Killer's statement 'victim blaming': anti-violence groups

Lesley Elliott, whose daughter Sophie was murdered by ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston in 2008,...
Lesley Elliott, whose daughter Sophie was murdered by ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston in 2008, said of McLean's statement, "I've heard it all before". Photo: Gerard O'Brien

Groups that battle domestic violence have spoken out against Ben McLean's statement to the High Court professing his love for the wife he murdered.

Former police constable Benjamin Peter McLean (48) was sentenced to life imprisonment today after previously pleading guilty to the murder of Verity "Bert" McLean and the attempted murder of her new lover Gary William Duggan.

McLean, in a tearful statement read from the dock in the High Court at Invercargill, offered an apology to his three children, and to the wider McLean and Duggan families, and the Barbers, Verity McLean's family.

"The real victims of this death are my three children. The two most important adults in their lives are now gone," McLean said.

"Bert was the love of my life who broke my heart and my soul, and I will live with regret and the torment for having been involved in her death for the rest of my life."

Lesley Elliott, whose daughter Sophie was murdered by ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston in 2008, said of McLean's statement, "I've heard it all before".

"It's all very well [for him] to be remorseful now. Once again he's victim-blaming [suggesting that] it wasn't his fault, he was driven to this by another man or his wife.

"He's trying to make it better by saying he loved her dearly. If he loved her, why did he kill her?"

"It's very typical from what I've learned from the last nearly 10 years since Sophie died. It's all very well to apologise. It's the typical victim-blaming - it's everybody else's fault except theirs," said Elliott, a trustee of the Sophie Elliott Foundation, which aims to prevent violence against women by raising awareness about the signs of abuse in dating relationships.

Holly Carrington, of the group Shine, which helps victims of domestic abuse, said McLean's killing of Verity was a selfish act.

"It sounds very much like Ben McLean's mentality was 'If I can't have you, no one can' and that in his eyes, her not wanting to be with him meant that she deserved to die.

"Even worse, Ben McLean's children have to live without their mother for the rest of their lives and they have to live knowing that it was their own father who killed her. It's unconscionable that he didn't think of this until after he killed his wife, or that if he did, that it wasn't enough to stop him."

Carrington said that by stating his wife had broken his heart, Ben McLean made it sound like he believed his actions stemmed from what she did.

"Everything he says at this point is pretty much irrelevant because actions speak louder than words. Nothing speaks louder than murder."

The defence lawyer said McLean was likely to be in solitary confinement for another 18 months because he had been a police officer.

The Department of Corrections said that for security and privacy reasons it could not reveal how it would manage McLean's incarceration.

However it said its policy is to ensure every prisoner is managed in a safe, secure and humane environment.

"... we have comprehensive procedures in place to support prisoners' safety. These include segregation for prisoners at risk of harm to, and from, others. Prisoners are individually assessed to determine the most appropriate placement for them.

"Any prisoner who fears for their safety can be placed on segregation for a specified length of time, away from the general prison population.

"Corrections can also direct that a person be segregated, either for their own safety or the safety of others. Prisoners on voluntary segregation are usually able to mix freely with other voluntary segregated prisoners."

In most cases of segregation, it was done at the request of the prisoner, the department said.



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