than $100,000 on the previous year, spending $326,525 in 2009, including $2500 on stationery.Morris Iemma, who won the 2007 election but was in office for only three years and one month, was relatively cheap, spending $36,199, mostly on car expenses. Mr Iemma, who has recently begun working as a solicitor after a long illness, receives an indexed lifetime pension of more than $130,000 a year.His successor, Nathan Rees, who returned to the backbench after a 15-month stint as premier, chose not to take up Kristina Keneally’s offer of a car and driver: ”I catch trains and work out of my electorate office.”The figures, obtained under freedom-of-information laws by Channel Nine, reveal the lifetime entitlements granted to those premiers who served at least one parliamentary term are much more generous than those who had shorter stints in the state’s top office.A spokeswoman for Ms Keneally said the system of entitlements for long-serving premiers was set up in 1975 and includes an office with two staff, a car and a driver, 12 first-class flights within Australia, 12 flights within NSW, free public transport in Sydney and free rail travel across Australia.The Labor premier Barrie Unsworth, who served 21 months until 1988, and the Liberal premier John Fahey, who served less than three years until 1995, receive virtually nothing above their parliamentary pensions.Since resigning as premier and treasurer in 1992, Mr Greiner has established a lucrative career as a company director.Last year taxpayers forked out $209,000 for salaries and superannuation for his staff, $169,000 for his Macquarie Street office, $9000 in air travel, $40,000 in car expenses and $72,000 on IT consultants and utility bills.The state’s longest continuous serving premier, Mr Carr, is now a highly paid consultant to Macquarie Bank and a director of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.He spent $174,000 on staff, $87,000 on his Bligh House office, $2700 on air travel, $33,000 on a car, $2500 on stationery and $26,000 in other expenses.
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Coalition argues for sustainable population

IMMIGRATION levels would be adjusted every year under a Coalition government to ensure population growth remained economically and environmentally sustainable.In a policy unveiled yesterday by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and his immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, most categories of migrants, including foreign students, would have their numbers trimmed annually if necessary to keep population growth on a sustainable footing.”At the moment, it’s growing in an out-of-control and unsustainable way,” Mr Abbott said.Under the policy, the Productivity Commission would be restructured as the Productivity and Sustainability Commission.In a system similar to the inflation band the Reserve Bank uses for setting interest rates, the new commission would establish a population growth band with upper and lower limits of growth.The growth band would be set every five years or so, taking into account such factors as the economy, skill demands, environmental stresses and infrastructure such as roads and housing. Each year the migration intake would be adjusted to ensure population growth stayed within the band.The Coalition would also put updated population projections in the budget each year.All migrant streams – classified as anyone with a visa for 12 months or more – would be subject to assessment every year, including foreign students.”The Coalition will exercise flexibility within programs to reprioritise intakes to ensure a primary focus on skilled migration,” the policy says.Population has become a sensitive political issue since late last year when the Treasury estimated that at current immigration and birthrates, Australia’s population of 22 million would reach 36 million by the middle of the century.The Prime Minister initially endorsed the figure, saying he welcomed the prospect of a ”big Australia”. The government has since backed well away from the statement, saying 36 million is a forecast, not a target.Kevin Rudd recently appointed Tony Burke as Population Minister and charged him with coming up with a policy over the next 12 months to keep population growth on a sustainable footing.The most recent Herald/Nielsen poll found 54 per cent of voters found immigration levels were too high, an increase of 11 points since November last year.Also, 51 per cent believe 36 million was too many people, 27 per cent said it was just right, and only 2 per cent felt it was too few.Yesterday Mr Abbott emphasised repeatedly Mr Rudd’s endorsement of a big Australia.”Australia’s large cities are choking on their traffic and Australia’s environment is under pressure everywhere and that’s why the Coalition rejects Mr Rudd’s big Australia population target of 36 million people,” Mr Abbott said.Mr Burke turned on Mr Abbott, saying his claim the government has a target of 36 million ”is a lie”.”It’s merely a projection from Treasury. It is not a target. Not an ambition. Not a policy,” he said.”At least they’ve started to realise this issue is about infrastructure and sustainable growth. The next step for the Coalition will be if they can finally acknowledge regional difference.”Both Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison need to leave Sydney for even a minute and start understanding the population pressures are very different in different parts of the country.”
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Still too early for the Tiger show to be all about golf

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina: The mess Tiger Woods created for himself most likely will never leave him entirely. But the time will come when the focus shifts almost exclusively to his game, his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus and his place in history. That time is not this week at the US PGA Tour’s Quail Hollow Championship.The tournament is a sellout – even some of the caddies couldn’t scrounge up tickets for their friends – and these tickets were sold to the general public. Security has been beefed up, as expected. Even that won’t keep someone from saying something stupid during the five hours or longer that Woods is on the golf course.Are we back to normal? Not quite.Woods tees off on Thursday (tomorrow, Sydney time) on the 10th tee with British Open champion Stewart Cink and two-time major winner Angel Cabrera. That means he will be making his way along the ”Green Mile” at Quail Hollow – as brutal a finishing span as there is in golf – on Friday afternoon when the crowd is gearing up for the weekend and has had plenty of refreshments.Eventually, the attention will be mostly on his golf. Cink began preaching forgiveness in December even before Woods confessed to extramarital affairs. He is hopeful that having one tournament out of the way will allow Woods, and those watching, to get back to golf.”It’ll be a different crowd, but I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of unruliness,” Cink said.”I don’t know if that’s optimistic or what. That’s just what I think is going to happen. I think people love watching Tiger Woods play golf. All that other stuff that’s happened, people have forgiven him. And why not? We’re supposed to forgive.”Forgive and forget?That might be asking too much.The best tonic for Woods is playing golf because that’s what attracted so many people to him in the first place. It would help even more if he were to win, and he showed how close he might be with a tie for fourth at the Masters, despite not having played in five months. Still, even a victory pose in a red shirt won’t erase five months of sordid revelations.Such is the price Woods will have to pay for his reckless behaviour.”Now every one of you has good reason to be critical of me,” Woods said when he spoke to family and friends in his first public apology at the TPC Sawgrass in February.Woods goes back to Sawgrass next week for The Players Championship, the same clubhouse where he showed his face for the first time since running his car over a fire hydrant and into a tree in November, setting off this sex-laden saga.He will not be in the Sunset Room, set aside for corporate hospitality that week. He will be facing a crowd that celebrates misery, which is why so many of them camp out around the island green 17th hole on the Players Stadium Course. It will be another step in his recovery, win or lose. An uncertain reception awaits at Quail Hollow.AP
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