true crime

In 2005, Robert Farquharson committed an unthinkable act. Now his guilt is being questioned.

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.

At the time, Farquharson blamed the accident on a coughing fit that caused him to black out, a claim that was rejected by experts at his trial.

Having maintained his innocence since being jailed for killing his children, his new legal team has revealed Farquharson intends to appeal his conviction under new Victorian laws passed in 2019. The new laws allow a second appeal if there is fresh and compelling evidence that shows a substantial miscarriage of justice has taken place. 

"As time evolves, we collectively gain a better understanding of both the science and better tools to be able to undertake analysis of the evidence," Farquharson's solicitor, Luke McMahon, said via a statement last month.

"Robert has always, consistently maintained his innocence. His story has not changed."

At a time where family violence is at a terrifying high, and hot off the heels of his appeal announcement, media outlets have chosen to highlight the convicted murderer's case, conducting their own investigation into his possible innocence.

Earlier this month, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald launched a new podcast called Trial by Water, that deep dives into the case, pulling apart the prosecution's claims and examining Farquharson's. It claims "scientists and lawyers are raising serious doubts about his conviction, and asking whether in his case, the justice system has got it wrong".


An accompanying 60 Minutes episode poses a similar question while stipulating it "does not advocate for Farquharson's freedom" but rather "presents fresh expert analysis of facts that weren't adequately canvassed at Farquharson's trials, and asks if the new information is sufficiently important to consider further judicial review of the case".

The mother of the three boys, Cindy Gambino-Moules died in 2022. Her family told ABC's 7.30 they did not support the new appeal. Author and journalist, Megan Norris, believes Cindy wouldn't either. 

"It's a blessing Cindy's not here to see this," says Norris. 

"It was like torture to her when the appeals kept happening. She tormented herself, how could she heal with that happening?

"This is a crime that is supposed to punish women for the rest of their lives. In many ways, it was worse than that for her because she had to deal with a retrial, and appeals."

Norris says the media investigation and coverage has been "appalling" and a "disgrace". 

"I find it really disappointing. The evidence that they've run was extreme cherry-picking. Here they are raising the flag saying 'what are we going to do about the epidemic of domestic violence?' and you have a media campaign going on to put pressure and influence on (Farquharson's) innocence."   


Norris, who wrote the book, On Father's Day, at Cindy's request, says she's appalled by the airing of an old interview with Cindy that shows her supporting Farquharson.

In the book, Cindy describes how her ex-husband's "revenge murders" left her with the "legacy of lifelong suffering — her punishment for ending their marriage".  

"The producers knew she was under immense stress when she did the first interview. I covered the entire trial, the failed appeals, and in all of that time I also interviewed Cindy outside of the court, and she asked me to write her book. She felt people didn't understand the pain Farquharson caused. 

"She believed he did it deliberately. At the time she, didn't want to believe it, and they knew that. I think it's a disgraceful."

The trial.

The boys’ drownings on Father’s Day shocked Australia, and following a three-month investigation, Farquharson 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."


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.

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


Last year Farquharson became 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.

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.

The official application is expected to be lodged later this year.

This article was originally published on January 12, 2024, and has been updated since with new information. 

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.

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