true crime

'The paedophile who killed my childhood friend could soon walk free.'

Trigger warning: This post deals with child sexual abuse and may be triggering for some readers.

I am grateful for many things in my life. Most recently, I have been grateful for that “one more kiss” from my son at bedtime. Sometimes on my parenting journey, I notice moments that seem more important, more intense and more heartbreaking.

Recently, my friend died of cancer. I was nursing my young child in the middle of the night and I cried that she would never get to sit in the darkness of her child’s room and settle them with her mere presence. For each of us, these moments of motherhood come and slam us, often without warning. We dust ourselves off and keep going, but we are shaken and wobbly.

Last Sunday night, I kissed my son goodnight. I felt that intensity of emotion rise in my body as I felt tears sting my eyes. I hugged him more intensely and said the same old lines as each night before, only I felt them more deeply. That night, I was remembering my old schoolmate Sam, who disappeared from our lives when I was only nine years old.

I can’t be sure if I was feeling intense sadness that she would never get to hold her own child, or if it was deep pain that her mother Tess lost all these tender moments after only having them for nine short years. I have a five-year-old and a three-year-old, and it is becoming clearer to me as I grow older that losing my children would unhinge me. This full circle of emotions is occurring to me and my old schoolmates right now.

Sam Knight. Image: 60 Minutes.

In 1986 my innocence, and that of my classmates at Bronte Public School, vanished along with our classmate Sam. One day it was arguments about who would be King in handball; the next, we had police asking us questions about where she might have gone and who she might have gone with. Our young lives were shaken to a core we didn’t realise we had.

When Sam went missing, I was living with my single mum and my older brother in Bondi. When Tess got home that evening, she called us and asked me if Sam was at my house and I just flippantly said no. I was nine. Then she called us again. Then it got serious. I am now living at the same house 30 years later with my own family. I walk the streets of Bondi carefree with my young children and I enjoy bumping into people I know along the streets. My kids play with the neighbourhood kids on the street, we enjoy local community events, we are open and welcoming and free.

After Sam went missing, my mother reached out to Sam's mother Tess, and I have memories of smoke-filled rooms, tears and very emotional scenes about missing children. Our stationwagon always had flyers posted on the back and side windows, and I just remember them as a permanent fixture from my backseat view. We had memorials at school, and much confusion occurred in each of our young minds.

As the years went by, and we discovered more of the story of what happened to our cheeky, funny friend, we each carried that pain in various compartments through our adult lives. I had to let go of the thought I would one day see her walking down the street or bump into her in my travels abroad. Despite the immense emotional support we received, I carried guilt of not being a better friend to her, a guilt I have been unable to shed.

When I tell good friends about this childhood experience, I see the horror in their eyes. But this didn’t happen to me, or to someone in my family. And this is why I am writing this. Because I am you. I am just another mother. I am just another mother racing from pillar to post to get stuff done and keep us all smiling. Trying to teach the big lessons and hold on to the small moments. Trying to find a balance between doing too much and not losing myself. I am just another mother who is awake early making lunches, wiping noses and bottoms after a long night of scaring away imaginary monsters from my child’s dreams.

Sam Knight. Image: 60 Minutes.

I am just another mother who yelled unnecessarily yesterday and feels guilty about it today. Who volunteers in the school canteen, covers books for the school teacher and had a glass too many before I went to bed. I am just that other mother – but without my child, I would not be. And that is why this case is so frightening. We already have a world of things to shield our children from and to help them understand. We already see wars we can’t stop, refugee children’s tears we can’t wipe away, and terror we can’t soothe.

Michael Guider accidentally killed my childhood friend by drugging her too much while he abused her. He panicked and disposed of her body like one would with garbage and has never told us anything more definitive than that. This man has 75 child sexual assaults on his record which include things you just don’t want to know and a shameful manslaughter charge (yes, not murder because he “accidentally” killed her). His sentence is up in 2019. He is up for parole this coming week.

Honestly, I don’t know what I want to deal with first. Stopping his parole or dealing with our broken system. Chantelle is the brave woman who spoke out most recently. She is the last of Guider’s victims and she helped put Guider in jail. It is her petition I have been championing and with community backing, we have had over 30,000 signatures in just over two days. So, with Tess’s blessing, I follow Chantelle’s path, and we deal with one thing at a time. Parole first, as that is imminent. But don’t think it ends there.

Sam Knight. Image: 60 Minutes.

Our system is supposed to protect our most vulnerable. If Guider is released in 2019, it will be failing all of us — you and me, my kids and yours. Today I need one part of your assistance, and soon I will need more from you. Today, I need you to sign and share the petition to show not only the parole board but also our Premier of NSW and NSW Attorney General that our community is frightened at the prospect of Guider having a fraction of freedom, no matter how controlled.

We know only too well that people like him re-offend, and my kids and your kids can not be his target. Soon, I will need your support to make bigger changes, because that’s the bigger picture here. Can you imagine that in 2019, an unrepenting serial paedophile murderer will be released into our community with no supervision — all because of a loophole he was able to access in our legal system to secure a manslaughter charge instead of a murder charge?

I am you. And you are me. And together we are stronger. With unity we can demand our safety. Stand with me – with my schoolmates, with Chantelle, with Tess and her family, in Sam’s memory, for justice, for the many child victims. Stand with me as a parent, a child, a community member who believes in the right for us to be safe, at least from the horrors we can see right in front of us. This is possible. This is within our reach, and the reach of our politicians.

Demand justice with us.

If you would like to sign the petition, you can find it here.