true crime

On Father's Day 2005, Robert Farquharson committed an unthinkable act.

This article contains graphic details.

On September 4, 2005, Cindy Gambino-Moules dropped her three children off for a visit with their dad, Robert Farquharson. They were spending the afternoon with Farquharson for Father’s Day, about ten months after Gambino-Moules had left her former husband.

Four hours later, around 7pm, Farquharson piled his three boys, Jai, Tyler and Bailey, into the car, to return them to their mother at Winchelsea, south-west of Melbourne. The boys were not wearing seatbelts.

As the 1989 VN Commodore drove along the Princes Highway towards his ex-wife’s home, the vehicle abruptly veered off the freeway, crossing oncoming lanes, before crashing through a fence and plunging into a dam near Winchelsea.

Watch: The case of Keli Lane. Post continues after the video.  

Video via ABC News.

The car quickly filled with water and submerged. Leaving his children behind, unable to free themselves, Farquharson swam to safety. He alerted another driver, who later reported the father refused to call Triple 0, or return to the dam to find his boys, who were ultimately left alone to drown.


Jai, Tyler and Bailey were found by police around 2am the following day. They were still inside the vehicle. Despite his vehement denials, the boys' deaths were deemed intentional, and Farquharson was charged and found guilty of their murders.

Almost 20 years later, Farquharson — who remains behind bars — has become the first person in Victoria to lose his right to control the graves and memorials of his own children. He will no longer have the option to use the plot he owns next to theirs for his own burial.

The common ‘good bloke’ narrative, but a history to the contrary.

According to respected journalist Cheryl Critchley and psychologist Dr Helen McGrath, co-authors of Why Did They Do It, Robert Farquharson lived at home until meeting his future wife, who ultimately took responsibility for their life together, carrying the bulk of the mental and practical load.

"She took the lead in many of their life decisions, which suited a partner who was spoiled, immature, dependent and reluctant to take on adult responsibilities," the authors wrote in their book.

The couple had three children together, further adding to Gambino-Moules' already heavy load. Despite his apparent easy-going nature, the unequal balance of their partnership eventually led Gambino-Moules to leave her husband.

Critchley and McGrath describe Farquharson as a "quiet, likeable country bloke" — on the surface. 


"But underneath he was an angry and inadequate man with no confidence or resilience and few life skills."

When Gambino-Moules left him, his passive-aggressive personality began to show itself.

He became difficult with post-separation arrangements, at times refusing to mind his children, even when his ex-wife needed to go to the hospital. He began to tease his boys, calling them names. Even his own parents told him to stop. At one stage, write Critchley and McGrath, he grabbed his ex-wife’s breasts while she was holding a hot-pot, dismissing the act as a joke when she objected. He told anyone who would listen that Gambino-Moules was the difficult one, accusing her of being late for pickups and being generally unreliable.

When she began dating Stephen Moules, Farquharson became even angrier, telling his children that their mother preferred her new partner’s children over them. According to his psychologist, Farquharson planned to provoke Moules into hitting him in order to have him charged with assault. At one point, he directly threatened his ex-wife and her new partner saying, "I have contacts — don’t underestimate me."

He blamed Gambino-Moules for everything.

The lead-up to the crime. 

In the months leading up to the murder, Farquharson positioned himself as a victim, moping around and complaining of an incessant cough, for which he took eight days off work. "In one instance, he lay on the ground in front of a neighbour during an apparent coughing," write Critchley and McGrath.


"A work supervisor told the jury at his trial that two days before the boys died, Farquharson had a sudden coughing fit so severe that she feared he might be having a stroke. But he didn’t pass out. By moping and playing the wronged husband and father, he made people feel sorry for him and take care of him, believing him incapable of murder."

The trial.

The boys’ drownings on Father’s Day shocked Australia, and following a three-month investigation, Farquarson was charged with three counts of murder, allegations he denies.

During his court appearance in 2006, Sergeant Glen Urquhart testified that the steering wheel of Farquharson's car would require a 220-degree turn to veer as it did on the highway to leave the road. He said there was no evidence of an attempt to brake before the car plunged into the dam, and the car’s headlights, heater and ignition system were all in the off position at the time.

Another witness testified Farquharson had talked about seeking revenge on his former wife and a desire to "take away the things that mean the most to her" around two months before the boys' deaths, while a witness to the accident said Farquharson twice refused to call Triple 0, instead claiming he'd rather travel to Winchelsea to tell his wife in person. 

Farquharson blamed the accident on a coughing fit that he says, caused him to black out. However, an associate professor and specialist in sleep and respiratory medicine told the jury that this was highly unlikely.


Following a guilty verdict, Justice Philip Cummins sentenced Farquharson to a life sentence without parole, saying: "You wiped out your entire family in one act. Only the two parents remained: you, because you had always intended to save yourself, and their mother, because you intended her to live a life of suffering."

In December 2009, Farquharson won the right to a retrial. He was released on bail on 21 December, but was again convicted of murder in July 2010. He made appeals to the Court of Appeal and High Court in 2012 and 2013, but they were both rejected.

"Farquharson had no signs of mental illness. He simply continued his long-standing pattern of feeling inadequate and inferior and blaming others instead of looking inwards to see what personal improvements he could make to his behaviour and thinking patterns," write Critchley and McGrath.

"Farquharson saw himself as the victim and created a 'show' designed to harm Cindy. In his eyes, it was her fault: 'Look what you made me do!’ But he failed to anticipate that others would see through his story."

Farquharson has lost the right to be buried near his children. Image: AAP.


The final consequence. 

Gambino-Moules married her partner, Stephen Moules, who, by all accounts, was a dedicated and devoted husband and father. The couple had two children together. Gambino-Moules passed away in May 2022. Before she died, Gambino-Moules was fearful of her ex-husband being buried alongside her and her children. 

"I will move the boys and myself if I have to. The night he murdered our boys, he lost every right to be near them," she told the Herald Sun in 2013.

But now, it won’t be possible. 

Under an amendment to the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 passed in 2021, the Department of Health can now force convicted killers and serious criminals to relinquish their burial rights in relation to those affected by an indictable offence — such as Farquharson’s children, who are buried in a secluded corner of the Winchelsea Cemetery. 


As of January 4, Farquharson will no longer have control of the boys' graves, as he has done since their murder. He’s also forbidden from being buried in the neighbouring gravesite that he currently owns.

Farquharson objected to the application from his prison cell, but decision-makers found that his maintaining control of the gravesite would cause significant pain and suffering to the children's family.

His name has now been officially removed from the headstones of Jai, Tyler and Bailey, whose lives he took away.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

Feature image: AAP.