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Leslie Alfred CAMILLERI





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Rape
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: October 6, 1997
Date of arrest: October 28, 1997
Date of birth: May 31, 1969
Victim profile: Lauren Margaret Barry, 14, and Nichole Emma Collins, 16
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: New South Wales/Victoria, Australia
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders, never to be released, on April 27, 1999

R v Camilleri [1999] VSC 184 (27 April 1999)

Supreme Court of Victoria
Criminal Jurisdiction

No. 1605 of 1998

The Queen
Leslie Alfred Camilleri

His Honour:

  1. Leslie Alfred Camilleri, the jury empanelled upon your trial has, after hearing a considerable body of evidence and a period of due deliberation, found you guilty of the murder of a 14 year old girl named Lauren Margaret Barry and her 16 year old companion Nichole Emma Collins.


  2. You have also admitted to 146 prior convictions arising out of nine court appearances before the courts between August 1988 and October 1997. In your favour, I observe that they do not relate to crimes of violence. Nevertheless, they are reflective of a lifestyle of dishonesty and continuing disregard of the rights of others. There is ample material to demonstrate that you clearly are a very violent person capable of outbursts of explosive temper. Not only has this aspect of your personality emerged from the evidence given in the trial, but it was commented upon in 1993 in a psychiatric report tendered by your counsel in the course of the plea presented on your behalf. That reads in part:

    "His present troubles apparently stem from a pattern of theft and vandalism which have been his reaction to social ostracism, leading to frustration, which because of poor impulse control has ended in explosive outbursts of destructive behaviour."


  3. The background to, and circumstances surrounding, the commission of the offences for which you must now be sentenced have been the subject of consideration by me when imposing sentence upon your co-offender, Lindsay Hoani Beckett, and, of course, as I have just suggested, as the evidence unfolded in the course of your trial.


  4. When dealing with Beckett I was mindful, as I indicated in my sentencing remarks, that it was essentially his version which was before the Court at that stage, although I was supported in significant respects by the statements of a number of witnesses. Rather than setting out again that version, I will append a copy of my sentencing remarks in his case to the typed copy of these reasons.


  5. I have now heard the evidence of a large number of witnesses, including Beckett himself, and I have had an extensive opportunity to consider both the person and the version which Beckett advanced in your trial. Not surprisingly, and for more than one reason, I observed him very closely during the period of five days during which he was in the witness box. Among other matters, I was concerned to ascertain what parts of his story were challenged in cross-examination and to assess his credibility, in part, in the light of and by reference to the challenges made. In this context it is significant that, whilst the jury was invited by your counsel in the course of his address to reject what Beckett said, and although some of the areas of criticism with which he dealt were lightly touched upon in cross-examination, Beckett was not challenged in the witness box, I suspect for very good reasons, about a large number of quite important parts of his version. For example, he was not asked anything at all about the circumstances under which your semen came to be found on a shirt worn by Lauren Barry, a piece of evidence of considerable significance in the circumstances.


  6. With respect to the individual, it would almost have been comforting had I been able to perceive that there was within Beckett, at least at this stage, some slight sense, if not of remorse, of appreciation of the true significance of what he had done. Regrettably, my earlier expressed description of him was reinforced.


  7. With respect to his version of events, much of the detail that Beckett had provided at a quite early stage of the investigation and throughout its progress in a number of statements to the police, as well as the witness statements that I had earlier perused, has now been confirmed on oath by witnesses. Ultimately, and remaining acutely conscious of the personality and possible motivations of Beckett, I have accepted that what he said was very close to the truth, although I doubt that even he would, at this stage, be able to recall precisely what took place during the hours leading to the deaths of the two girls.


  8. There are a number of reasons, some of which relate to the circumstances at the time and some which arose subsequently, to explain this state of affairs. Important among them is the fact, which I accept beyond reasonable doubt, that both Beckett and you were heavily affected by the repeated injection of amphetamine both before and during the period that your victims were under your control. It is also necessary to bear in mind that Beckett possessed, as I remarked when sentencing him, absolutely no concern or conscience about what was happening at the time of the events which he later endeavoured to recall. In his mind, the abduction and physical and sexual abuse of the two girls was perceived as being quite unimportant. There is a strong possibility that he would not even have bothered to retain much of the detail in his mind. I adverted to the latter point indirectly, when sentencing him, in passages in which I indicated that there was, for practical purposes, a total silence on his part in relation to anything that either Nichole Collins or Lauren Barry may have said or done during the period that they were under your joint control. At that time, I queried the reliability of his version on this aspect. I suspected that he may have deliberately omitted references to happenings, statements or the emotional responses of your young victims in order to avoid exposure of the extent of the terror which they experienced on that terrible night. However, after observing him in the witness box, I became satisfied that he genuinely did not remember matters that were, to him, of no significance whatsoever. As I have indicated, whilst I do not consider that Beckett's version can be accepted as entirely accurate in its detail and, of course, he was eager to emphasise for more than one reason that he did not act alone, I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that reliance can be placed upon much of what he has asserted. Specifically, I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that his description of the occurrences at Fiddler's Green Creek was accurate. In arriving at this view, I should indicate that I have reconsidered the evidence having regard to the submissions made by your counsel to the jury and in the course of his address on the plea.


  9. I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, and consistent with the jury's verdict, that, contrary to your assertion to the police, you were alert and involved in picking up the two girls. I think that it is highly likely that you were at that time in a state of aggressive excitation produced in part by the amphetamine which Beckett and you had both been using during the day, and you may also have been affected by alcohol. At this point I think that I should indicate that I reject, as obviously did the jury, your assertion to the police that you had also received an injection of heroin on that night. Your statements to Detective Sergeant Mura of the New South Wales Police Force are informative in this context. You had told him that you had gone with Beckett to an area under a bridge at Bega at a time which must have been very shortly before you encountered your victims. You described the occasion as follows:

    "Underneath the bridge and drank one beer and threw it in the paddock. Looked at Lindsay and said, 'Oh' - something like, 'Oh, fucking move'. I said, 'Wake up and get some hammer and fucking get to and OD me.' He's going, 'No, man, don't worry about it. You're - you're all in for a couple of months together before it's all over and done with.' I said, 'Yeah, I suppose.' Yeah, that's it."


  10. You concocted the story that heroin had actually been injected, when it became apparent to you that the one upon which Beckett and you had agreed was untenable, and in order to separate yourself from these crimes without attempting to provide any explanation of your own concerning what had taken place.


  11. Whilst in Bega before you encountered the girls, you indicated to Beckett that you were depressed. This would be hardly surprising in the circumstances. You had just had an argument with your de facto wife, you were affected by drugs, and you were, at the time, awaiting a retrial in relation to serious allegations of sexual assault which had been made against you by her daughter. You provided an indication of your state of mind, at about 8.30 p.m. on that night, in the following passage from the interview mentioned above:

    "Yeah. I had a big fight with my missus and about 8.30 somethin' like that - she just, she just nags and nags, I don't need those problems man, then she went off her head. I said, 'What's your fuckin' go, what's this shit?' And, I went down the street and they had a disco thing going."


  12. In this context, it is also relevant that you have a history of emotional instability and have either threatened or attempted to take your own life on more than one occasion. I accept that you may well have discussed that possibility with Beckett on the night as you claimed in the passage earlier set out. When regard is had to your potential for violence and your obviously unstable personality, and to Beckett himself, it is evident that, at the time that you encountered the two girls which would have been no more than one and a half hours later, an extremely dangerous situation existed.


  13. They could not have had an inkling of any of this when you stopped your car and Beckett got out and spoke to them. There is no need at this stage to set out again the circumstances which led to your victims being on the road at that time on a Sunday night nor to speculate about their motivation for responding. As I remarked when sentencing your co-offender, they were vulnerable young people, a short distance from their homes and the place where their friends were camped, confident in the security of a totally familiar social and physical environment and, I add, almost certainly flattered by what they saw as harmless attention.


  14. I am satisfied that they had no perception of danger when they agreed to go with you to the Tathra beach area. After a period there, during which nothing untoward occurred and there was some casual conversation, the suggestion was made that you would all go to a concert which was then in progress at Bega. The girls again agreed, but indicated that they first wanted to inform the friends with whom they had been camping at White Rock of their change of plans and whereabouts. There is, I think, much force in the prosecutor's submission to the jury in the course of his address, that the two girls were operating within a vastly different framework of experience and expectation than Beckett and yourself.


  15. Be that as it may, I accept that you commenced to drive along the track leading to the camp site when, as a consequence of its rough surface, the underside of your fully laden vehicle began to strike the ground. At that stage you gave first expression to your true character. You became explosively angry and produced a knife, instructing your not unwilling companion to do the same. The girls must have been terrified. Whether they were aware that they could not use the door handles to open the rear doors and that they were effectively trapped in the vehicle does not emerge from the evidence. In any event, they must have appreciated that they were in the hands of two physically powerful adult males who were armed with knives. Once their ordeal started, Beckett and you abandoned all pretence of any human decency. I am also satisfied that upon "the demon" within you being let loose, it was not to be controlled until its lust and anger were exhausted. Whether or not Beckett saw "the demon" as you later inquired of him is unknown, but I have no doubt you did.


  16. It is evident that you were sexually active in relation to Lauren Barry at some point of time after your outburst on the White Rock track although Beckett gave no evidence to that effect. In all of the circumstances, the inference arises beyond reasonable doubt, that she was, at that early stage, detained against her will and sexually violated by you. It seems that you were attracted by the idea of raping a 14 year old virgin and you selected the younger girl for special attention, attacking her again and again throughout the night. To satisfy some drive within yourself, you subjected both of these victims to hours of terror and an ordeal which I suspect they appreciated from an early point of time that they were almost certainly not going to survive.


  17. In your case, as in that of Beckett, there is silence concerning what your young victims may have said or done or how they felt during the hours of their captivity. It is, as I have earlier commented, a terrible silence, filled with nightmarish images of terror, tears, and death for their parents, family members, friends as well as for thousands upon thousands of members of the wider community who look at their own children, sense the pain of those close to the girls, and wonder how they personally could endure such an event.


  18. You, of course, would not be troubled by considerations of that kind. It is, I think, safe to conclude that, from your perspective, the feelings or concerns of Nichole Collins and Lauren Barry were either irrelevant or a source of pleasure, and you were certainly not concerned about anyone else. The casual contempt and arrogance with which your victims were treated may be observed in the deviation which was made to enable Beckett to point out a fishing boat that he believed would be moored at Eden and that he had worked on some years earlier. The possibility that you may have been seen with two kidnapped girls in the car was, obviously, not regarded with any apprehension. This incident is remarkably similar to the occasion related by Rosamari Gandarias who, having been held against her will and raped by both of you, was taken to a garage in Kingston, a suburb of Canberra, where you searched for a motorcycle belonging to a person with whom you were apparently in dispute.


  19. The evidence in the trial discloses that you went to a number of locations and supports Beckett's version that, at almost all of them, one or both of your victims were sexually attacked. This pattern also replicates that followed on the earlier occasion when Miss Gandarias was abducted.


  20. I am satisfied, on the totality of the evidence, and consistent with the jury's verdict, that you were engaged in a joint enterprise with Beckett on that night, involving the commission of offences of an extremely serious kind against both of your victims. Whilst there is some uncertainty as to the point at which the decision was made, it is clear that eventually the two of you decided that they had to die. In your case, and whenever you appreciated the situation, I think that it was almost inevitable from the beginning that your "demon" would ultimately only be sated or, at least, protected from discovery by their deaths.


  21. I think that it would be reasonable to conclude, particularly in view of the way in which the matter was put before the jury by your counsel, that the jury accepted beyond reasonable doubt, as I do, that the deaths of Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins occurred in the circumstances described by Beckett.


  22. You participated in tying them and taking them to the locations at which they were killed. You directed them to enter the creek and wash the evidence of your abuse from their bodies before they were killed. I am satisfied that this was done to guard against the possibility that their bodies may have been discovered and that through DNA testing your involvement may have been revealed. As it transpired, they were not located until Beckett disclosed their whereabouts and such testing would almost certainly have been fruitless. I cannot avoid the thought in that situation that there is a kind of just symmetry about the identification of your DNA on a shirt discarded at almost the commencement of your journey on that night.


  23. Then, using the control which you clearly had over your weaker willed but equally evil companion, you instructed him to perform acts that, in a somewhat perverse way, it could be said that you probably did not possess the courage to perform yourself. Beckett claimed that he acted under your direction, in part because he was afraid of you. He also said that he did not wish to be held accountable for his part in what had happened during that night. Finally, in this context, he stated on more than one occasion, that although he was prepared to kill one of the girls, he did not think that it was fair that he should be required to kill both of them. I consider that it is highly likely that all of these statements were true.


  24. I am satisfied from your comments to Beckett, when he returned to the car after performing this vile work, that you were eager to obtain his assurance that it had been performed properly. There are also indications in your question "Did you see the demon?" that you were excited by the thought of what had been done.


  25. After the girls were killed, you engaged with your co-offender in various activities to remove any evidence of your involvement in those terrible occurrences. Incriminating articles, including clothes and Beckett's shoes were burned, the car was thoroughly cleaned; and a false story was prepared to be given to the police in the event that inquiries were made as to your whereabouts. It seems that, untroubled by conscience, you were prepared to walk away as if nothing had happened. Since that time, you have given no indication of remorse. Accordingly, it is not possible to have regard to that ameliorating factor as a sentencing consideration.


  26. I have, I think, made it relatively clear in what I have already said that I consider your level of responsibility for the two murders to be very great indeed, and at least equal to that of Beckett. On the basis of the findings of fact which I have made according to the criminal standard of proof, it would not be appropriate, nor realistically representative of the jury verdict, to regard you, as your counsel urged, as having simply "acquiesced", to use the term employed by Mr Langslow, in a common purpose that the girls would be killed. I am satisfied that you gave the directions to kill, which Beckett had little difficulty following.


  27. Some reference should be made at this point to the nature of the association between the two of you which was a curious one. I must confess that I am still intrigued by the evidence that you were each unable to self-inject the amphetamine that you were both using quite regularly and only it seems when you were together. This behaviour is even more curious in the light of the 1993 report tendered by your counsel which refers to a history of drug taking that included LSD, marijuana, cocaine and amphetamine. It suggests that your association with Beckett had become very close. There are clear parallels in your backgrounds, social attitudes and criminal propensities which enabled the development of strong bonds between you. I think that it would be a reasonable assessment of the situation to state that you both perceived yourselves as outcasts in a society which rejected you and for the values and rules of which you had contempt. Tragically, Beckett and you found each other and with your complimentary personalities, formed an evil and deadly combination that potentiated the capacity for serious criminal behaviour in both of you.


  28. I do not think that I need to repeat all of the remarks that I made when sentencing Beckett concerning the relevant sentencing principles, the victim impact statements, nor the use which can properly be made of the evidence of Rosamari Gandarias. It is, however, necessary to emphasize that you are not here being sentenced for your involvement in the abduction and sexual assault of the two victims or Miss Gandarias. Those behaviours provide, however, the framework within which you acted and are, accordingly, relevant in the present process.


  29. As I said to your co-offender when I sentenced him, the lives of these girls were clearly of no consequence to you, but they were and are regarded as uniquely valuable to those who love them and to every decent member of the society before whose Bar of Justice you now stand. Again, as I did in his case, I have reflected a great deal upon you and your actions. That consideration has been occurring during a period in which our newspapers and television screens have been filled with images of almost unbelievable cruelty and violence in many parts of the world, including our own. It is perhaps even more important at such times for the courts to emphasize, on behalf of the community that they represent, the central and crucial significance which is placed upon and its unequivocal commitment to the protection and inviolability of the lives and dignity of each one of its members.


  30. The courts must, in so far as they are able to do so through the imposition of appropriate sentences, endeavour to deter persons from acting as you have done. They must be heard to state with crystal clarity that the young people of our society are not prey to be hunted, abused, murdered and discarded. As I said to Beckett, you took two lives for no better reason than to avoid detection and prosecution for a serious of vile acts which you committed. Those who act in this fashion must anticipate that there will be imposed upon them sentences reflecting the just retribution of an outraged society, a society which is concerned to ensure as far as possible that our young really possess the freedom that Nichole Collins and Lauren Barry thought that they had to walk, to meet others and to express themselves in an ordinary and normal fashion in safety.


  31. Of course, in determining the way in which these principles operate and the sentence to be imposed in a given case, it is necessary to direct attention not only to the circumstances and features of the criminal conduct involved, but also to a variety of matters relating to the situation of the individual offender.


  32. You are now 29 years of age. Like your co-offender, you have had an extremely deprived background and it is not difficult to see the origins of your anger and social alienation. I have been told, and accept, that you did not meet your father until you were about 13 years of age. You were one of six children and it seems that due to your mother's unfortunate situation and personal problems which she experienced, you had virtually no home life. You acquired no education, so that you did not learn to read or write. When quite young you were taken from your mother and spent a period in a boys' home. Because of her inability to cope with your conduct, you were ultimately declared to be an uncontrollable child. You ran away from the institution to which you were sent in consequence, and you lived, between the ages of 10 and 12, on the streets around Kings Cross, surviving God knows how but as best you could. You were then taken by the police before the Children's Court and returned to the home where you remained until you were about 15 years of age. Your history thereafter reflects the general instability of your background and lifestyle. You worked from time to time but were regularly in trouble of one kind or another. Eventually, you were presented before the District Court in New South Wales on 8 September 1997 on charges of sexual offences against a child. That trial was aborted on 10 September and you were released on bail. It was only four days later that you abducted and raped Miss Gandarias and only three weeks after that again that you committed the murders for which you are now to be sentenced.


  33. You are, I understand, of average intelligence which you have used constructively since you have been in custody awaiting trial. It is a great pity that it is at this stage that you have begun to pursue some educational objectives and that you have been so long either unable or unwilling to direct your attention to the development of a more satisfactory lifestyle.


  34. Mr Langslow appeared to accept that realistically the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment was appropriate for each of the murders and he directed his submissions on your behalf essentially to the issue of what, if any, minimum term should be fixed. He drew attention to these endeavours, your background, age and what he contended was your limited role and lower level of culpability in urging the fixing of a minimum term in your case, which he further submitted should be shorter than that which must be served by Beckett. In this context, he also drew attention to a number of matters. These included the abhorrence, manifested by a number of death threats which you have received from fellow prisoners, so that it would seem likely that you will have to serve your sentence under the more restrictive regime of a prisoner under protection. He pointed to the contribution which the ingestion of amphetamine almost certainly made to the commission of your offence and the possibility that neither Beckett nor you would ever have engaged in conduct of the kind involved here without the potentiating influence of the other. He submitted that it would be unfair to you to adopt the view that Beckett acted totally under your direction and made no choices or decisions of his own. As I trust that I have already clearly indicated, I consider that there is a deal of force in this submission.


  35. Mr Langslow further argued that you should not be attributed the cold-blooded brutality involved in Beckett's description of the manner in which the girls were killed and should, accordingly, be regarded as less culpable. I do not consider that this proposition possesses substance. True it is, that you did not perform the physical acts which brought about their deaths, however, in my opinion, no moral or legal distinction between you can be properly made on this basis in the present circumstances. It is apparent that this was a situation of true joint enterprise and that Beckett and you operated as a team. In part, Mr Langslow in his submission accepted this view of your association. At one stage, I asked:

    "Mr Langslow, do you have any difficulty with (my comments about) the character of the relationship between these two men?"

    He responded:

    "No, I don't, sir. What Your Honour said in the course of my addressing you this morning about that relationship, Your Honour, I would put that it is an assessment which can properly be made on the evidence, and upon an analysis of what we know of the history of their time in Yass and in Canberra and on the move, as it were, throughout central New South Wales, we know a deal, we know a bit about it, I suppose, Your Honour, and that assessment is an assessment that can perhaps properly be made if my client felt that in Yass at the time, as a result of the legal situation that he was in, that Beckett was the only person who would speak to him in the place where he lived, as it were. It was highly likely they would be thrown together and feed off each other and got involved in things that maybe one or neither would ever be involved in but for the presence of the other, those are the circumstances which may well have resulted in these crimes being committed. Had they been alone and not in each other's company, it is highly probable that the girls would never have been in the car."


  36. I have given much thought to all of the submissions advanced by counsel on your behalf and to the approach adopted by the courts in a number of cases over recent years to the question of the fixing of a minimum term.


  37. When sentencing Beckett, I remarked that there are some occasions, fortunately very few, where even in the case of a person of his age and background, the elements of denunciation, retribution and general deterrence must predominate over the prospects of rehabilitation as sentencing considerations, to the extent that no minimum term should be fixed. That proposition has application in your case as it did in his. However, the sentence imposed upon Beckett was reduced in this important respect by reason of his plea of guilty and co-operation with the authorities. It is terrible to contemplate the prospect that, as a consequence of the order which in my view justice and the proper application of sentencing principles would require in your case, you may never be released from prison. However, I consider that my duty is clear. Through your own actions, you have forfeited your right ever to walk among us again.


  38. You are sentenced to imprisonment for life on each count without the possibility of release on parole.


  39. I declare that a period of 517 days, which you have undergone as pre-sentence detention, should be reckoned as having been served under the sentence hereby imposed.


  40. I direct that this declaration and its details be entered in the records of the court.



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