Extracts from an open letter from Rita Theophanous

THE Victorian State Parliament has resumed sitting. In the front row there is an empty seat normally occupied by my husband, Theo.

He remains in self-imposed exile, accused of a crime so awful that it is a struggle for me to fit inside my head that his name (and mine) is associated with it.

The events of a month ago have catapulted our family into a different reality. We have had to reach far beyond the tears and the pain, beyond the misinformation and the public redefinition of Theo and of who we are as a family. . . .

My father gets up early and scans the papers for any news. He goes to bed late in case something has broken. He is 84.

My niece got asked to go to the country for a few days. She declined. She told her mother that Uncle Theo might need her to cheer him up. She is 13. . . .

My decision to speak publicly has been a difficult one to make. I am a proud woman and do not easily share my pain. But it is time some things were said.

My aim is not simply to proclaim my husband’s innocence. Ultimately, that is for the investigation to determine, and the police must be allowed to do their job — methodically, thoroughly. It is rather to try and address an obvious injustice: in coming out publicly, Theo’s accuser has put in the public arena a particular scenario.

This scenario, because of the abhorrent nature of her allegations and the graphic detail in which they were expressed imprints a narrative in the public mind which is almost impossible to erase. Even if the investigation does not result in Theo being charged, my fear is that his innocence will always be doubted in many people’s minds.

I have therefore decided to put forward an alternative narrative that the public may consider based on what I know: I know this woman — not very well, but I know her.

She was introduced by a mutual friend. Ten years ago, when she alleges this incident occurred, she was in her 30s.

She was an emergency teacher, and studied acting. I believe she had a number of social problems — with money, with work, with relationships — and that was the case well before the alleged incident.

She had a brother whom she lived with who was also mostly unemployed. She moved to Greece about six years ago. I believe they continue to live together, and that neither she nor her brother have had stable employment since.

I know that while in Australia she continued friendly social contact with Theo for several years after the time of the alleged incident, sometimes in my presence, sometimes alone, sometimes with other people, at both public events and over coffee. I believe that many independent witnesses have verified this.

I know that after the woman went to Greece she provided Theo with contact numbers so they could keep in touch. I know that she sent him greetings from Greece at Christmas and New Year as late as 2003, and talked to him on the phone about the problems she was having settling there.

She may have visited Parliament at some stage. There is nothing unusual in that. But on the night she alleges the incident occurred I believe Theo’s then driver insists he dropped Theo off at 6pm at home, and this is supported by his log book.

I also believe that in the years following the alleged incident, while she was in Melbourne, she had several relationships including with a man engaged to someone else. I believe she was shattered and bitter when he chose to marry his fiancee. I believe she tried desperately to continue the relationship. It was soon after that that she left for Greece.

I do not know why this woman is making these allegations against Theo. I do know that she contacted a mutual friend some 20 months ago and told her that she would “be in the papers” and make lots of money.

I also believe that among the first things she did was to contact selected people in the press, and litigation lawyers, rather than police. I have been told a close friend of her family has said those advising her in Greece right now have told her she stands to “make millions” through this. These are some of the things I know or believe to be true.

I think it is important others should be aware of them too in reaching their conclusions. This is because the woman has the protection of anonymity and lives in another country. She may never be held accountable if her allegations turn out to be false. My husband and my family cannot, however, hide from public exposure.

Theo’s solicitor has informed police of what we believe are important facts contained in this letter for them to independently verify.

We look forward to them being thoroughly investigated before police make any recommendation to the DPP, because the mere laying of charges leaves an indelible stain, even if someone is found innocent.

Finally, let me say that when I looked at what I believe to be the facts: this woman’s past experiences; the consistency in her behaviour before and after the alleged incident; her friendly messages and continued contact with Theo for years afterwards, and; the priority given to litigation lawyers when she finally decided to make her allegations, and I can only conclude that her story is a fabrication.

It makes me sad for my family and angry at the impact this will have for the genuine victims of such crimes.

From the Herald Sun.

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denningesque
denningesque
13 years ago

The Age and Herald Sun’s coverage of these allegations and investigations has been a disgrace. They have taken full advantage of the fact that the sub judice rule doesn’t apply to trawl through unsubstantiated allegations and potentially prejudice Theophanous’ right to a fair trial. The Age has backed off but the Herald Sun can’t but get back into muck. This letter is just as bad, going the other way. An investigation is underway. If Rita Theophanous has something to say she can do what every other citizen does and make a statement to the police. As it stands it is mostly a second and sometimes third hand version of events. At best it is a mish mash of hearsay, sentimentality and overt attempt to influence an investigation. There are more reference to her belief than in the Nicean creed. What first hand, that is non hearsay, account there is does not even attempt to be a thinly veiled attempt to damn her. She attempts to put pressure on the police with these “revelations.” It is not in the public interest and is almost certainly defamatory (though the Herald Sun knows the chances of suit are near zero). It is a grubby dirt sheet.
The penultimate paragraph is just plain illogical. She refers to matters that do not lead to the inevitable conclusion that the complainant’s story is a fabrication. There have been plenty enough cases where the victim’s behaviour has similarities to that described in the letter and yet a charges were laid and successfully prosecuted. Life is just not that simple. The letter should not have been republished on this site either. It does nobody any credit.

denningesque
denningesque
13 years ago

There is very little in the way of fair points in the letter. It is a series of assertions on a “take my word on it” basis. Lots of “I believe” this and that. What is the basis of that belief? You say that lives have been trashed by someone with nothing to lose. And you know this how? Infer it from Rita, that’s how! Really logical and analsytical. Unless you are channeling the complainants thoughts or have some extra information which you will reveal in a dramatic moment the more logical conclusion is “She would say that wouldn’t she.” Rita claims to have known this person, or was even friendly with her. Let’s take her word for it. But so what! That is not evidence of anything relevant, and especially not that there is more to it than is being let on.
Putting aside your aversion/fear/loathing of the hearsay and, it would appear, most other legal rules/msxims what is the fundamental purpose of the letter? It is a one sided version of events whose purpose is to do a hatchet job on the accuser. I thought the coverage by the Melbourne dailies when this story broke was disgraceful. It was a hatchet job against Theo Theophanous. Because the other side want to do a bit of spinning doesn’t make it any less appalling. You may call it pomposity, I call it basic fairness. There is a process, the police are investigating. They will hand their findings to the DPP who will make a decision. As systems go it is not bad, the best on offer. The nonsense in the papers adds nothing. Your opening ad hominum comments by way of reply don’t help either.

Francis Xavier Holden
13 years ago

It may be ungracious of me but my knowledge of the Theophanous brothers both public and private leads me to view Theo’s wife’s self serving hystrionics as ..well. …self serving hystrionics.

WTF does her father’s feelings have to do with facts. Most murderer’s families tell of how they were quiet nice boysand good to their mum. Same with 1.50 blood alcohol reading hoons whose cars crash into bystanders. Their mums love them.

Whether it’s all true or not (and on evidence I have I’d be willing to believe almost any accusation about them) I’d be happy to see the Theophanous brothers out of public life for the good of all.

melaleuca
melaleuca
13 years ago

Has anyone compiled a list of all the Labor politicians who’ve been charged with serious offences over the last 10 years? It is getting embarrassingly long.

pedro
pedro
13 years ago

I believe hearsay evidence is ruled out because it cannot be tested, not because it is weak.

Whatever the facts of this case, I believe malicious and wrongful allegations of rape do get made and so it is important to ensure that defendents, however loathsome, continue to get the benefit of the rules of evidence and procedure that have evolved over the centuries. I’d rather 20 rapists running free than one innocent person in jail.

pedro
pedro
13 years ago

I think there might be exceptions for deathbed statements, but the idea is that a person making a claim needs to be able to be cross-examined. I’m not arguing against you, just noting the reason, but I’ve not thought much about it to be honest. I can imagine problems with a party or the cops lining up witnesses with hearsay evidence on the some mud sticks theory.

pedro
pedro
13 years ago

No discourtesy felt, and I don’t know how often you’ve discussed it before. I’m agnostic about the rule as I said, other than a general prediliction for the presumption of innocence. Judgements about the probative value of hearsay would probably greatly increase the numbers of appeals.

Jack Strocchi
Jack Strocchi
13 years ago

I wonder how much money Mrs Theophanous will lose if her husband is convicted of a felony offence and loses his super. Probably in excess of $500,000.

Andrew Theophanous lost his superannuation and free travel entitlements when he was convicted of a sexual extortion offence. I think his wife was pretty cross about that.

Interesting isnt it, that both brothers have been charged with similar offences. Could be random. Or is there a pattern here?

Political wives, to a certain extent, are partners to their husbands political goings on. And have to take the good with the bad, depending on spouses.

I do feel sorry for their children though.

denningesque
denningesque
13 years ago

Another twist in the Theophanous saga. Theo was charged on summons with one count of rape (or so it is reported) just before Christmas. He makes his first appearance in late January. Thankfully the media will have to mind their p’s and q’s as the sub judice rule applies. The system works though I don’t think it was its finest hour. There are traits of the Americanisation of the legal process, what with self serving open letters, commentary that never rose about half baked speculation and an investigation that took at least 9 months to complete. I doubt we will end up with the circuses that spring up around high profile American criminal trials but it is something to watch against. That and …………..the preservation of the hearsay rule (eh NG, wink!)

denningesque
denningesque
13 years ago

And a Merry Christmas to you! I choose to remember our exchange as robust!

If TT goes down I strongly suspect an extra tariff will apply on sentencing. In my world it is called the “lawyers tariff.” A lawyer goes down for anything serious add 15 – 25% to whatever sentence normally applies. The rules of the game. You get the status (for what it is worth) you get the lumps if you “breach the trust.” I think it is grossly unfair but it is the reality.
I agree that if he wins he loses. One small way to make amends is to have the state pay the accused’s legals if the prosecution fails. There won’t be much change left out of $75,000 (conservatively) from now till verdict. Some rise from the ashes. Look at Bondy, back and bigger than life ( I am sorry to say). Some have hides that rhinos would love to have. It also helps to have no shame.

denningesque
denningesque
12 years ago

It is not my normal practice to back track over old posts but this Theophanous drama is moving into the world of the surreal. The Age has a full page interview in today’s Age (page 4). It is a clever piece in that it skirts the sub judice restrictions. Theophanous is now hinting at police impropriety (not illegality) and bias (again not illegal). The story also serves to smooth the sharp edges to Theophanous’ character. That he makes admissions about not being a saint and hints about what might be discovered in his texts suggests that might pose a problem for him. All of this is disturbing. At minimum it may influence the jury pool. One of the premises of the sub judice rule is to maximise the chances of a fair trial. That means not polluting the jury pool. This is a real shift to the more aggressive style of American defence model. It is appallling. In the US the prosecutors have responded to this approach by being even more aggressive. It is a terrible development.

What really sticks in my gut is that Theophanous has reportedly sued his accuser in Greece. That is disgusting. Why Greece? The alleged facts upon which the suit is presumably based occured in Autralia. If he issued in Australia the first thing a court would have done is stay the proceeding pending the outcome of the criminal trial. But why sue now. This person is the key witness. Rape trials are almost invariably about 2 witnesses the victim and the accused. The victim has to give evidence. The accussed sometimes does. Usually the balance of the witnesses are relevant only to medical evidence, credit, admissions and alibi. In rape trials the victims evidence is usually the lynch pin. So now Theophanous sues the victim for $10 million. No pressure on her I am sure. It stinks to high heaven. He should be ashamed as should the Age. Lets see if the OPP has a look at this development and applies for a gag order.