Perth Now - Sunday Times

'I just want a normal life'

Colleen Egan, The Sunday Times

October 14, 2006 05:30pm

ANDREW Mallard has spoken about his historic exoneration this week and his yearning for a normal life after 12 years of prison hell.

The 44-year-old who was blamed for the vicious 1994 murder of Pamela Lawrence, a woman he had never met, was euphoric to be finally cleared and receive an apology from the WA police.


Andrew Mallard
FINALLY FREE: Andrew Mallard, cleared of murdering a woman he had never met, says he hopes to start a family. Picture: Stewart Allen / News Limited picture
In his only in-depth interview, Mr Mallard said the truth of his innocence kept him alive through desperate years in Casuarina Maximum Security Prison.

He expected a multimillion-dollar compensation payout from the state and, if improper conduct is established, the funds should be recouped from the superannuation payments of police and prosecutors involved in the case.

But no amount of money could replace what he really wanted most of all: a wife, children and a citizen's life.

"Every human being deserves to have a family,'' he said.

"I want a wife and children. I want to make my mother a grandmother and my sister an aunty. I need to share my life with someone to make me complete.''

Mr Mallard said the most difficult part of being incarcerated was knowing that other men his age were marrying and settling down.

"Every year, my opportunity to be young and healthy enough to enjoy my children was being stolen from me,'' he said.

"Loneliness really is painful. It's a deep, hollow, clenching pain deep in my chest.

"I would often look at the television in my cell and see an advertisement with couples embracing or young families with children and it came to the point where I couldn't watch any more. TV was torture for me.''

Mr Mallard did not know what to make of publicity about compensation, which has been mentioned in terms of up to $5 million.

"The opportunity is for justice to be given properly to build a new life and start again,'' he said. "I need to realise my dreams of a career and support my wife and children into the future.

"Proper compensation would put on record that my family and I were severely wronged. It was my entire family in prison, including my father, who became terminally ill from the stresses involved.''

For the six months since his release, Mr Mallard has been living on the kindness of strangers who have donated a rent-free flat and deposited thousands of dollars into a trust account.

"I've seen the best and worst in human beings,'' he said. ``I'm so grateful to so many people and I've really needed their support. Release from prison doesn't mean you're hunky-dory and everything is fine.

"I've been seriously affected emotionally by this. It's extremely difficult to come to terms with moving among the community again.

"I'm coming from a non-entity to a citizen. I feel like Rumple Stiltskin sometimes - I still think in 1994 prices and don't realise things have changed.''

Mr Mallard said that while most members of the public were kind and friendly, some remained frightened and wary of him.

Women had locked him out of shops and steered their children away.

For that, he blamed Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock QC, who tagged him "the prime suspect'' despite dropping the wilful murder charge in February.

"Robert Cock caused some tremendous difficulties for me over the past six months,'' he said. ``I've had some really bad moments because of the ludicrous comment he made.

"Before my release, my supporters told him that the only basis I wanted the charge dropped was that I was innocent, there was no evidence against me. I never wanted to get out on a technicality.

``We couldn't believe it when he said I was still the prime suspect.''

Mr Mallard has rejected a written apology from Mr Cock, delivered this week.

"He has not apologised for refusing to concede my appeal in 2002, when John Quigley found the evidence that I'd received an unfair trial,'' he said.

"Mr Cock's office fought me tooth and nail for four years.

"It would seem that only (the Police Commissioner) Mr O'Callaghan has offered any sincere apology. I think Mr Cock just followed his lead.''

Mr Mallard accepted the conclusions of the cold-case review, which found British backpacker Simon Rochford was probably responsible for the murder.

Rochford would sometimes stare at him in remand prison in 1994-05, when he was awaiting trial for the Lawrence murder and Rochford was on remand for the murder of Perth woman Brigitta Dickens.

Both men spent several years in Casuarina Prison.

Mr Mallard said that having met many psychopaths in prison, he was not surprised that Rochford allowed him to languish for a crime he did not commit.

"The man was a killer and a psychopath, from what I've read about him,'' he said.

"How can you expect him to have a conscience? There is no point being angry with him. I feel sorry for his mother and sorry for his victims.''

Mr Mallard said his reintegration was also made more difficult because of the public perception that he was mentally ill or a drug addict.

"The police were trying to build this psychotic-killer profile on me and they were portraying me as a nutter,'' he said.

"I was unwell at the time, but not the way it's been perceived. I term it a mental breakdown. I certainly was mentally vulnerable and I was using marijuana to self-medicate, but I am not mentally ill.''

Mr Mallard said his weekly visits to a psychiatrist, whose bills are being paid by donations to his trust account, were helping him enormously. ``I definitely had post-traumatic stress symptoms when I first got out,'' he said.

"At first, I was physically ill from panic attacks. They were debilitating.''

Mr Mallard said he could not settle in Perth, his life had been ruined, and he was considering relocating overseas. But incredibly, he saw the positive side of his ordeal.

"It has made me a better man,'' he said. ``It's something I can draw on and draw strength from. I understand myself now.

"Prison gave me the opportunity to look inward and understand what was going wrong in my life in that time and what led me into circumstances that enabled me to be manipulated.

"It introduced me to some wonderful human beings who have been like a snowball of hope. I am grateful for my health and the wonderful new friends that I have and the opportunity to go forward.''

However, he will forever be scarred.

"I cannot explain the anguish and the horror of the experience at certain points,'' he said.

"In the privacy of my own cell, I almost went mad with despair. Insane with despair and loneliness.
"There were excruciatingly horrific emotions. When I'd hit rock-bottom, the positive side of me would take control and I'd pick myself up again. I was exhausted, but I knew I'd done nothing wrong and the truth would one day set me free.''

Colleen Egan has been investigating the Mallard case since 1998. During that time, she has been a supporter of Mr Mallard and his family.


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