news

KATE: Another young woman murdered as she walked near her home. Does anyone care?

UPDATE JUNE 1st:

This morning an 18-year-old man was charged with the rape and murder of Joan Ryther, who was pregnant at the time of the assault.

The man will face Beenleigh Magistrates Court on Saturday morning. Police did not reveal any further details about the arrest.

By KATE HUNTER

Most Australians don’t have a clue who Joan Ryther was.

Some, those who read the Queensland papers, might recognise her as, ‘That girl who was murdered in Logan last week.’

But to her family, friends and workmates she was Joan. Twenty-seven-years-old, married to Cory, and expecting their first baby.

Last week, her body was found dumped in the front yard of a house in a suburb south of Brisbane. She had been sexually assaulted, then killed with, ‘blows to the head.’ She’d been walking to work at McDonalds when she was attacked. It was early evening when her husband raised the alarm. He called into McDonald’s on his way home  – the plan was for her to drive their car home later. He didn’t like her walking late at night, but she’d never arrived for her shift.

Joan Ryther with her husband, Cory Ryther
Joan Ryther with her husband, Cory Ryther

Her husband and family are devastated, the people of Logan are frightened and why not?

A young woman, eight weeks pregnant, is abducted from a suburban street, sexually assaulted and murdered.

It’s the sort of crime that normally commands headlines for weeks, fills Facebook feeds and keeps talkback radio hosts busy with calls for the death penalty.

ADVERTISEMENT

But in this case… crickets.

No doubt the police are working the case as diligently as they work any other, but where’s the wave of public support outside Logan? There’s been barely a ripple.A collective shoulder-shrug.

Why?

I hate to ask, but is it because Joan Ryther was Asian?

Or was it her job? Joan worked at a fast food restaurant. Would her murder be more newsworthy if she’d been, ‘Brisbane lawyer, Joan Ryther,’ instead of , ‘McDonalds employee, Joan Ryther,’ (as I heard one news report describe her).

Is it because Joan lived in the city of Logan, Brisbane’s fast-growing, often troubled neighbour?

Cory Ryther holding up the ultrasounds of their baby at a press conference.
Cory Ryther holding up the ultrasounds of their baby at a press conference.

There’s nothing fashionable about Logan. Nothing romantic about a job at McDonalds.

Is that why we’re not desperate to know who did this? Why we’re not asking how this could happen?

We’re not talking like we talked about Jill Meagher.

Within hours of Jill’s disappearance being made public, it seemed every Australian knew who she was, what she did, and was praying she’d be safe.

I was.

When Victorian police called for public help, social media networks were bombarded, leading to a swift arrest. In the days afterwards, tens of thousands marched in the streets, bewildered that something so horrible could happen to someone so lovely, so close to home.

ADVERTISEMENT

Please don’t misunderstand. What happened to Jill would be unthinkable if it wasn’t so real. Grief isn’t a competition and neither is crime. This isn’t about either of those women.

It’s about us.

The way we filter what we see so we get a messed up picture of what, and who matters. We ration our care as if we were born with a limited quantity.

This was made by Joan's family.
This was made by Joan’s family.

We have to work out who’s worthy of our concern because there’s maybe not enough to go around.

It’s the same issue that invariably comes up when there’s a plane crash and thirty Americans die. Someone will point out that last week a ferry in Bangladesh sank and three hundred drowned. Where are the tears for those people? A terrorist attack in a European country will elicit more outrage than a more deadly one in an African nation.

We’ll always feel more for something we can relate to. Like attacks on women of a similar age and stage. We think, ‘That could have been me. Or my sister, daughter or friend.’

I’ve walked to work. I’ve felt frightened. But I skimmed over the story in today’s paper about Joan Ryther’s case  because it wasn’t THE BIG STORY.  Then I realised it should be – Joan Ryther deserves more attention than she’s getting.

More importantly, Joan Ryther deserved to to be safe. Just like Jill Meagher. Just like the rest of us.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???