LYNCHING: The Age's attempted ministerial thrill-kill exposes a mentally ill accuser and a newspaper without decency

carolynwebb Seasoned political observers say any pretence that the horrific claims made against Victorian cabinet minister Theo Theophanous were sourced from a credible accuser were stripped bare by a breathtaking front-page attack on him in The Age today.

One said that “Ironically, this is probably the best thing that could have happened to him (Theophanous). We now all know what he’s dealing with: a raging psycho. The presumption that where there’s smoke there’s fire is beginning to clear up very quickly. This is no damsel in distress, this is someone with a clear agenda, with little or no regard for any Police process.”

One of the Minister’s colleagues told VEXNEWS “This is the most grotesquely irresponsible, extraordinary, outrageous and despicable stories ever published in The Age newspaper.” He explained: “The Age’s hostility to Theophanous has been well established with repeated campaigns against him ever since he fell out with (the Left faction’s) Kim Carr.”

“It is a lynching by media, punishment meted out by journalists without any reference to evidence or justice,” another angry source within government, verging on tears. “I thought I’d seen everything but this is putrid. Even Theo’s most sworn enemies will be wary about this woman now.”

Media insiders today compared the publication of untested claims of a self-admitted psychiatric patient as crazier and even more fool-hardy than the Age’s assertion in the early 1980s that Australia’s richest man, Kerry Packer, was a heroin importer.

In a particularly puzzling development, the story was written by Carolyn Webb, a rarely published, long-serving Age “human interest” story writer who normally writes harmless “colour” about arts or sporting events. She’s had a significant change of pace here to write an article based around a series of disturbing, angry quotes from the woman who claims the minister attacked her in Parliament House late one night ten years ago.

Webb does not appear to have ever written on politics before and some speculate she might even know the anono-accuser because she wouldn’t be the most obvious person to be allocated the story by the newsdesk, based on form.

In the bizarre interview, the self-admittedly psychiatrically disturbed, mentally ill woman declines to adequately explain why it took nearly a decade for her complaints to be made.

Nor does she explain why she didn’t take the opportunity after leaving Parliament House that night to complain to the Victoria Police officers who guard the building 24 hours a day.

She said the reason for her delay was ‘fear’, although doesn’t explain how that ‘fear’ has dissipated to such an extent she is now bestowing exclusive media interviews to hand-picked journalists, in the midst of a Police investigation she prompted, a decade after the alleged event she complains about.

The accuser seems to admit to preparing to obtain money from the Minister via civil proceedings and had apparently briefed lawyers two years ago before deciding not to proceed that way and instead trying her luck with the Police. She may well be planning to sue after this blaze of publicity.

The Minister’s accuser concedes she sees both psychiatrists and psychologists. She explains to her sympathetic scribe “I was spiralling downwards. I was on antidepressants and sleeping tablets. I’ve seen a psychologist and a psychiatrist.” Weren’t alarm bells starting to ring at The Age the moment she mentioned psychiatrist? Apparently not.

Wikipedia advises:

Psychiatry is a medical specialty which exists to study, prevent, and treat mental disorders in humans.

The psychiatric patient continued with her disturbing tale, which appear to have included self-harm:

“I have almost overdosed, I’m ashamed to say. I just drank alcohol and took a couple of sleeping tablets. It’s a way of blocking it out.” Some might think it’s a shame we can’t block her out.

Prior to making her spectacular complaint she told The Age she had a nervous breakdown. She says she “got to the point where I wouldn’t go out, I wouldn’t watch TV, I had a complete breakdown, I couldn’t hold a job.” Her proposition is – it seems – this is all the fault of a Victorian cabinet minister.

She says – despite not wanting to be identified – that “I am prepared to stand on the steps of Parliament with a banner saying, ‘I want justice’. That’s how far I will go.”

The accuser appears to admit to having been in telephone contact with the person she claims attacked her, which some might think is not behaviour consistent with the rest of her story. One is hardly likely to be in communication with one’s assaulter or one’s assault victim. Something doesn’t add up there.

Ominously, she thinks the Police are very involved in her life, the journalist Webb declared:

She has been in constant phone contact with Victoria Police detectives “who have been my lifeline; without them I wouldn’t have survived”.

Although, oddly, she appears to have only contacted the Police last year. And had managed to survive through 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 without their assistance.

We can only hope those detectives are not knowingly concerned in this trial by media. The eyes of the entire political apparatus of the state – with both sides of the aisle equally curious – are now on those involved in enforcing the law to ensure that justice is done and is seen to be done. The stakes are high and getting higher by the minute, particularly now the complainant is on the loose, giving exclusive interviews and threatening to pick up protest banners in support of her case.

One Liberal remarked to VEXNEWS yesterday “There but for the grace of God go many Parliament House playas, including Richard Dalla Riva and David Davis whose Olympian skirt-chasing in Spring Street would put the Labor blokes to shame, Theo included. There are no little blue pills in David Davis’ desk, he’s always raring to go.”

After today, with the newspaper and the complainant showing little respect for a gravely serious legal process, it is clear this is truly now a gruesome battle for survival. Key facts are still sketchy – with the anonymous complainant’s description very light on detail – with the Minister rightly respecting the process and not commenting on anything until the appropriate time.

And it’s well worth considering the consequences of The Age getting this story so horribly wrong. False rape claims are sadly not rare (a Google search reveals dozens of examples in recent times) and present a very serious challenge to both our justice system and society itself as it deals with the one of the gravest of allegations that can be made against any person. Wendy McElroy, a feminist writer, has written extensively on false rape claims:

And yet, whenever an unwitnessed crime (of rape) is alleged, such speculation (about the truth of the claim) is valid. This is especially true if the allegation of crime is not unambiguously backed up by physical evidence. In a “he said/she said” scenario, the credibility of the accuser is key. This is why Western jurisprudence recognizes the right of the accused to face his or her accuser and ask questions in a court of law.

She tells the story of Tucker Carlson, a then CNN journalist who later moved to host on MSNBC cable news channel.

Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson discusses another motive that underlies some false accusations. In 2001, a woman he had never met alleged he had raped her in Louisville, a city he had never visited. After $14,000 in defensive legal bills, Carlson discovered that the woman had a chronic mental disorder. He decided not to sue for redress since it would further link his name with the word “rape.”

Carlson even hesitated to speak out in his tell-all book because “the stigma of being accused of that kind of crime is so strong.” Fortunately, he thought it taught a valuable lesson: “I always assumed, like every other journalist does, that all sex scandals are rooted in the truth, period. You may not have done precisely what you’re accused of, but you did something.” From bitter experience, he now knows differently.

At this stage, it seems only two people can be certain of the truth in this case. One of them has confessed to being mentally ill and certainly appears to harbour a long-held grudge of some kind against the Minister.

Long after the Age has already imposed its sentence on the Minister, the facts of who made this claim and why will be revealed. It’s already beginning to look like a very murky, muddled and ugly picture hidden in the dusty attic of a disturbed mind. Whatever the result, we can only hope the accuser gets the help with her mental health she clearly needs.

The Age’s willingness to use – and no doubt eventually discard – the anono-accuser marks a very disturbing chapter in their long and sordid history of character assassination and sensationalism.

They have done the accuser no favours. They have brought her credit into question and made her credibility the central issue now. If it’s her word against his, and she’s planning protest vigils outside Spring Street in between appointments with her shrinks and late night pill-popping with booze chaser sessions, then it is hard to imagine a case succeeding. But obviously damage is done anyway. Throw enough mud, and some of it sticks.

It took a long time for Kerry Packer to recover from the Age’s patently absurd charge that he was an importer of heroin. It might take Minister Theophanous a long time too. But his supporters can take comfort today – after their first pained reaction to The Age’s drive-by shooting attempt – that time heals all wounds and most assuredly wounds all heels. Including the heels on the sensible shoes of Carolyn Webb who trampled all over the principles of justice The Age professes to believe in every time a crazed Islamist terrorist or psycho-convert is on trial (even after they confess).

This morning, that sacred cow has been put to the sword, beheaded by The Age’s Editor Paul Ramadge to fulfil The Age’s ultimate ALP factional fantasy thrill-kill: the demise of Theo.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone just how low they are willing to go to settle an old score for their Socialist Left factional friends. They hope no one notices the inconsistency in their approach. For Jihad Jack, they’ll presume him innocent despite damning evidence. Even terrorist convict David Hicks is to be afforded that presumption long after his guilty plea to being trained to commit terrorist acts. But a politician in a faction they don’t like, guilty of changing sides from the Left to their enemy, that’s a different matter. Off with his head. Verdict and evidence can come later, perhaps like some at The Age, the victim of outsourcing.

In the event the Minister isn’t charged with any offence, the anono-accuser, her facilitator Ms Webb and her employer Paul Ramadge, the editor-in-chief of The Age will have a lot of explaining to do.

For now though, the accuser is in focus. An accuser with the gravest of accusations. But takes ten years to report it. An alleged victim of a serious assault. But in a building with a significant Police presence, even late at night. A woman who “said she did not want to see the case become ‘a political circus’ yet agrees to a front-page exclusive interview in a newspaper renowned for maintaining a political vendetta against the target of her hate.

It doesn’t feel entirely comfortable for any of us being sceptical about anyone complaining about a serious alleged assault of this kind. We’re all wired to be sympathetic and concerned about this kind of grave and sinister accusation. But it’s the accuser and those publishing her wild and clearly dubious claims who have turned this into an obscene and outrageous political circus, no one else. It might – and certainly should – cost them plenty.



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26 responses to “LYNCHING: The Age's attempted ministerial thrill-kill exposes a mentally ill accuser and a newspaper without decency

  1. Walter Plinge

    Great article. I look forward to follow-up items.

  2. calm down

    “In the event the Minister isn’t charged with any offence, the anono-accuser, her facilitator Ms Webb and her employer Paul Ramadge, the editor-in-chief of The Age will have a lot of explaining to do.”

    And if he is charged and later convicted of rape, Andrew Landeryou will, presumably, have a lot of explaining to do.

  3. Pieter Bruegel the Elder

    I can use Wikipedia too.

    Walter Plinge is a pseudonym, traditionally used in London theatres when a part has not been cast, an actor is playing two parts or an actor does not want his or her name in the programme. Plinge was supposedly a real London pub owner, honoured by a group of actors with the borrowing of his name.

  4. Victoria Lucas

    Pieter, why did you drop the H from your name?

  5. the scalpel of truth

    That was a very helpful analysis of what’s gone on here. If a politician can be undone by what suspiciously looks like a crazy psycho, then no one is safe.

  6. Walter Plinge

    Yes the same modus operandi applied to Geoff Clarke.

  7. Davy Davis

    Christ I hope the wife does not read this article, she is already very suspicious about my nocturnal meetings and my stained strides.

  8. mmm

    The media have a bit of form on this “trial by media stuff” blowing up in their faces.

    I give you two clear examples

    1 Belinda Neal – no charges ever laid in the end after having “A Current Affair” follow the women into the dunny.

    2 The bouncer accused of killing
    David Hookes – taken to trial and found not guilty. The media went to town on that guy at the time. There was even a book written about the saga which focussed on the “trial by media” aspect of the case.

    If the media have egg on their face again then lets hope they act a little more maturely in the future.

  9. Pieter Bruegel the Elder

    Victoria Lucas (or should I say Sylvia Plath), you must be thinking of Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

  10. Anonymous

    Ask Geoff Clark what its like to have the finger of accusation pointed at you 40 years after the event.

  11. Anonymous

    Why has Theophanous’ name been made public to this charge but the accuser remains cloaked in secrecy? Gotta love feminist double standards.

  12. Ruff Stuff

    Re: Why has Theophanous’ name been made public … accuser remains cloaked in secrecy?
    A few things to point out. One: Theophanous was the one who outed himself as the subject of a police inquiry (although most likely at the insistance of Brumby after their 1/2hour chat on Monday arvo). This should not be forgotten, even if he knew nothing about the claim (and there is no reason to think otherwise).
    Two: sexual assault victims are never identified unless they wish to be, and are above the age of consent. This is so they do not have to live with the public stigma of being a sex assault victim. It was ever thus. The only sexual assault and rape victims who have ever been identified in media reports are those who choose to do so. Some have been open about it, others choose to reveal only part of their name. Like grieving relatives in car crashes or murders, these victims react in different ways – some choose to tell all in the hope it will help them heal, prevent other similar incidents, or give hope to other victims. Some avoid publicity completely and try to move on with their lives.

  13. Whisperer

    I do believe that Fridays Age may be the first of the last on this matter.
    Withdraw quickly is the cry in Spencer Street.
    SNAFU they used to say old chap.

  14. Walter Plinge's Understudy

    I agree why has not both sides of the allegations been named. There is much that is missing from this story. I fist they gave the impression she was a Parliamentary employee.We have seen this sought of abuse before. I guess we could save a lot of money and just appoint the Age editor to a star chamber and have them issue out execution decrees and sentences. Her statements appear to be very much worded in legalise subversion. Even if he is cleared of any wrong doing I think the damage has been done. Maybe she did a bill Clinton and is now looking for revenge and cashing in on some form of payout.

  15. There are some good points made above about who is being identified and not.

    I agree with Ruff Stuff that accusers in this kind of case ought not be named unless they wish to be, partly because of the old fashioned idea that there is shame in being a victim of such a sexual crime. It’s a pretty Saudi view of the world, but it is what it is.

    We are right to be sensitive to the feelings of people who make these accusations.

    But as important as that is for individuals, justice for all of us is more important.

    Every possible element that would make the accuser’s claim highly suspect has been satisfied in this case:

    1) The accuser has psychiatric difficulties

    2) The accuser took a very long time (a decade) to make the accusation

    3) The accusation itself is gravely serious (albeit bordering on the fantastic) and appears to only rely on the accuser’s assertion.

    It seems very unlikely anyone accused in these circumstances could possibly ever be convicted in a properly functioning court of law. Unless of course there’s something none of us yet know, something the accuser held back in her exclusive interview with The Age.

    Premier Brumby was right to call on Victoria Police to interview Minister Theophanous and settle this matter once and for all. After an eighteen month long investigation, this really does need urgent action.

    Ruff Stuff is right to worry about accusers in this situation. But there is something about this accuser’s story that simply doesn’t add up.

    Until those issues are resolved, I believe great caution should be exercised, lest those cheering her on be seen as little more than a despicable lynch mob.

  16. Gena

    If she’s planning protest vigils outside Spring Street then she is prepared to have her name and photo in the public arena.

    If as Andrew and others have suggested then yes she should be outed and she should be seeking help.

    There is nothing graver then the false allegation of rape or pedophilia.

    Any false accusation makes life that much harder for those women that are in real need of assistance and those that have truly been victims of a serious crime.

    The exact circumstances of the allegations and the names invoved must be released

  17. Anonymous

    So Ruff Stuff – its ok by you to name and shame Theophanous and yet the accuser can do so knowing they are free from being subjected to the same media frenzy?

    Theophanous has already been tried and found guilty by the media. A “not guilty” verdict will never clear his name.

    If the accuser can remain cloaked in secrecy then the accused should also be kept confindential.

    But the way it stands today, it’s one law for one, and one for another.

  18. Anonymous


    Victorian MP Theo Theophanous has hit back at claims he raped a woman 10 years ago, declaring his innocence and slamming the media for publicising the allegations.

    Mr Theophanous, who has stepped down from his role pending a police investigation of the sexual assault claims, said the publication of the allegations have hurt his chances of a fair legal process.

    “I was shocked to read in today’s Age (newspaper) statements from a person accusing me of the most horrible crimes that are totally against all the moral and religious values I believe in,” he said in a statement today.

    “These accusations have never been put to me before, and to be put publicly in this way places me in the most difficult position. I have scrupulously tried to avoid making any detailed comment which would amount to interfering in a police inquiry.

    “Again, I reaffirm my complete innocence of any wrongdoing.

    “When I stepped aside from the ministry two days ago I put my trust in due process, and in the police dealing with this inquiry in a way that was fair to all parties.

    “Instead, I have found myself subject to ongoing reports attributed to ‘sources’, and now I face the most distressing direct accusations through the press.

    “Rape is a horrendous crime. To be wrongly accused of such a crime is deeply harmful to me and my family.”

  19. Guy Fawkes

    Theophanous outed himself. Its the usual political stunt. Put pressure on the investigators and the complainant. Fight for time. Enable supporters (such as the ratbags here) to obfuscate the issues.

    If a rape charge issues and is proved, Theophanous won’t be the first cabinet minister whose dick was far more active than the minister.

  20. Anonymous

    Just because a woman is mentally ill doesn’t mean her sexual assault claims should be dismissed. Sadly, the effects she describes are common among rape victims. Your comments on Carolyn Webb however are dead right. It’s grossly unfair of the Age to print this when the cops still haven’t finished their investigation. Let the professionals finish their investigation – journalists make terrible juries.

  21. Ruff Stuff

    Re Anonymous: So Ruff Stuff – it’s ok by you to name and shame Theophanous and yet the accuser can do so knowing they are free from being subjected to the same media frenzy?

    No, but it has always been thus. The media will have a duty to report the outcome, whatever it is. Usually this only happens after there are charges, as are the cases which are reported from courts and the like. Few argue that those charged with any offence, including sexual assault, should kept anonymous – the exceptions are mostly when the victim is likely to be identified.
    In this case it has happened before there are charges, and yes that does make me uncomfortable particularly given their nature. Even if cleared, or never charged, the stigma will never go away, and that would be an unfortunate outcome.

  22. Guy Fawkes

    Agree with Ruff Stuff. Well said.

    But as for this blog, most comments, and the former Minister’s protestations – they have ALL done a good job of demonising the victim…

  23. Iceberg

    Shoot the messenger (The Age), blame the victim and muddy the waters.

    Theophanous brought all this down on himself.

  24. Anonymous

    Theophanous – tried and convicted by The Age. The facts of the matter are irrelevent. Media have made him guilty.

  25. Vicki Price


  26. Forensics

    Ever heard of forensics? Theo should not have sprayed on a wall, then lied about it in a Police Interview.

    He will be convicted, and do some very long and hard porridge.

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