Carole Roscoe is qualified in
general nursing, midwifery, maternal and child welfare and psychiatric nursing.
While undertaking psychiatric nursing training at Mount St Margaret Hospital in
Ryde, her tutor advised that she was gifted in this area. She worked as the
clinical instructor in Psychiatry at Prince Henry Hospital at Little Bay in
Sydney while completing BA (Honours) in Psychology. She then completed the
Master of Clinical Psychology (M.Psychol) degree also at the UNSW.
She worked as a Clinical
Psychologist at Bondi Junction Community Health Centre then took up a research
officer position with the Commonwealth Government in Canberra.
Carole returned to Queensland
because her sister and her family live in Brisbane. She is now writing full
time which is what she has wanted to do for years.
17th August three nursing sisters from the Children’s Ward left the
hospital together. They were late and it was getting dark. Storm clouds
signalled oncoming rain and Ann Thompson and Beth Harris were in a hurry to
catch their bus home. Heather O’Brien only had to walk across the park to get to
her apartment. They paused to exchange a few words about the remarkable recovery
of one of the children on their ward.
“Doesn’t it worry you to walk across the park?”
Ann asked Heather.
“No, it only takes me seven minutes and I’m
Heather entered the park scarcely aware of her
surroundings. She was thinking about four-year-old Billy Vaughan who’d been ill
for weeks before being admitted to hospital. He’d been lucky. His blood cultures
had identified the cause of his infection and an intravenous antibiotic had been
available to treat him. Within days the change in his condition had been
dramatic and he would soon be going home. It was times like this that made
nursing so worthwhile. Her mood was buoyant as she hurried through the park.
Most of the path was fairly clear and well lit
but there were some parts where the trees grew closer together. Here the shadows
were deeper but lost in thought Heather scarcely noticed. A shadow detached from
the darkness and followed her but she heard nothing but the soughing of the
wind. Suddenly something snaked around her neck from behind and was tightened
immediately pulling her off balance. She tugged futilely at the tight band
around her throat and became disoriented gasping for air as she was dragged into
the bushes. “If you don’t keep quiet I’ll kill you,” said a hoarse voice in her
A wave of fear swept over her as she struggled to
breathe. She tried to fight off the attacker but her efforts were ineffectual
against his greater strength. Her heart was pounding in her ears as she became
cyanosed and began to lose consciousness. He hit her hard across the side of her
head and she experienced sheer terror as she thought she was about to die.
What followed was a series of nightmarish
impressions. Her uniform was torn open, her legs forced back and she felt a
heavy weight pinning her down and severe pain. There was a pungent smell which
she associated with death. Her assailant finally rose. She could hear him
giggling to himself.
“I’ve had me a slice of pie.”
Heather lay sprawled on the ground struggling to
focus. She waited in abject fear not daring to move in case he was still near.
When she felt she really was alone she tried to sit up and found that she was
shaking like a leaf. She seemed to have no strength left. She pulled her uniform
and cape around her and tried to stand. She was in emotional turmoil. She
desperately wanted to get home to shut out the world but when she looked down
the path she would have to walk her courage failed. Instead she turned back
towards the hospital. The side entrance would be deserted by now and maybe she
could get help.
Dr Catherine Sentinel,
Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, was packing up for the day when she heard the timid
knock on the door of her consulting room. “What is it?” she asked as she opened
the door to find a dishevelled figure leaning against the wall. She took in the
torn uniform and two enormous eyes in an incredibly pale face which she hardly
“Sister O’Brien? Heather, it that you? Come in
child. What has happened?”
Heather was still shocked and was shaking
uncontrollably. Her throat felt tight and it was difficult to swallow. She tried
to talk but was incoherent.
“Sit down and take a few deep breaths,” said
Catherine Sentinel as she looked in more detail at the state of her clothing and
saw the thick welt across her throat.
“There was a man in the park,” Heather began. She
shuddered and began to cry. “He attacked me.”
Catherine Sentinel drew in her breath as she
began to understand. “Have you been raped?” she asked sharply. Heather could
only nod. “Take your time and tell me what happened,” Catherine demanded.
It took Heather a few minutes to find her voice.
“I was walking…walking home across the park…like
I always do,” she said in a bewildered voice. “It happened so suddenly. I didn’t
hear anything. I felt something tight around my throat and I could hardly
breathe. I struggled and pulled and pulled at it but I couldn’t get my fingers
under it. He just pulled it tighter and I couldn’t fight back. He was too
strong. He said he’d kill me if I didn’t keep quiet.
He hit my head really hard. I was terrified. I
thought I was going to die. He tore at my clothes and got on top of me. He was
heavy and he smelled of something that made me think of death. He was giggling
when he’d finished, giggling like it was something funny! I didn’t know if he’d
gone so I kept still. When I got up I tried to go home but I couldn’t walk
through the rest of the park. I was too frightened so I came here. I thought you
might help me.”
Catherine found Heather’s pulse was racing but
her skin was cold and clammy. Heather was still extremely shocked.
“There are a few things we must do,” she said in
a down-to-earth manner. “I need to examine you and collect some specimens if I
can. Put on a hospital gown and get up on the examination table for me. I’ll get
a plastic bag for you to put your clothes in.” Heather did as she was
instructed. Catherine carried out her examination quickly and efficiently.
“I’ve taken some specimens,” she said. “I don’t
know if they’ll be of any use but we can try to identify his DNA. How far are
you in your menstrual cycle?” Heather struggled to understand why she’d asked
“About mid-cycle I think. Why?”
“Are your cycles regular?” persisted Catherine.
“Yes, I don’t have any problems,” Heather
“Are you taking any contraceptives?”
“If you are mid-cycle then you may get pregnant,”
said Catherine. Heather was absolutely stunned. The possibility of a pregnancy
following what had already happened was almost beyond her comprehension.
Catherine went on, “We must also check that
you’ve not contracted a sexually-transmitted disease or HIV. I’ll see that blood
tests are done when they need to be done and will keep you informed of the
results. Hopefully the man was not a drug addict. Also the police must be
notified. Heather looked up aghast.
“I can’t. I’m sorry I just can’t. I don’t want
anyone but you to know what happened. I just can’t deal with this.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not proposing that we go to a
police station. You certainly couldn’t cope with the additional pressure. My son
John is in the rape squad at present. I’ll talk to him in a few minutes. No one
is going to deal with you except through me. He’ll want to photograph that welt
around your neck and may take some swabs and it will need to be done before you
have a shower.”
John Sentinel was still at his desk when
Catherine phoned. He listened as she told him what had happened.
“I’ll have to tell the DCI,” Catherine cut in.
“John, this girl is very distressed. She’s only
just holding herself together. If you want to speak to her, photograph her neck
or take swabs you must come now. If there is any trouble I’ll deal with your
DCI, Gerard McAbee. No one is going to submit this girl to any more pressure.
She’ll have a hard enough time recovering from what has happened. Come to my
consulting room now please. You can tell your DCI about it later.” John
collected a camera and went to the hospital.
Catherine insisted that Heather’s face was not
included in the photographs. She suggested that he use the name ‘Mary White’ as
a pseudonym. John carefully examined the swelling and bruising on Heather’s
neck. A welt four centimeters wide was vividly red against her throat.
“This wasn’t done by a cord,” he commented
thoughtfully. “I’d say he used material of some kind. Let’s see if we can get
something to examine. He wiped the area carefully and put the swabs in a
collection bag noting the contents, date and time. As he made notes he said,
“This is the third case of rape in that park in the evening in the last six
weeks. We really need something to identify the perpetrator or there will be
Catherine stared at him. “That’s the first I’ve
heard of it. It hasn’t been in the papers and we’ve not been advised by the
“The DCI didn’t want any publicity. He wanted to
catch the rapist in the act as it were, not frighten him away.” Catherine looked
as if she didn’t believe what she was hearing.
“Has it not occurred to Gerard McAbee that women
need to know that it’s not safe to walk across the park after dark?” she asked
in an icy voice. “What you are saying is that the rape of this young woman was
preventable. Is your DCI so callous that he has no understanding of the trauma
involved and how long it will take her to get over this?”
“I don’t think he cares now,” John Sentinel
replied. “All that matters to him is the number of closed cases he can claim.
Before his wife died he was more aware of the effects violent acts had on the
victims.” He hesitated for a few minutes.
“You have to understand Catherine that he’s had
it very tough himself. I’ve worked with Gerard for some years and he’s a good
officer. He didn’t marry until he was in his early forties. His wife Jeanette
was a teacher and he thought the world of her. They had twin boys about a year
or so later and everything seemed to be going well for them. One night when the
boys were about four and Gerard was working late as usual tragedy struck.
Three adolescents, who had been experimenting
with methamphetamine, tossed a bottle of petrol with a wick which they’d set
alight against the front door of Gerard’s home just to relieve their boredom.
They’d already lit a fire in a shopping centre in the next suburb. Jeanette had
dropped off to sleep in front of the television. She phoned the fire brigade and
raced upstairs to get the boys out but because of the accelerant the fire took
When they tried to get back downstairs the
staircase was already alight. The upstairs windows were blocked by security
grills. By the time the fire brigade arrived the whole house was in flames and
the three were dead. Because of their ages the perpetrators literally got away
with murder. Gerard changed overnight. Perhaps a person can only take so much.”
Catherine was silent.
John Sentinel left with the samples Catherine had
collected, the swabs, clothing and photographs.
Catherine gave Heather a bottle with a few
sedatives in it. “Take one tonight and after that if you need them. When are you
“Not until Monday. I’ve got a few days off,”
“See how you are by then,” Catherine said. “If
you need more time I’ll arrange it.” Heather nodded. Catherine drove her to the
apartment block and Heather finally entered her home.
She’d only left it that morning but now it
appeared strange to her. She tore off the hospital gown and stumbled into the
bathroom. Although she stood under the shower for what seemed like an eternity
and washed herself over and over again, no matter how long she tried she felt
dirty and contaminated. Finally exhausted and spent she crawled into bed but
sleep eluded her.
In a small apartment not far from the hospital a
man sat drawing deeply on a joint of marijuana. He felt relaxed yet excited,
almost euphoric. It had been a really good night, a wonderful night. He’d had a
few of them lately but this one had been really good. For years he’d been so
quiet and unsettled. Everyone had treated him like a loser but now he knew it
was a case of getting what he wanted, what he needed. He felt a surge of power
course through him and he felt like a god. He’d let them push him around for
years. Well, that wasn’t going to happen anymore. He’d had a slice of pie and it
felt so good, so very very good.