Andrew Peter Garforth,
(b. August 8, 1963), is an Australian criminal, sentenced to life
imprisonment for the abduction and murder of 9-year-old schoolgirl Ebony
Simpson in Bargo, New South Wales, Australia on August 19, 1992.
Garforth abducted Simpson and placed her in the trunk
of his car. He later sexually assaulted her in a remote location then
threw her in a dam at Wirrimbirra Sanctuary.
During court sessions Garforth showed no remorse for
his actions and was sentenced in 1994 to life imprisonment, "never to be
Murder of Ebony Simpson
The murder of Ebony Jane Simpson occurred in Bargo,
New South Wales on 19 August 1992. Simpson was nine years old. Andrew
Peter Garforth (born 8 August 1963) later pleaded guilty to the crime
and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of
release on parole.
Abduction and murder
On 19 August 1992, Simpson disembarked from her
schoolbus and walked past a parked Mazda 808 vehicle owned by Garforth.
Garforth abducted her, put her in the boot, and drove to a remote
location near Wirrimbirra Sanctuary. He sexually assaulted her
repeatedly, bound her, weighted her schoolbag and threw her into a dam
where she drowned.
A team of over 200 volunteers and 100 police searched
for Simpson, including her killer. Garforth confessed to the crime after
police detained him; during the confession and court sessions, Garforth
showed no remorse for his actions. He pleaded gulity to the murder of
Ebony Simpson and was sentenced in 1993 to life imprisonment; Justice
Peter Newman refused to fix a non-parole period and ordered that his
papers were to be marked "never to be released".
In discussion of the meaning of life imprisonment in
relation to this case, the judges in the case of Garforth when that was
appealed, said "the community interest in retribution, deterrence,
protection of the community in such situations may so strongly outweigh
any regard for rehabilitation that that's when a life sentence becomes a
In 1995, Garforth lodged several
claims for victims' compensation via his lawyers, Brezniak Neil-Smith
and Co., relating to alleged assaults which occurred in prison. The
claims were later withdrawn after public outrage.
Garforth appealed to the High Court of Australia, but
he was refused special leave. It is one of two similar cases, both of
which have been refused special leave.
Andrew Peter Garforth is also suspected of the
unsolved 1979 murder of West Australian teenager Felicia Marie Wilson,
19, of Kwinana, Perth. Miss Wilson, a former Miss West Coast finalist,
was stripped naked and slashed before her killer smashed her skull with
a 27 kg block of limestone as she walked home from work at the Kwinana
Community Health Centre about 4.30pm on January 10, 1979. The manhunt
went cold until the early 1990s when WA detectives received information
from NSW police about a man who reportedly had nightmares about Miss
Wilson. By 1994, NSW police had further information about Miss Wilson's
death that linked Garforth, who lived in the area at the time, to the
unsolved crime. The investigation is ongoing.
A young girl is taken
Australia has had a few murders that have touched the
hearts of the nation. The murder of Ebony Simpson was one that did. It
is a story of a pretty young girl walking home from school but never
arrived and her brutalised body found a few days later. Her killer was
one of the search team.
I can remember the case so well. Ebony lived in Bargo
with her two brothers and mother and father. Bargo is a country town on
the outskirts of Sydney, again like many of the stories here it close to
the area where I grew up.Around the same time of Ebony's abduction a
horse in Bargo was also featured on the news. The horse had gotten stuck
in a tar pit, it is weird that I remember the horse as well. But the two
stories were both on the news, one as a lifestyle little side piece to
fill in time the other an Australian Tragedy that echoed the murders of
Anita Cobby and Janine Balding in years gone by.
The story began at 4.05pm on Wednesday 19 August,
1992, pretty nine-year old Ebony Simpson got off the school bus as she
did every afternoon, her hair was back in a pony tail with whispy ends
flying about. She had had a good day at school but she was looking
forward to getting home and dumping her school bag.. Her mind was
thinking about a drink and something to eat. She alighted the bus at her
normal stop, at the corner of Bargo and Arina Roads. She was the only
one who got off at the stop but that also was not unusual.
In a little
country town like Bargo you did not need to lock your doors at night. It
was a safe town with a tiny population of nearly 3000. Ebony looked
towards her home only 400 metres away along Arina Road. Little did she
know but that walk that should only take her a few minutes would never
be complete. She was being watched.
Ebony was unaware that anything was
wrong as she walked past the Mazda 808 sedan parked on the side of the
road. A man was looking over his car that had both the bonnet and boot
opened. Ebony noticed the man but took no real notice of him. She
assumed that he had merely broken down. It happens. But Ebony also knew
that she was not allowed to speak to him.
She remembered the "Stranger Danger" program
they were taught continuously at school. Do not talk to strangers; do
not get into a stranger's car. Do not take anything offered to you. So
Ebony hugged herself and continued quickly past the man. As Ebony got to
the rear of the car, the man quickly grabbed her and threw her roughly
into the boot. He closed the boot and the hood of the car and drove away.
The plan had worked.
The abductor, his pulse racing, drove away at high
speed along a dirt track and towards a damn seven kilometres away from
the bus stop that Ebony used every day. The abductor drove frantically
to the dam. He was already excited and could not wait to expend his
filthy lust on the girl. At the dam, the man opened the boot of the car
and dragged the young girl out.
Ebony was crying and begging the man to let her go
back to her mum. She was scared and hysterical, but her abductor did not
care. He turned off to the pretty girl's cries and tore the clothes off
her tiny body. The man tied the girl's arms behind her back with the
spare speaker wire he had brought with him.
The man proceeded to rape
the young girl as she cried for mercy. But her pleas fell on deaf ears.
The man was doing exactly what he wanted to. As the girl lay there
weeping in pain and fear the man grabbed her school bag and filled it
with rocks from the bank of the dam. The cruel man tied the girl's feet
together also and with the weight of her school bag attached to her he
threw her face down in to the dam. Ebony fought as hard as she could to
keep her mouth above the water as it flowed around her, she tried to
roll over and move towards the bank of the river, but with her arms and
legs tied and her heavy-laden bag she was unable to help herself.
The man watched her for a moment before getting back
into his car and driving away. The pleas of the drowning broken girl
floating away behind him. He felt neither remorse nor guilt for the
attack and probable murder that followed. He went home to his family his
de facto wife and his two young sons. Where is Ebony? By the next
morning the news was everywhere that Ebony Simpson was missing. The
police and emergency services along with the town's residents were all
out looking for Ebony. At the insistence of his wife, twenty-nine-year-old
Andrew Garforth joined the search for the missing girl. She had been
last seen getting off the bus and an eyewitness remembers seeing a light-coloured
Mazda near the bus stop that day.
The police seemed to have known the car well. It had
smoke stains across the back of the car from poor exhaust and a few
teachers from the schools in the area had seen it lurking near the
students every so often and on other occasions followed the school buses
on their routes. One person tried to memorise the details of the driver.
He was described as about 177cm tall with shoulder-length dirty blonde-brown
hair. He was quite thin and wore black clothes. The details were sketchy
and did not provide an immediate suspect until the police spotted a car
matching the description they had. Behind the wheel was Andrew Garforth
who matched the physical description exactly.
Garforth instantly told
police he had abducted Ebony and had taken her to the dam where he
assumed she drowned. At 12.45am on Friday 21 August, 1992 Garforth
directed police to the body of Ebony. Police could not believe the man's
confession, he chillingly told them how he had raped her then threw her
in the dam and left her to drown.
A death that takes an agonising four minutes. At the
station he was asked to recall the events that took place two days
earlier. Garforth's confession was told with little emotion. The
officers recording his confession were chilled by the way the murderer
spoke about the horrific crime. He told police how Ebony called for him
to help her.
"(She) shouted help I walked away. When I left her
she was trying to get back to the bank I believed she could have
possibly drowned or maybe made it to the bank."
But he fooled nobody. Everyone knew he planned to
leave her to die so she could not tell anyone. Later the same day
Garforth was charged in Picton Courthouse with the murder of Ebony
Simpson. The local residents and others from neighbouring towns yelled
abuse and screamed at Garforth as he was ushered into and from the
courthouse. It was a similar scene to the trial of Anita Cobby's
murderers and Janine Balding's killers. After his court appearance
Garforth had to be shielded from the crowd by police. People yelled at
him to show his face that was shrouded in a towel. But he was quickly
moved to the waiting prison van and taken away. Garforth is jailed for
ever Murders like Ebony Simpson, Anita Cobby and Janine Balding were a
catalyst for a victim's family support group.
After the murder of Anita Cobby, Gary and Grace Lynch
found that they were alone. Not many people knew how to handle the
family's grieving and therefore were pretty much left alone, except for
a few police officers who would come by to make sure they were coping
considering the circumstances. Gary and Grace Lynch offered the Simpson
family their own counselling. Coming from a family who had been through
a similar heart-rending situation. The Simpson family, mother Christine,
father Peter and Ebony's two older brothers Zackery and Tasman were lost.
Christine Simpson was understandably unable to function for months after
Ebony's death. The comfort they received from the Lynch's helped them
immensely and together they realised that an organised group needed to
be formed. As time went by the families combined forces and soon the
Homicide Victims Support Group was born.
The families would later help others who found
themselves in the same situation, but for now the Simpsons continued to
grieve for Ebony. Garforth was committed to stand trial in July 1993
only a few days before the trial was to begin; Garforth entered a plea
of guilty. It meant the Simpson family was spared the added grief of a
long and dragged out high profile trial. Garforth's sentencing was
handed down on July 9, 1993.
The media and public were indeed interested
to hear if the murderer's sentence would fit the crime. Australia does
not have the death penalty which some say is unfortunate when faced with
crimes as horrific as Ebony's.
However the judge at the sentencing did the next best
thing. Justice Newman stated that the crimes committed by Andrew
Garforth "Fall squarely into the category of the worst type of
case, (his) comments about what he expected the girl to do after he
threw her, tied up, in the dam, was chilling in the extreme the
indifference to the fate of his victim by the prisoner would appal any
civilised human being his intention was not to cause grievous bodily
harm his intention was to kill" With that told Andrew Garforth he
serves life imprisonment and his file was marked 'never to be released'.
The harshest sentence available in Australia. No
parole date would ever be given. He will now die in jail as is stated in
the 'truth-in-sentencing' laws governing NSW. While in prison Garforth
was attacked by fellow inmates in August 1992 while exercising in a
locked yard. He was meant to alone at the time, but was somehow attacked.
Being a child rapist and murderer Garforth was not liked by others
inside prison. Before too long though in protective custody fellow
inmates again attacked Garforth in October 1993.
On December 7, 1994
Garforth appealed his sentence in front of the High Court stating that
he was young at age 29 when he killed Ebony meaning he would spend an
estimated 42 years behind bars.
The defence also claimed: "there was no finding
that this applicant would remain dangerous for the rest of his life,
there was no finding that he was beyond reform and this was not a case
involving mass murder." The case was dismissed.
Garforth is to
spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. The Simpson family have
become well known throughout NSW for their tireless work with the
Homicide Victim Support Group (HVSG). Over the years hundreds of
families have sought the counselling of the group and their members.
1996, the Premier of NSW officially opened Ebony House. A house where
the families of victims such as the international families of the
Belanglo Forest Serial Murders are able to stay while attending court.
Andrew Peter Garforth