What The Killer Did Next

Recently I watched an episode of a new UK-based true crime television documentary series called WHAT THE KILLER DID NEXT (HERE)

This blog post will explore details of the case that featured in the debut episode of this program.

Helen Bailey (1964 – 2016) was a British author who wrote both the Topaz L’ Amour series of books aimed at 9-12 year olds as well as the Electra Brown series for a teenage audience. In all she had 22 books of short stories, picture books and young-adult fiction published in addition to several non-fiction works.

She was reported missing in April 2016; three months later on 15 July, her remains were found hidden at her home. Her partner, Ian Stewart, was charged with her murder and found guilty in February 2017.

In February 2011, Helen Bailey’s first husband John Sinfield drowned while swimming when the couple were on holiday in Barbados.  They had been together for 22 years, and married for the last 15. 

Her first book for adults, When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis (2015), was based on her Planet Grief blog (HERE) which set out her journey through grief after he died.

The video below was filmed four years ago and shows Helen Bailey talking about the release of her newly published book WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN IN GOOD BIKINIS –

The book also noted her subsequent relationship, beginning in October 2011, with widower Ian Stewart, a father of two adult sons. In an uncanny coincidence, Stewart’s first wife also died in mysterious circumstances, back in 2010. This death was re- investigated upon his conviction for Helen Bailey’s murder.

Helen Bailey’s remains and those of her pet dog were found inside a hidden second septic tank inside her home. During the murder trial the jury was told by Bailey’s brother that during a visit to her home (in the town of Royston, North Hertfordshire, England) she had joked about the septic tank in the garage being a “good place to hide a body”, and that the remark had been made in “full earshot” of Stewart.

Financial gain appears to have been the motive for the callous crime. The jury learned Stewart was the main beneficiary of Bailey’s £3.4 million estate, and would also benefit from a large life insurance policy.

Ian Stewart was described in court as a “greedy, wicked narcissist”. Members of Stewart’s former bowls club recalled how he was obsessed with money and extremely parsimonious: he accounted for every penny he spent or was owed and once caused a scene at a bowls match when asked to pay for a cup of tea he argued that should have been covered in his membership fee.

Ian Stewart will be 90 years of age when he first becomes eligible for parole.

Ps. Back in November 2017 I delved deep into another homicide case involving a famous successful author. On that occasion however the author was the murderer. Revisit that story HERE

Tempting Fate – or a Fate Worse Than Death?

The last time I watched a TERMINATOR film in a movie theatre Bob Hawke was Australian Prime Minister and George Bush senior was in the White house.

It takes some coaxing these days to get me out into multiplex land and when it happens, there’s usually some connection with the past. A new RAMBO film (HERE) two months ago was one such occasion. I’m hoping the just released, long-awaited sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING (words I never thought I’d hear myself say) will be another.

The chance to cast eyes on the latest installment in the TERMINATOR franchise was likewise too good a thing to pass up. I’ll admit I stopped following goings on in this series after the first two films (I rank the original THE TERMINATOR (1984) in my list of Top 30 all-time favorite films. I also consider it, unusually perhaps, as the most underrated romance story of 20th century cinema.

This latest addition to the Terminator stable was also an opportunity to see reunited for the first time in almost thirty years the original team of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton again playing Sarah Connor and director James Cameron, who serves as both co-story creator and co-producer this time ’round.

Speaking for the herd, I’ll pronounce TERMINATOR: DARK FATE ‘decent enough’ without ever going close to spectacular. 99 out of 100 movies made and watched never get within the electrified-fence perimeter of ‘spectacular’ so that in itself is certainly no failing.

But there are definite ‘problems’ with this film that have prompted some hard-to-please critics to label it as dull and lackluster. I’ll call them ‘flaws’ and if by chance you happened to be looking for a list, you’ve come to the right place.

Nearly thirty years ago, the at-that-time newly conceived digital morphing technology that allowed a cyborg assassin to get blasted square in the face with a shotgun and have the wound magically heal over before audiences’ eyes was both-barrels completely mind-foozling.

But three decades on when more or less the identical same film technology is used (the only difference being the liquid metal is now colored black compared to it’s circa ’91 silver appearance) to heal over bullet wounds, but to far less effect and far less sparingly than back in T2 time, the result is inevitably way more diluted.

The second major obstacle the film poses for audience enjoyment lies within the reprised character of Sarah Connor (played with a detached been-there-seen-that demeanor by 63 year old Linda Hamilton).

Where at one time the once humble waitress character who grew to become the embodiment of formidable female empowerment, channeled via a reluctant hero pushed too far and forced by circumstance to decisively and spectacularly ‘step up’ – in much the same way Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ripley character from the Alien movies did back in the same era – DARK FATE forces it’s audience to endure the company of a perpetually foul-mouthed, sarcastic, cynical and embittered warrior (what a lifetime of fighting will do to most people) who definitely comes across as though she’s fought one too many battles.

This hate-filled and at times downright arrogant matriarch bent on future-shaping and past-correcting revenge has, by this 6th movie, now transformed into a person who, frankly speaking, is somewhat of a melancholic downer to spend extended time with.

I’ll admit this one is less a flaw and more personal preference. Because of the negative tropes and stereotypes associated with Mexican/hispanic movie characters (drug cartels, gang members, maids, unwed mothers etc) I tend to shy away from stories that center themselves in that territory (an exception being the Siacario films which I enjoyed, if ‘enjoy’ is the right word given the ultra-heavy nature of both those movies).

DARK FATE boasts both a Latino heroine and no less than a Latino terminator, plus all the action takes place in Mexico city. U.S/ Mexico border patrols, border crossings and detention centers all feature heavily. White characters are in such short supply Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are on more than one occasion referred to as ‘Gringos’. A similar phenomena made itself felt in Stallone’s most recent Rambo installment (HERE).

Maybe I should just be thankful the scriptwriters had the good sense not to force the Latino Terminator (played by American-Mexican actor Gabriel Luna) to utter Arnie’s famous line from T2 – “Hasta la vista, baby”.

No TERMINATOR sequel has ever come close to matching the sublime alchemy of James Cameron’s original 1984 masterpiece, in my eyes, for the simple fact that that first movie combined what I (but probably few others) regard as one of the best love stories of modern cinema with face-caving, next-level action. That’s a very rare mix that gets done well let alone as first-kiss unforgettably as T1.

TERMINATOR 2 featured at it’s heart a different kind of love – the maternal kind felt by Sarah Connor for her son John – that likewise assisted that movie to luminous and bankrolled heights. Since then however, poignant moments have been few and far between in the concussive TERMINATOR series.

DARK FATE is non-stop action to the point of repetitiveness. And when the ‘catch your breath’ moments do come, shoehorned in-between the almighty body-slamming battle set pieces, they’re full of dry exposition and back-story.

Throw in a distinct lack of suspense and tension, not to mention the complete absence of even the faintest trace of the quasi-noir atmosphere that helped make the original movie such a stone cold classic, and it’s no wonder some opinions of this film have it as, at best, a meek palate cleanser.

What no doubt comes across as poking and negativity on my part is an unfortunate by-product of my need to try to put into words why, despite a pretty fair attempt, DARK FATE comes across a little hollow and might be seen as confirmation that a tried and true formula is starting to show its age.

To at least partially atone for that I will end on a positive. There’s a flash-back scene about 15 minutes in that is so cleverly done it’s worthy of mention. Shortly after the apocalyptic events of Skynet-engineered Judgement Day have been averted, a young Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Edward Furlong (John Connor) and a completely back-in-the-day-buff Schwarzenegger (T-800 Terminator) play out a scene on a Guatemalan beach.

Since all the actors are circa early-nineties young again I figured this was footage filmed at some point during T-2 (1991) that never made it into the final film and had been rescued all these years later from its relegation to the cutting room floor (to use a pre-digital term if ever there was one) and inserted here into DARK FATE.

Not even close, as I was to discover. I learned after watching the film that this re-imagined scene using younger versions of the now much more aged actors was all done using CGI. That is truly fall-to-your-knees-awesome film making. And soooo 21st century!

Ps. In the audience of the session I attended for DARK FATE were many people who were sitting alone. A number of these patrons were women well into their seventies. I noted one munching on cucumber sandwiches throughout the screening.

When the lights came on at the end several made their way down the carpeted steps with an uneven gait born of dinky hips. It was quite the eye-opener to behold the diversity and age span of folk who one might not necessarily first think of as being your garden variety TERMINATOR fan.

Pss. For a REAL time travel experience back to two years ago, click HERE.

Psss. If it’s gold standard analysis you crave look no further than the video below. The guy that put it together has used Sherlock Holmes style sleuthing skills not to mention countless hours of time tracking down key information references across the first five TERMINATOR films to assembly complex timelines documenting key events.

DARK FATE may have had its missteps but this video deserves no less than a Pulitzer Prize for film analysis. At 24 minutes it’s intended for die-hard fans but the screenshots below it should give some idea of the level of documented research on show.

Australia’s 3rd Best City – and loving it!

It took me a while but eventually I found it.

I’d been trawling through lists of the world’s most livable cities, searching, very hard, as it turned out, for one that listed my city – Brisbane – Australia.

By way of background, allow me to share with you the knowledge that as of 2019, our world now plays host to 551 cities. Here ‘City’ is defined as a place populated by at least one million residents.

Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s’s more recognized, more favored and more glam city cousins reliably feature somewhere in lists of this type. But Brisbane? What were the chances of a city (population 2.3 million) that less than a decade ago was famously described as a no-frills ‘Wednesday Waitress’ of a travel destination getting a gong alongside the likes of ‘fabulous on stilts’ powerhouses like New York, London, Tokyo and Dubai?

Well, like I say, it took some trawling but eventually I did find a list that had the good sense or generosity of spirit – depending on which way you want to look at it – to list my home city. Indexes that stretched to a mere 20 or 30 listings were definitely not the sort of rarefied-air-territory to go looking for a more modest, more functional, less… how to put it… ‘glittering’ city experience the likes of Brisbane.

That list is HERE

It counts all the way to 100. Brisbane comes in 51st position.

I was born in this city. And apart from three years living in Tokyo – Japan and two years residing on a small island in the Torres Strait, I’ve lived my life in this city. I won’t bore you with tales of how I’ve watched the place grow. But I will say I own two great books that brilliantly chronicle that growth.

Taking their cue from an archive project called LOST LONDON (HERE) these two impressive volumes, put together by the The Royal Historical Society of Queensland (HERE) boast over a thousand classic photos of old vintage Brisbane.

Yet my favorite photo doesn’t come from either of these books. A number of years back I saved a clipping from the local newspaper. It shows a young boy (Lionel Bevis) guiding his wooden goat-cart along a Brisbane street. Corner shops can be seen in the background and an old-style jalopy is about to pass the boy at a bend in the wide road. The photo was taken in 1947. I’ve never seen it published or appear anywhere again, in any format including the internet. I love everything about this photo. For me it is a bona-fide classic!

In addition to works of non-fiction, Brisbane has also been the inspiration for substantive works of fiction over the years, these novels among them –

And now comes another…

Former Brisbane-based author Tony Cavanaugh(HERE) – who now resides in Sydney – has penned BLOOD RIVER. The book is being described as the most distinctly Brisbane novel published for some time.

Replete with iconic locales such as the Breakfast Creek Hotel, Brisbane private schools, gracious suburbs such as Ascot and old Queenslanders (houses), the author has described his literary creation in interviews as ‘a love letter to Brisbane’.

Considering the story is about a serial killer, it is a love letter that includes blood, profanity and murder.

And if by some small miracle, no-frills, bells or whistles local council websites happen to be your thing, you’re in huge luck HERE.

Ps. And while we’re off the topic of cities and back onto the topic of books and writing… I’ve been wanting to share this cartoon now for some time, ever since I stumbled across it browsing creative writing teacher Bridget Whelan’s site (HERE) It really is so spot on…