Tuesday, 31 July 2012 9:41am
KAPUNDA - Catching a Killer
Harriet Street is a short, narrow, unsealed road contemporary houses on one side, heritage cottages on the other. It is like many others in Kapunda a small town on the fringe of the Barossa Valley.
Kapunda was best known for its history of Cornish settlers who came to mine the copper-rich region in the mid-1800s.
In the early hours of Monday, 8 November 2010 that all changed. A neighbour recalls just after 1.00 am hearing three pleas for help and then a thump, like someone falling, followed by more screams and then silence. Inside 5 Harriet Street three people were dead – murdered in the most shocking of circumstances. They were Andrew and Rose Rowe, along with their 16-year-old daughter Chantelle.
When Andrew didn't arrive for an appointment the next day, the alarm was raised. Kapunda-based officer Senior Constable Justin Doherty was first to the house. "I got to the front door and I looked through the side window, there was blood everywhere. The door was unlocked. I walked through the house to see if anyone was alive. But it was obvious no-one could have survived this. I was in shock. I just froze. It was horrendous," Senior Constable Doherty said.
Then for the next nine days the residents of Kapunda collectively held their breath until detectives from Major Crime arrested 18-year-old Jason Alexander Downie. Downie had moved from Scotland with his family six years prior. He was a loner and Chantelle Rowe had taken pity on him and befriended him. No-one could have ever predicted that her kindness would culminate in this tragedy.
No ordinary crime scene
When the three bodies were discovered, Superintendent Grant Moyle was in his office in Wakefield Street. Appointed head of Major Crime less than a month before, he had been busy reviewing all outstanding homicides.
Just before midday Senior Sergeant Steve Kinsman (now retired) walked in – and in a second everything changed. “He told me about an incident at Kapunda where there were three bodies in a house. We were unsure what had exactly happened, but murder-suicide certainly wasn’t ruled out,” Superintendent Moyle said.
Senior detectives from Major Crime converged on Kapunda only to be told there was no chance of them accessing the house for some time, for this was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill crime scene.
A clear comprehension of what they were dealing with came via video footage from inside the home. “My first thought was the unimaginable fear the family must have gone through. And then I thought: we have to solve this; it just had to be solved. It’s difficult to put into words, but it was clear we had a very complex and extensive crime scene to deal with. But at that stage we were starting from scratch as far as any motive or significant leads,” Superintendent Moyle said.
A few hours later Superintendent Moyle and his team were able to get a limited view of the crime scene via the open front and laundry doors and windows. “It was nothing like anything I’d ever seen before. It certainly brought home the fact that video cannot do a crime scene justice,” he said. “My personal view was that it was most likely we were looking for a murderer. But because you can’t shift bodies, you can’t look underneath them, to make a call without some sort of solid verification was very difficult. Basically, I thought I had a triple murder but with no idea who had committed it.”
Sergeant John Keane, who has notched up 22 years at Major Crime, is considered a veteran of homicides. “It was the worst I had seen. Horrific would be the word to describe it. It was an obvious frenzied attack; there was so much blood in that place,” Sergeant Keane said.
The complexity of the scene meant there was still no formal confirmation of triple murder by early evening – but the entire state, let alone the town, knew three people were dead and everyone wanted answers.
It was time to talk to the throng of media who had made their way to the town, eagerly awaiting just the smallest piece of information – but in a case such as this, where do you start? “It wasn’t until just before midnight on the first day that the pathologist and crime scene investigators confirmed it was a triple murder. But when you have a whole community in fear, we needed to say something well before then,” Superintendent Moyle said.
Three hours after Major Crime arrived on the scene the first press conference was held. Superintendent Moyle’s holding statement confirmed three people were dead and a “complex” crime scene needed to be assessed before more details could be released.
A community in fear
Helping to settle the fear within the small community was Officer in Charge of Barossa Local Service Area (LSA), Chief Inspector Alex Zimmermann. “The fear was palpable,” he said. “There was no life after nightfall and a reluctance for anyone to answer a knock at the door. It was difficult because we could not give the community answers. To help with reassurance we sent crime prevention staff to talk to people in the main street and extra patrols were immediately sent into the area, including a dedicated night shift patrol which would be highly visible and provide some comfort to the community,” he said.
Major Crime detectives were hopeful that comfort would come in the form of an early breakthrough on the first night. “We got our first exposure to how Facebook can impact on an investigation,” Superintendent Moyle said. “We became aware of a person who’d posted a comment that suggested he’d done something terrible and didn’t know how he could live with himself. He lived nearby and we’d been able to establish a connection to the Rowe family. We thought no way, it can’t be this easy.”
But hopes of a speedy resolution and the opportunity to put a town at ease were quickly dashed. “We established the person was talking about a domestic issue. It was deflating, but we had to quickly refocus,” he said.
A Police Operations Vehicle had been brought into Harriet Street to support those dedicated to the investigation, but within a day it was obvious that a bigger space was needed. The extended team of detectives, intelligence and crime scene analysts along with uniformed patrols moved to a vacant room at the Kapunda Courthouse.
Detecting the murderer
Day two and Major Crime detectives had a whiteboard crammed with priorities. It was overwhelming: continue door knocks, re-visit neighbours, coordinate searches, gather background on the family and talk with a lengthy list of friends. Essentially the entire town was on the shortlist. As Superintendent Moyle puts it, “we were looking at anything we could focus the investigation on”.
Gut instinct from detectives, backed up with sound advice from the crime scene investigators helped define a starting point for the investigation: it was 16-year-old Chantelle. “We felt the way her body was positioned and the apparent state of semi-undress that more care was taken with this body than the others. So our priority was chasing up all the family members and the friends of Chantelle,” Superintendent Moyle said.
Investigators soon discovered that Chantelle had held a party at the Harriet Street home on Saturday night. It was decided those who attended would be spoken to first.
Uniformed police officers were tasked to speak with, and take statements from, friends of Chantelle. In one of those conversations the name Jason Downie came up, along with many others.
Downie was followed up and gave a statement claiming he knew Chantelle from school, but stated he had not been invited to Saturday’s party. The statement – which later formed part of Downie’s demise – did not raise any alarm, nor would it at that stage of the investigation. It was filed to review, along with dozens of others.
Day three. While the bodies had been removed, Major Crime detectives still had no access to the house.
Brevet Sergeant Peter (Jock) McKenzie, a crime scene investigator with the Forensic Response Section, clarifies why. “On my way up to Kapunda I thought ‘this is going to be a murder-suicide’. When I got inside the house I thought ‘this is murder’. It was the bloodiest scene I had ever encountered in my 20 years. Blood was in every room, on every wall. The patterns of the wounds, the spray on the walls – you could tell those people were fighting for their life as someone was stabbing them,” Brevet Sergeant McKenzie said.
Chantelle was stabbed at least 33 times. Her father, Andrew, was found near the kitchen bench – he had 29 wounds, while his wife, Rose, was found just metres away. It is believed she was attacked twice and was stabbed at least 50 times. “The scene was so complex; I just knew I was going to be there for days. The priority was to protect the integrity of the scene. I had to clear a path to each body, examine them, ‘tape lift’ the bodies to preserve any transference from the offender to the victims. Only then could I release the bodies to the Coroner for further examination,” Brevet Sergeant McKenzie said.
Brevet Sergeant McKenzie started with a team of four but determined it would be easier in the house if it was just him and a second officer. Brevet Sergeant Natasha Douglas stayed with him throughout. It was her first murder scene. “She did a great job. All the team did. It was overwhelming at first for all of us. Everything looked the same and you wonder where to start, but once the bodies were removed you started to look at stains or patterns that seem out of the ordinary,” he said.
Over the next five days Brevet Sergeants McKenzie and Douglas individualised every blood splatter – measuring, photographing, taking samples and tagging. The methodical work of these crime scene investigators helped build a scenario of what occurred and how. “We just started at the front door and worked backwards. I had to cut up the lino in the front hallway and take it back to the office. That way I could move along the hall to start examining the walls. “There were more than a thousand blood stain patterns. I made the separate, significant patterns my priority – there were 250 of them,” Brevet Sergeant McKenzie said.
Since detectives couldn’t enter the house for days after the murders, a big part of Brevet Sergeant McKenzie’s role was feeding information back to Major Crime, briefing them every 30 minutes or so on the latest discovery so they could assess and prioritise the information and their resources.
So thorough was the work conducted by the crime scene investigators that the sequence of events put forward by Brevet Sergeant McKenzie was largely agreed to by Justice John Sulan who sentenced Downie. “The coordination between crime scene, forensics and Major Crime was the best I’ve ever come across,” Brevet Sergeant McKenzie said.
Major Crime’s Operations Inspector, Denise Gray, who led the coordination of resources and information for this investigation, applauded Brevet Sergeant McKenzie’s role. “In 26 years of policing I have never seen such a comprehensive scene examination as that of Brevet Sergeant McKenzie’s,” Inspector Gray said.
Together the pair also praised Forensic Science South Australia (FSSA) who they said “set aside everything” to get evidence analysed with the urgency this case demanded.
While Brevet Sergeant McKenzie and his team methodically processed the scene, Major Crime worked on leads.
Calls to Crime Stoppers flooded in, especially after one public appeal asking if anyone knew of someone with unexplained cuts to their hands. Leads were triaged and followed – all necessary but time consuming. “I was conscious that I couldn’t have the team running off in too many directions and then lose focus on the investigation. When information came in we had to prioritise and then follow up, hoping we didn’t miss the crucial piece,” Superintendent Moyle said.
Then on day four the first piece of a very complex puzzle fell into place – this is the precise time that Downie’s elaborate story began to unravel. Major Crime Investigations Supervisor, Detective Brevet Sergeant Anthony van der Stelt, explains. “The forensic investigators were spraying the doors with a chemical called Amido Black. It reacts with proteins to bring out the prints. Chantelle’s bedroom door was being sprayed. Nothing showed up on the section being targeted but some of the spray ran down the door and brought up a previously non-visible print. The finger print was on the very edge of the door, just above the door handle,” Detective Brevet Sergeant van der Stelt said.
At the time it was just one of hundreds of prints all over the house. So what singled this print out? It was found in a blood-type substance.
One hundred hours of non-stop work; door knocks, interviews, phone calls, statement-taking, searches and following leads and forensics – and finally a wafer-thin glimmer appeared out of nowhere. It re-energised and re-focused the entire team. “It was exciting, as it gave us something to focus on and build from,” Detective Brevet Sergeant van der Stelt said.
Day five and the print came back ‘unknown’. But that was not unexpected. It meant it wasn’t from the Rowe family, or anyone who’d already been identified as having a legitimate reason for being in the house. There was no time for despondency – it was a starting point.
On the same day, Major Crime detectives were allowed inside the house for the first time. Even the most hardened of SAPOL’s detectives found it difficult to grasp the horror of what confronted them. “Crime scenes like this show you how frail the human body is and is a manifestation of how cruel human beings can be against another,” Superintendent Moyle said.
Another day (six), a new breakthrough – as horrifying and appalling as this one was.
Semen was found on Chantelle’s body. She had been raped by the man who murdered her. The information also reinforced to detectives that it was Chantelle who was the focus of this crime. “Normally it would take up to a week to get samples analysed, but FSSA worked around-the clock to get us the information overnight. Throughout this case they worked exceptionally hard and produced some great results. They are the behind-thescenes people that we could not do without,” Superintendent Moyle said.
FSSA advised the semen was not recorded on any database.
The defining moment
A finger print – unknown. Semen on Chantelle’s body – unknown. Major Crime detectives were in a unique situation. They knew the forensic makeup of the killer, but frustratingly there was no name to attach to it.
The physical evidence was staring back at detectives, daring them to find the final piece to complete the puzzle. It was time to stop and take stock. Did the answer to who murdered the Rowes lie somewhere in the piles of information already gathered. A decision was made to review the initial statements taken from Chantelle’s friends.
Downie’s statement was just one of dozens taken early in the investigation. At that time, there was no reason for his testimony to stand out. In fact, at this time Major Crime detectives were not specifically aware of Downie – there was no reason to be.
After reading Downie’s statement Sergeant Keane, Major Crime’s most experienced detective, had a hunch. His hunch was to be the defining moment in a case which had already become one of the state’s most notorious murder investigations – and it was less than a week old. “When I read Downie’s statement I thought it was odd. Downie said about four times, without prompting, that he did not have a girlfriend. “He also said he knew Chantelle had a party on the Saturday night but she hadn’t invited him. He went on to provide an alibi, saying he went to McDonalds, even though he wasn’t asked for one,” Sergeant Keane said.
It was odd: the details stood out, but was it significant? Sergeant Keane shared his thoughts with fellow detectives and a plan was hatched.
It was Inspector Gray’s call to Downie’s boss that yielded yet more valuable information. “I asked if Downie had been at work the day of the murders. He said yes, but he’d been late. When he arrived Downie told his boss he’d fallen off a motorbike, cutting his hands, and said he might not be able to do much work. “After that call we felt we had something concrete to follow. We were planning to DNA swab and print all Chantelle’s male friends who had attended the party on the Saturday night. Downie was added to that list,” Inspector Gray said.
While the DNA requests were voluntary, no-one who was asked refused. This included Downie. Sergeant Keane took the DNA while Detective Brevet Sergeant van der Stelt took Downie’s prints. “He was a bit timid and a bit shy, but that was his personality. He was cooperative and invited us into his house. When I printed him I saw that he had cuts on his hand. When we asked how he got them, he said he fell off his bike on the Friday night. He later changed this to falling off a motorbike. They were deep cuts, not scratches and not consistent with falling off a bike. We asked if he’d been inside the Rowe home, he said no, but admitted to being outside it,” Detective Brevet Sergeant van der Stelt said.
Web of lies unravel
One week and one day on from the murders, forensics confirmed that the print on Chantelle’s bedroom door was Downie’s.
Earlier Downie had told police he hadn’t been inside the Rowe’s home! But was it enough for detectives to move? Not for Superintendent Moyle, he wanted, and needed, more. “If, at the end of the day, we locked someone up and the print was all we had, the clock is ticking. Downie could say he was there months ago. Don’t get me wrong, the print was nice, but it was of limited value on its own,” he said.
But when the DNA came back as a match to Downie late the next day, Superintendent Moyle admits his “pulse rate went up”. “There was some punching of the air – it was a relief. Then you have to play devil’s advocate. You have to take the time to examine everything before you and question: if I were defence for Downie, I’d be looking for an explanation like ‘yeah I said I didn’t have intercourse with Chantelle, but in actual fact I had, but didn’t want anyone to know’. That’s not unusual. “But we looked at everything objectively and at the end of the day we were happy with our answers. We could have waited for more DNA indicators to come back, but I was worried about the dangers. What if something else happened overnight? How would we answer to the public on why we didn’t move on what we had?” Superintendent Moyle said.
Within 48 hours, Sergeant Keane’s initial hunch had turned into a set of facts that would eventually see Downie plead guilty to triple murder. Deliberations then started on the best way to arrest a man who was suspected of murdering three people.
There has been a lot of speculation around why Major Crime detectives decided on a course of action that saw Downie’s boss bring him to thepolice station.
Superintendent Moyle explains that it was not intended, but was something that couldn’t have been foreseen in the planning process. “There is always a risk assessment that needs to be done. You ask: how do we effect the arrest - will it be a high risk situation and how do we not expose people to more danger than can be avoided? Options we considered were going to his workplace and arresting him, but there were a lot of other people working there. How do you control the scene? Does he have access to weapons, or potential weapons? If you go and knock on his door there may be other people in the house and if he panics we could end up with a siege. We considered a vehicle stop on his way to or from work, but that was problematic again – if he panics you could end up with a pursuit with members of the public being exposed to danger,” Superintendent Moyle said.
And so detectives went with the option of asking Downie to come in and sign his statement. It was simple; clean. Downie was aware that others had been asked to do the same, so it was not out of the ordinary.
And so Detective Kinsman rang Downie’s work and asked his supervisor to give him a message: on his way home, could Downie please drop in to the Kapunda Police Station and sign his statement? Unbeknown to police, on this day Downie had not taken his car to work, but had asked for a lift from his boss. “When we asked his boss to pass on the message, he said ‘no worries: I brought him into work, I can bring him into the police station on my way home’. “I was not comfortable with this, but to change the plan could have spooked Downie, so we let it run its course,” Superintendent Moyle explained.
Brevet Sergeants Anthony van der Stelt, Peter Martin and Shaun Osborn made the arrest. “We just stood inside the station waiting for Downie to arrive, looking out the windows. We’d closed the station earlier and unlocked the door when he arrived. I just went up to him, introduced myself and shook his hand. I took him out the back of the station and arrested him. “He didn’t really react at all to anything. He just calmly denied committing the offences,” Detective Brevet Sergeant van der Stelt said.
Downie asked to call his mother. Detectives allowed her to sit in on the interview. “She told him to tell the truth. We gave her a chance to speak to him in private; she just wanted to know the truth and he just kept saying no, he hadn’t,” Detective Brevet Sergeant van der Stelt explains.
Throughout the interview Downie’s lies kept mounting. “There were a number of things he said that were quite clearly incorrect. In particular, we explained to him we found his semen on Chantelle. He claimed he had consensual sex with her a number of months ago and that he’d used a condom. He said ‘obviously the condom broke’,” he said.
The night Downie was arrested, a press conference was arranged to let the people of Kapunda know their ordeal was over and they could reclaim their town. More than 100 locals gathered at the police station. “It was pretty overwhelming to see that amount of people there. The TV cameras became invisible, because all I could see was the sea of people. It was extraordinary that people would come out for the press conference, rather than stay at home and see it from their lounge room. It was really emotional for everyone involved,” Superintendent Moyle said.
Chief Inspector Zimmerman believes that when Downie was identified as the alleged killer, shockwaves swept through the community for a second time. “There was total disbelief. It was one of their own. Someone most people knew. After the arrest it was a priority to make sure there was no vigilante action against Downie’s family. I had my members walking into front bars to pass on the message, that Downie’s family were not responsible for an individual’s actions,” Chief Inspector Zimmermann said.
While arrangements were being made to go public with the arrest, Downie was taken from Kapunda to Elizabeth Police Station Cells for a range of forensic procedures.
On the hour-long drive Downie said very little and showed even less emotion. It seemed unfathomable that someone accused of such a heinous crime could appear so impassive. “He seems to have the ability to distance himself from reality. Whatever he says to himself is the reality, the rest is just fiction. “He was able to go to work on the Monday morning. He not only went to work, he had people believe he was grief stricken. He carried on the charade throughout the week, he even went to the extent of laying a card and teddy bear at the back gate of the house,” Detective Brevet Sergeant van der Stelt said.
There’s no doubt the crime, the scenario of events and the viciousness so evident in the crime scene has replayed a thousand times over in the minds of those who dealt with this brutality. All admit there is no easy way to erase it. “His behaviour is what you expect from a psychopathic killer who had done it a number of times – but this was an 18-yearold lad with no criminal history. “It is hard for us to go to bed and picture that scene, how is it for him to go to bed, and close his eyes at night knowing what he did?” Superintendent Moyle said.
Sergeant Keane elaborated. “I couldn’t think of anything worse than closing your eyes and re-living what you had done. It’s my view that Downie disabled all three of them and came back and finished the attack. In that process he stabbed Chantelle, she’s crawled under the bed already bleeding, he’s dragged her out and raped her then redressed her – for me, that’s the worst part of it. We don’t really know if she was dead or dying when he raped her,” Sergeant Keane said shaking his head.
Brevet Sergeant McKenzie added his thoughts. “I am rarely surprised at what humans can do to each other. But I have four children and I couldn’t help think how someone can kill a child like that, with such rage.”
Chief Inspector Zimmermann said the scene was so staggering that his priority was the wellbeing of his local members. “I had to protect my staff, they were clearly shaken. I was conscious of the need to limit their exposure to the carnage,” he said.
A compelling case
After the arrest came the exhaustive process of filling in the remainder of a most complex puzzle. Much of that fell to forensics.
Brevet Sergeant McKenzie explains his biggest challenge of the investigation came when he was asked to select an initial 10 blood samples to be taken to FSSA to see if any DNA could be extracted.
After studying the hundreds of samples he’d taken, Brevet Sergeant McKenzie chose 10. Remarkably, four of those came back as positive matches to Downie, including blood stained finger marks found in front of the knife block in the kitchen.
Brevet Sergeant McKenzie is confident that if Downie had gone to trial, the forensic evidence from the crime scene was so compelling, that alone would have convicted Downie.
And although Downie was never interviewed again after his arrest, detectives describe the final brief of evidence against him as “overwhelming”.
It included blood from the Rowe family located on Downie’s car console and Chantelle’s USB stick and lanyard (seen in a photo around her neck the day before she was killed) in Downie’s possession.
Almost as compelling as the bedroom door finger print and DNA, was the ability of Brevet Sergeant McKenzie and his team to match a pair of Downie’s shoes to prints at the crime scene. “Even though we didn’t have Downie’s shoes we had a Facebook photo of him wearing a pair that we thought may match those found at the crime scene. He couldn’t account for where the shoes were. But we were eventually able to find out the make and brand, purchase a pair from Big W and analyse the tread pattern against those found at the scene – it was a perfect match,” Brevet Sergeant McKenzie said.
Downie’s shoe print was found in the bottom of the Rowe’s bath, with no blood on it. That led crime scene investigators and detectives to safely assume that Downie had broken into the house through a bathroom window. At some point during the attack Downie removed his shoes which were covered in blood, and walked around in his socks. He also attempted to clean up.
The day Downie pleaded guilty, Superintendent Moyle walked from the Supreme Court with a heavy heart. Journalists were swarming around, seeking comment. Perhaps they were expecting him to signal a relief at the plea?
Instead the Superintendent’s anger surfaced. He told reporters: “Downie’s guilty pleas should not be seen as any sign of remorse on his part, for three murders which I think were of a truly savage nature.” Superintendent Moyle said he felt compelled to make those comments. “He pleaded guilty but he never confessed. There’s a big difference between a confession and a guilty plea and I would not want anyone to think he was in some way remorseful for what he did. I know for certain he wasn’t,” he said.
Police were aware that after the guilty plea Downie was still telling his family that he didn’t commit the murders.
It’s for that reason the DPP requested that the Court make Downie formally plea a second time. There was no way anyone would accept Downie getting off on a technicality.
And so in March this year Downie stood in the Supreme Court and confirmed he was responsible for taking the lives of Andrew, Rose and Chantelle Rowe – all because he was obsessed with Chantelle, but could not possess her.
Following his second plea Downie surprised everyone by offering directions, through his lawyer, to where police could find the shoes he wore on the night of the murder. “He gave us some directions and the local police went and recovered the shoes. Then there was a further offer to take us and show us where the knives he used and clothing he wore were. We never recovered the knives but we did eventually recover the clothing, hidden under a tree on a back track outside of Kapunda. We know he took Chantelle’s phone and Rose’s purse, but he denies this. I don’t think he wants to give them up,” Superintendent Moyle said.
Inspector Gray agrees Downie is holding back. “While we found his clothes, we never found the knife. I don’t believe he was ever going to show us where that was, that would be the ultimate confession. At the time I remember thinking how cold and dispassionate he is. No remorse, no sorrow and no explanation, just pure evil.”
A long road back
Now just a few months after being sentenced to life with 35 years non-parole, Major Crime detectives can take time to reflect. “I think the team, all my team, did an extraordinary job and put in long, long hours. But also we were supported by a lot of other people. There were 80 or more police officers that played a part somewhere,” Superintendent Moyle said. “Also SES went through tons of rubbish and we asked Water Operations Unit to scour this black murky pond. Door knocks, searches; everyone did what they had to do without question. “But certainly I don’t lose sight of the fact that the team here pulled it all together and we got a result. Having only just arrived at Major Crime, it gave me a chance to get my head around, very quickly, the capabilities and expertise of this office and the organisation as a whole,” he said.
Some of Superintendent Moyle’s greatest praise is reserved for Christopher Rowe, the son of Andrew and Rose and brother to Chantelle. “He was still dealing with the fact he has lost his entire family, and then I have to tell him that while we had arrested someone, it was someone he knew. It was too close to home. I just hoped the result, while it would never bring them back, would give him some relief,” he said.
Another key contributor to the investigation was Victim Contact Officer, Constable Cristina Poppy. It was her role to act as the conduit between investigators and Christopher.
This involved keeping him apprised of developments and explaining how investigations, evidence and court processes worked. Her work also extended to keeping all family members and close friends informed, which wasn’t easy.
“Andrew and Rose shared 10 siblings between them. Then there are all the cousins and Chantelle’s closest friends. The extended circle was enormous. But they all feel, they all hurt – so you can’t isolate one, or a handful, you had to ensure everyone was informed. At times it would take almost a whole day to ensure everyone was aware of a single message.
“The family is just so strong, so gracious and always so grateful. Christopher is amazing,” Constable Poppy said.
But she concedes that Downie’s sentencing devastated the family all over again.
“There is still so much anger, so much disbelief. I can’t even begin to understand how someone who loses their whole family can start to repair,” she said. Constable Poppy says that she struggled to find a starting point with the family because the crime was so overwhelming.
“We just built a dialogue. I didn’t have all the right words, but I could explain issues, deliver news to them, steer them towards the right services like the Homicide Victim Support Group.
“Now I feel like an adoptive mother. I am still in contact with all the family, and sometimes we don’t even talk about the murders, we just talk about anything,” she said.
Constable Poppy expects that contact to go on for years to come, as the future is uncertain for those who are left with so many questions that will go unanswered.
But what is certain is that Jason Alexander Downie will spend the next 35 years in prison.
Major Crime detectives are guarded on their views of the length of Downie’s sentence.
But the family left grieving are not so retrained. Christopher Rowe’s Facebook post provides an insight into their grief:
“Nothing changes. It doesn’t matter if he gets one or 100 years, my family isn’t coming back. You have destroyed my life and everybody’s life around me who cared for and loved my family.
“Whatever you get will never be enough.”
In sentencing, Justice Sulan said that had Downie not pleaded guilty, his minimum term would have been 42 years. Justice Sulan described the attack upon each of the Rowes as frenzied and added, “the coldblooded, merciless attack” upon Chantelle was “a chilling act.” But right to the end Downie showed no emotion.