The murder of an 11-year-old boy by his mentally ill father, who later died after he was shot by Victorian police, has left Australia in shock and disbelief, but his grieving mother spoke in defence of her estranged partner at a moving press conference today.
Luke Batty was at cricket training on Wednesday evening at Tyabb on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula when he was killed by his father Greg in front of his team-mates and mother, Rosie.
Greg Anderson, 54, was shot by police at the scene of the attack and died several hours later in hospital.
“No one loved Luke more than Greg, his father. No one loved Luke more than me. We both loved him,” Ms Batty told the assembled media today.
“It’s a tragic situation that no-one could see was going to happen.”
“The very tragic thing about this is the father’s life was tragic and based on challenges in his life that we couldn’t help him with and nor could anyone else.”
In a 10-minute address, Luke’s mother said that she was in shock and disbelief and had amazing support from friends and family, who were coming out from England. She said the family had endured an 11-year battle.
“What I want to share with you is, I’m the victim of family violence and if anything comes out of this, I want it to be a lesson to everybody.
“Luke was at cricket practice and I believed he was safe.
“I’m a victim like anybody else.”
Ms Batty said her son loved his father but knew he was struggling.
“He felt for his dad, he knew his dad was in a sad place.”
“What triggered this was a case of his dad having mental health issues, he was in a homelessness situation for many years, his life was failing, everything was becoming worse in his life and Luke was the only bright light in his life.”
Training had finished and many of the families had headed home when her son asked for a few minutes with his father.
“Because he doesn’t see him very often and I said yes, sure, that’s OK.
“There was no reason to be concerned, I thought it was in an open environment — that’s something I have to understand.
“Police have suggested it was a calculated act that would have occurred at some point and I’m not to blame myself.
“You always, as a parent, think you could have done something differently, acted in a certain way but when I thought something was wrong, I thought it was an accident.
“It wasn’t an accident and I have to come to terms with that.”
With remarkable composure and compassion, Ms Batty offered empathy for all those involved in the tragedy.
“No one did anything wrong, the police acted in the way they needed to act.
“And in the past Greg has been confrontational and difficult — police had no other option.”
She asked for the details of what occurred not to be recounted.
“It serves no purpose other than to… Luke was killed by his father, we need to deal with that. Myself, my family, my friends and no-one else, including myself, needs to know the details of what he actually did. There is no sense in it.”
She recounted a long, troubled relationship with Greg Batty and her struggle to ensure both he and her son had a relationship.
“You’re dealing with someone who has always had problems, and they start off smaller and over the years they get bigger — but he’s still the father and you know that they love them.
“[Greg] loved his son and everyone I think who is involved in children would know that whatever action they take, it’s not because they don’t love them.
“What you can’t understand is why they would do this. There is no understanding because there is a mental illness that goes untreated, they seek not to take advantage of help offered to them, they continue to blame everybody else whether it be me, family members, it’s just huge sadness.
“Nobody could have helped Greg any more. I tried, his family tried, everybody tried.
“He chose to believe he was OK. It’s a total tragedy for a little boy.”
“I’ve known him for 20 years and his mental health has declined over those 20 years from someone who would brush off losing a job to one who was unemployable, basically.
She spoke movingly about the difficulties of making the right decisions for her son and her attempts to provide a loving family environment despite the difficulties of Greg Batty’s illness.
“When you’re involved in family violence, friends, family judge you. The decisions you should make, even the decisions you don’t make. You’re the victim, but you become the person that people condone.
“People reading this will say why didn’t she protect him, why didn’t she make certain decisions but when you actually finally decide enough is enough … you do not know what the outcome will be.
“And you’ve got to be prepared for the outcome and that outcome can be at the loss of your own life.
“What I want to take from this is, it isn’t simple, people judge you, tell you what you should do. You do the best you can.
“And you’re the victim and you’re helpless.
Despite the tragedy, she still had praise for Luke’s late father
“Greg was great with children. Every one of my friend’s kids identified with him, enjoyed his company.”
“He loved kids and the people who knew him at that point and saw how he was with their kids knew why I was torn about, do I nurture a relationship with his father or do I what?
“I felt the only real avenue was for a child to know his father. And I still don’t regret that. A child grows up without his father, he grows up with other issues. What I wanted to achieve was, that [Luke] knew he was loved.”
Luke she said, was a sensitive boy who loved sport.
“He was effervescent, he was funny. He wasn’t the best scholar, but he was intelligent. He enjoyed his school.
“I’d like him to be remembered in a joyous way.”
The ABC has the full press conference here.
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