Last Wednesday, Luke Batty, 11, went to cricket practice after school where his own father turned up and beat him to death with his bat. Terrified onlookers included his team-mates, their parents, and his mother Rose. The horrible murder happened in the Melbourne suburb of Tyabb on the Mornington Peninsula.
Police were called to the cricket oval at 6.30pm and they encountered the man, Greg Anderson, 45, brandishing a knife. They tried to subdue him with OC spray but when this failed, they put a shot in his chest. It was too late to save Luke. Emergency medical staff could not revive him from his serious head injuries. The father also died later in hospital.
Greg Anderson was under a restraining order, but he was not banned from going to watch Luke play cricket. Rose Batty had assumed that, as it was in a public place and there were people around, that the schoolboy would be safe in that context.
There was a long history of violent and unpredictable behaviour in Anderson’s background. Many who knew him thought he had profound psychological problems, but he refused to be assessed or treated. He was a drifter, living out of his unregistered car, at the time of the fatal crime. Estranged from Rose Batty, who is British, she had nonetheless made efforts to allow him reasonable access to their only son.
Four warrants to arrest him had been issued since May 16 2012, but Anderson had not been detained. Victorian police have refused to comment on their failure to apprehend the deceased. On each occasion he had threatened and hurt Rose and spoken about killing her. He never turned up in court to answer to any of the charges.
Anderson was also charged with viewing child pornography which he was caught doing in the Emerald Hill Library last November. He had the images with him on a USB stick.
Eleven-year-old Luke was last seen alive doing some batting practice with his Dad at the end of the cricket training session. Just like any father and son they were taking a turn in the nets. Luke had apparently cleared it with his Mum that he could stay on to continue to practice with the father for some extra time. A few deliveries were bowled. Twenty minutes later, Anderson was seen bending over the boy, who was motionless. It was assumed he had suffered a sporting injury and an ambulance was called. Ms Batty was only a few metres away. She thought Luke must have been struck by the ball.
“I thought it was an accident” she said, and she had no reason to think otherwise. Like any mother, she was distressed, and ran towards her boy.
When the police got to the scene, and Anderson advanced on them, he reportedly asked them to shoot him, raising the possibility that he had planned a so-called “suicide by cop.” A spokesman for the police said it was every officer’s “worst nightmare” and they had done everything they could to avoid that outcome.
Rose and Luke Batty were not long back from a five-week holiday back to Britain. She told reporters that Greg had mental health issues, exacerbated by his refusal to get help. She knew he was homeless. She also said that Luke was the only “bright spot” in the father’s life, and that everything else was getting worse or failing for him. She was certain the Greg loved Luke and that no one could have foreseen this tragic situation.
Despite Rose Batty’s forgiving stance, police are fairly sure that the act of murder was a calculated one. He had a long history of violent and erratic behaviour. They surmise he planned to kill the boy and then be killed himself. After he struck Luke’s head with a bat he was seen to stab him with a knife.
Tributes have been paid to Rose Batty for her courage and dignity in the face of her dreadful loss. She has issued a warning about family violence, and said that it can occur to anyone, no matter how nice their house, or how intelligent they are. She hopes if any lesson comes from Luke’s death, it is this. In the video below, she speaks bravely and eloquently through her pain.
Although from the UK, she had stayed living in Australia so that Luke could grow up near to his father. She accepted that Greg was a “troubled soul,” a far cry from the chilled-out backpacker she had met twenty years ago. As he slid further and further into unemployment and depression, he became a changed man. From being a mere nuisance, he began to be a menace.
Luke was very happy at his school, the Flinders Christian Community College, and this was another reason Rosie did not uproot him and take him back to England, even though she would have had a lot more support there. “He was no scholar, but he liked school” she said.
She was pleased to see him interacting and playing with his Dad. “He would have trusted Greg,” she said in an interview. After all the recent trauma of his assaults upon her, and the warrants for his arrest, Rose had dared to think that the boy and the father were getting along well. That was before the unthinkable happened.
Luke’s contemporaries from school and scout troupe are receiving counselling as they try to come to terms with their friend’s demise. Police are still calling for witnesses to come forward to give statements as they deal with the homicide. Floral tributes are being placed at the oval.
A football coach who knew Luke could not recollect seeing him smile. He said that the boy knew his Dad was troubled and it preyed on his mind. Luke must have understood that his Dad was an unhappy outsider, but when he went to cricket training on what would become the last day of his life, little could he have ever known that his own disturbed father would beat him to death with his bat.
By Kate Henderson