Stockton Beach, Australia
|Cause of death||Murdered by Matthew Grant Webster|
Leigh Leigh's body was found in sand dunes at Stockton Beach following a 16-year-old boy's birthday party. Her body had severe genital damage and a crushed skull. Matthew Webster was charged with and convicted of her murder.
On 3 November 1989, a boy celebrated his 16th birthday at a Stockton surf club with minimum supervision. Most of the people present were Year Ten students from Newcastle High School however it was reported children as young as 10 were present. Many of the participants were drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and some were having sex. Eighteen-year-old Webster, one of the two bouncers at the party, admitted to smoking around fifteen cones of marijuana and consuming about a case of beer during the evening. Fourteen-year-old Leigh had a written invitation to attend the party and permission from her mother, who was told there would be responsible adults present. Leigh was reported to have gotten heavily intoxicated very quickly. Shortly afterwards Leigh had sex on the beach with a boy aged 15. She had previously been a virgin. There is strong evidence to suggest that this was rape, however the 15-year-old boy, who was never publicly named for legal reasons, was not charged with rape. Whether or not the sex was consensual remains contentious. When Judge Joseph Moore reviewed the evidence in 1995, he concluded that Leigh's first sexual encounter at the party went beyond "carnal knowledge". He called it non-consensual.
The evidence before me indicates that Leigh rejected the juvenile's advances, and that his intercourse with her was without her consent.—Judge Joseph Moore
It was also widely reported that Leigh was gang raped. Regarding this Detective Sergeant Lance Chaffey, who headed the investigation stated:
"There was no semen found in the body, none; the boy who'd had sex with her said he didn't ejaculate. And you don't have a gang rape without semen. That's a point that's been lost along the way."
When Leigh returned to the party she was distressed and seeking assistance. Nineteen-year-old Guy Wilson, the other bouncer, and the only other person besides Webster aged over 18 at the party, also demanded sex from her. Wilson was joined by Webster and around ten other boys who surrounded Leigh and pushed her to the ground. They yelled abuse, kicked her, spat on her, threw bottles at her and spat beer on her head. This was witnessed by other people at the party. No one came to help her. Similar physical and verbal assaults continued inside the crowded clubhouse where she sought refuge. Leigh then walked to the beach. Webster followed her, grabbed her, dragged her to a hollow between the dunes, violently raped, beat, strangled and killed her by striking her head with a piece of concrete weighing Template:Convert/kg. The first blow to the head killed her. Webster continued to hit her several more times. She was disfigured beyond recognition, the entire left side of her head was caved in. Leigh still had her invitation to attend the party in her pocket when her body was found the next morning.
Matthew Webster pleaded guilty to Leigh's murder and on 24 October 1990 Justice Wood sentenced him a minimum of 14 years with an additional 6 years during which he would be eligible for parole. Justice Wood found that Webster's motivation for killing Lee was his fear she would report his sexual assault upon her. Webster was the first murderer in New South Wales to be sentenced under the truth in sentencing legislation. He was released on parole on 10 June 2004 after serving 14½ years. Following his release, Leigh's family stated they harboured "...no ill thoughts" towards Webster and wished him well in the "...re-establishment of his life".
Guy Wilson served six months for assault, the unnamed 15-year-old was also sentenced to 6 months custody in a detention centre; the sentence was reduced on appeal to 100 hours community service.
Police were criticised over their handling of the investigation, in particular for failing to quickly identify perpetrators, their treatment of witnesses, and for interviewing children without the permission of their parents. A review in 2000 recommended the dismissal of Detective Sergeant Lance Chaffey and disciplinary action against the other investigative officers.
The murder was discussed at length in the Parliament of New South Wales, and the release of Matthew Webster on parole was also discussed in Parliament 14 years later. There were initial concerns as to whether or not Webster was suitable for parole; after discussion of the circumstances his parole release went unopposed.
The issue is simply this: Do we continue to keep him in custody for an extended period of time when he has made progress—bearing in mind that at the end of his 20-year sentence he would be released and there would be no opportunity to supervise him? Or, alternatively, do we take it the next step further and, once he has satisfactorily completed all the relevant leave programs and appropriate courses, test him out in the community and give him an opportunity?
Theatrical and film adaptations
A play, written by Australian playwright Nick Enright was inspired by the events. The play originally premiered at Freewheels Theatre in Newcastle in 1992 under the title A Property of the Clan, and was later shown at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1993. The play was later retitled Blackrock after some revisions and was performed by the Sydney Theatre Company in 1995 and 1996. It was developed into a film, also entitled Blackrock, which was released in 1997. In both the plays and the film the characters names are changed; for example Leigh's character is named Tracy, however the events are still set in Stockton and Newcastle. Leigh's family objected to naming the character Tracy, as 'Tracey' was the name of Leigh's cousin and best friend. The community of Stockton opposed filming in the area, citing that the memories of the events were still fresh and the details of the script were too close for comfort. Complaints about the film were exacerbated by the film-makers denial that the film was specifically about Leigh, despite the choice of Stockton for filming.
I've never researched the Leigh Leigh story. I picked up the general outline of it and used its mythological shape as the starting point for the piece.—Nick Enright
Leigh's family were vehemently opposed to the film, saying the film-makers were "feasting on an unfortunate situation". Both the stage and film representations were credited with correcting misinformation reported in the media regarding the murder, as well as to providing a forum for reflection on the events. Both the plays and the film question how extreme male bonding in youth subcultures relegates females to purely domestic and sexual roles, and are about why any group of boys might abuse any girl.
- Elder, John (13 June 2004). "A death in the sand, pain that lives on". The Age. http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/06/12/1086749943697.html?from=storyrhs. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- Morrow, Jonathon; San Roque, Mehera (1996). "In Her Death She Remains as the Limit of the System". Sydney Law Review 18 (474): 475. http://search2.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/SydLRev/1996/28.pdf.
- Chad Watson (6 June 2004). "Teen killer's mum relieved he's free". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/06/05/1086377188065.html?from=moreStories. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
- Paul Whelan (15 October 1996). "Death of Leigh Leigh". Parliament of New South Wales. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/PARLMENT/hansArt.nsf/V3Key/LA19961015004. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
- "Sticks and Stones: The Killing of Leigh Leigh". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 29 September 1996. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s10729.htm. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
- Donna Lee Brien (October 2009). "Based on a True Story': The problem of the perception of biographical truth in narratives based on real lives". Textjournal.com.au. http://www.textjournal.com.au/oct09/brien.htm. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
- Morrow, Jonathon; San Roque, Mehera (1996). "In Her Death She Remains as the Limit of the System". Sydney Law Review 18 (474): 473. http://search2.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/SydLRev/1996/28.pdf.
- Foschia, Liz (10 June 2004). "Leigh Leigh's killer released on parole". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1128673.htm. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- Coyle, Rebecca (2005). Reel tracks: Australian feature film music and cultural identities. John Libbey Publishing. pp. 23, 24. ISBN 978-0861966585. http://books.google.com/books?id=G8BADHUuJyAC&pg=PA23&lpg=PA23&dq=leigh+stockton+beach+rape&source=bl&ots=y6N06Qcz4P&sig=9AsE4M1zcwNjvY4OTIjwkWV4zQg&hl=en&ei=9OA_S76AKI60tge6-eyPCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CBAQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=leigh%20stockton%20beach%20rape&f=false. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- "NSW releases findings of police misconduct inquiry". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 18 October 2000. http://www.abc.net.au/pm/stories/s201131.htm. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
- "Matt Webster Grant of Parole". Parliament of New South Wales. 3 June 2004. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Prod/Parlment/HansArt.nsf/V3Key/LC20040603029. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
- "DNA advances could implicate more in Leigh rape case". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 18 November 2009. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/11/18/2746741.htm. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
- Baillie, Rebecca (31 March 2003). "Tribute to Enright". The 7.30 Report. http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2003/s821043.htm. Retrieved 24 June 2010.