This Father’s Day marks 10 years since Robert Farqhuarson drove his car into a farm dam and killed his three children. It was a crime so shocking that it’s a struggle to comprehend how or why it could have happened. In her new book Why Did They Do It, respected journalist Cheryl Critchley and esteemed psychologist Dr Helen McGrath dissect some of the cases that stunned Australia and take us inside the minds of Australia’s most unlikely killers. Robert Farquharson is one of them.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007), the divorces of 52,399 Australian couples were ?nalised in 2005. As a result, almost 105,000 people had to deal with the sadness, pain and loss involved in separating from a partner and starting a new life. Divorce is never easy and can be acrimonious. But most separating parents manage to set those feelings aside and put their children ?rst when it comes to custody arrangements or choosing a school. They also try hard to keep the kids out of any arguments.
Not Robert Farquharson. He seethed with resentment. Rather than make the best of an unpleasant separation, he was consumed with exacting revenge. In his mind, whatever happened was Cindy’s fault. So he killed his boys to pay her back and tried to pass it off as a horrible accident, hoping to forever be seen as ‘poor Robbie’, the loving father who lost his children after his wife dumped him for another man.
What could put such an idea into a father’s mind? To most people he knew, the mild-mannered Farquharson’s actions on the evening of 4 September 2005 were completely out of character. But when you dig deeper, it becomes clear why he acted the way he did. Genetic and environmental factors combined to produce this tragic outcome. These factors included a limited education, a relatively low level of intelligence, living in a small community, an overprotective upbringing and a personality disorder that left him unwilling and unable to cope with life’s ups and downs.
As the youngest of four children, Farquharson was indulged and mollycoddled by his mother and older siblings. He lived at home until he met his future wife, and was comfortable with Cindy taking on most of the responsibility for their shared life. 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. On the surface he was a quiet, likeable country bloke, but underneath he was an angry and inadequate man with no con?dence or resilience and few life skills.
Unable to run a successful business, Farquharson was the archetypal ‘loser’, hiding behind his more competent wife. It suited him to let the more socially outgoing and capable Cindy act as his ‘shield’. For her part, Cindy probably felt she could help the apparently inoffensive and pliable Farquharson to become more like the kind of man she wanted. When it was clear that he was not prepared to act as a mature adult and left most of the work and responsibilities to her, she realised that she didn’t love him and asked him to leave.