Bill Rowe's killer released

By Jason Smith

Christmas day 2007 was a tragic day in Geraldton's history.

And the man who made it so has been released from jail this week.

Geraldton residents remember clearly the shocking news of Bill Rowe's death at the hands of an intoxicated, cricket bat wielding Mathew Roy McDonald.

The story about how police were called yet didn't get to Sunset Beach in time to help left many people upset and frustrated.

McDonald was well known by the courts when this killing took place. In 2006 he was involved in a violent bashing and was found guilty, yet for his trouble received a suspended sentence. It would appear being let off without going to jail did not help prevent any future violent attacks.

And in spite of an overwhelmingly outraged community, the prosecutors chose to downgrade the charges over Bill Rowe's death to manslaughter. Mathew McDonald received only a five year sentence even though the Supreme Court Justice of the case said at the time "no punishment could fit the crime".

Locals were outraged at the low sentence McDonald received. The five years did not seem to reflect the severity of the crime or the expectations of the community.

Only a few days ago the ATO issued a press release bragging about a six year sentence handed to a man found guilty of promoting a tax avoidance scheme. Why our government and courts find tax avoidance a more serious matter than the killing of an innocent man is beyond the comprehension of many Geraldton residents.

Earlier this week, the West reported that the family of Bill Rowe still has not received any sort of apology from Mathew McDonald.

Bill Rowe was killed on Christmas day 2007, after a gang of around 20 youths set on his family at Sunset Beach. Other members of Mr Rowe's family were also injured, and it is believed Mr Rowe was hit on the head with a cricket bat while trying to protect a family member from further attack.

The police did not arrive until 30 minutes after they were first contacted, but said they did not realise the reality of the situation, having been told at first that the incident was just "youths throwing bottles".

Sadly, the Geraldton Police are notoriously under resourced. Recently seven positions for auxiliary officers were still going begging in Geraldton, meaning police are tied up doing things other than policing. As recently as the last state election the Liberal party promised more officers would be sent to Geraldton, a promise we are still waiting to see materialise.

Even if Police numbers are boosted, without courts that are willing to represent the wishes of the wider community, citizens are going to continue to feel frustrated.