'The very person who killed him, loved him'

Last updated 09:50 14/02/2014
Ten News

Rosie Batty, the mother of 11-year-old Luke who was killed by his father at cricket practice, appeals for families to be aware of the dangers of family violence.

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"It was just a little cricket practice, there were people there, I believed he was safe," mother Rosie Batty said.

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A few more minutes, mum. Just a few minutes more?

Who could turn a freckled-nosed Luke Batty down in that moment, when the appeal came from such a sympathetic place?

No, Rosie Batty could not say no to her 11-year-old son just then,  she could not deny her boy's plea for a chance to hit a few more balls with his sad and troubled father.

Nor could she imagine what would unfold in just a few more minutes at a Melbourne, Australia, cricket oval. No one could imagine that the father would bash the son in the head, delivering a hit that would kill. Or that he would then attack police until, inevitably, they shot him.

It happened so fast. In just a few minutes in Tyabb there was a fatal blow to a family, a knockout for a small town, and a Victorian community left shaken.

And yet we are also amazed by the compassion and eloquence and sheer courageous strength of a mum that no longer has anyone for whom she needs to be strong.

Just after 1pm on Thursday, Rosie Batty stepped from her home in Tyabb into a media scrum.

''My name is Rosie,'' she said. ''I'm the mother of Luke.''

Batty stood by herself in the middle of the road at the end of a dead-end street. She spoke not for a moment, but for 24 full minutes.

She was surrounded, gently, by microphones and cameras. She was given space when she shook, and time when she cried. When a question seemed too blunt or abrupt, she was generous. Rosie had something to share - a perspective we did not see coming.

''No one loved Luke more than Greg, his father. No one loved Luke more than me. We both loved him,'' she said. ''It was a tragic situation that no one could see was going to happen. I'm still dealing with disbelief. I'm here right now because I know you have a job to do, and I want to tell everybody that family violence happens to everybody, no matter how nice your house is, no matter how intelligent you are.''

Rosie Batty explained then how she had known Greg for 20 years, and how she had started seeing signs of problems in his life 11 years ago, when she was pregnant with Luke. They were smaller things then, but they became bigger.

She said he dealt for years with homelessness, and with mental illness. She said it went untreated - this ''huge, huge sadness'' that family and friends tried to overcome but could not, not so long as he chose to believe he was OK.

''His life was failing,'' she said. ''Everything was becoming worse in his life, and Luke was the only bright light.''

Luke, who went on a trip to the UK with his mother only recently, had not seen much of his father in the time before they both died. They connected mainly at sporting events. It was a relationship conducted only in the imagined safety of public places.

A football coach said that he could not remember seeing Luke smile. He knew his father was troubled, and it weighed on his mind.

Batty said: ''He felt for his dad. He knew his dad was in a sad place,'' ''Luke was nearly as tall as me. He was sensitive. He loved his dad and he felt pain because his dad, he knew, was struggling.''

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Batty tried to detail the personality and presence of her son - to paint a portrait for everyone who cares. Luke enjoyed his footy. He enjoyed his cricket. He was effervescent and dramatic. He was no scholar but liked school.

''He was a little boy, in a growing body that felt pain and sadness and fear for his mum, and he always believed he would be safe with his dad,'' she said. ''And he would have trusted Greg.''

Batty's compassion was breathtaking.

''So how do I feel? Shock, tragedy, loss,'' she said, while acknowledging that she will need her friends and family and community. ''They're all in shock, and together we need to console each other and we need to work through this, so this is a positive event in the way that this is a tragedy, another tragedy of family violence.''

- The Age

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