Malcolm Baker killed six people on the Central Coast 25 years ago, and a prison action group is now fighting for him to have improved rights in prison.
Malcolm Baker killed six people on the Central Coast 25 years ago, and a prison action group is now fighting for him to have improved rights in prison.

Killer complains about prison ‘torture’

JUST six weeks after his girlfriend of seven years broke up with him, Malcolm Baker turned up to her Terrigal home and shot her dead.

The 23-year-old Avoca nursing home worker, Kerryann Gannan, was just one of six people killed in a 50-minute shooting rampage on the NSW Central Coast in 1992.

Also killed were Kerryann's sister Lisa (who was pregnant at the time) and their father Thomas. Baker, then 43, next drove to his son David's house about 10km away and killed him, before killing two more people, Leslie Read and Ross Smith.

Now, 25 years later, Ann Gannan, who had her two daughters and ex-husband murdered by Baker, says the attack on her family has made her "a shell of a person".

Ms Gannan, says she initially turned to drugs to cope with her grief and spent three years homeless. She remembers her last phone call with Malcolm Baker where he threatened, "I'm going to take the lot of ya's out".

Lisa Gannan was another of Baker’s victims. She was just a teenager, and heavily pregnant when she was killed
Lisa Gannan was another of Baker’s victims. She was just a teenager, and heavily pregnant when she was killed

The former mechanic is now serving life in prison. Most people would be happy for him to suffer there for the rest of his life, but prison activist group Justice Action says, despite his crimes, he is facing conditions "tantamount to torture" and wants to see his life behind bars improved.

"Malcolm has been treated abominably. Medication was being forced on him because 'he disturbed other people'. He was lying on his bed, unable to function, he had headaches. There's no case for eight nurses forcibly holding him down and injecting him in the buttocks," says Brett Collins, co-ordinator of Justice Action.

Kerryann Gannan was murdered by ex-partner Malcolm Baker on October 27, 1992
Kerryann Gannan was murdered by ex-partner Malcolm Baker on October 27, 1992

Justice Action says it had to win three cases in court for Malcolm to stop being forcibly medicated. The group suspects that the "special treatment handed out to Baker" was because "three policemen involved in this case were related to the victims that were killed".

Justice Action is co-ordinated by former prisoner Brett Collins, who spent time in jail for armed robbery. Collins speaks from personal experience when he says the prison system is a corruptive rather than corrective process. He describes Baker as a "warm, friendly" person with "smiling eyes" who feels great remorse for his actions.

Justice Action is fighting for the rights of Malcolm Baker, who killed six people on the Central Coast in 1992
Justice Action is fighting for the rights of Malcolm Baker, who killed six people on the Central Coast in 1992

"There's always going to be people who do become impulsive and respond badly to stress. To see Malcolm Baker as some sort of ogre just isn't true. He could be anyone who has access to a weapon and wants to express his frustration on others," he says.

However, Justice Action claims Baker has been diagnosed with having severe chronic treatment-resistant schizoaffective disorder - a combination of mood disorder and schizophrenia. Leaked prison documents from 2008 show Baker was "paranoid and (in an) aggressive state of mind". There have also been reports of him wearing a tinfoil hat and having incoherent rants about aliens. His mental health has allegedly deteriorated behind bars, a likely outcome of 15 years in solitary confinement.

Another prisoner supported by Justice Action is Julian Knight, who killed seven people and injured 19 in the Hoddle Street Massacre in 1987. The shooting spree has been dubbed one of the worst massacres in Australian history.

Sixteen days prior to the shooting, the 19-year-old was kicked out of the Army Cadets for stabbing a fellow officer at a nightclub, after being taunted. Knight spent the night of the shooting drinking alone in a bar before opening fire on cars travelling down a popular Melbourne street. The military-trained Knight was able to fire 114 rounds from three weapons in 45 minutes.

Julian Knight killed seven people in the Hoddle Street massacre in Melbourne in 1987. Picture: Michael Potter
Julian Knight killed seven people in the Hoddle Street massacre in Melbourne in 1987. Picture: Michael Potter

To this day, Knight claims he was in a delusional state at the time of the shooting, believing Melbourne was being invaded and that he couldn't tell fantasy from reality.

Denied parole because of the severity of his actions, Knight has spent 30 years in prison. With seven life sentences attached to him, Knight has become a vocal activist behind bars, and is known as a "pest to the court system", accused of wasting taxpayer dollars on his multiple causes.

In one of the cases in 2002, Knight complained he suffered an "abuse of human rights" after officers removed items from his cell. The items had included Nazi paraphernalia, sharpened knives, articles on war and weapons and cards featuring slogans such as "Stop the Asian invasion", "We just hate all queers" and "White power".

Melburnians were horrified at the news of the Hoddle Street killings. This is how  reported the killings in 1987
Melburnians were horrified at the news of the Hoddle Street killings. This is how reported the killings in 1987

But Justice Action says no matter how heinous Knight's crimes, he is entitled to his human rights.

"How we as a community deal with people like Julian Knight is really important. He retains rights as a human being to say sorry, to learn new skills and to show us that he's ready to re-enter the community," Mr Collins says.

"The entitlement of each person to be dealt with according to the law is essential and not to be negotiated. When we allow politicians to interfere with that process, we're then setting aside some basic principles of our democratic communities," he says.

Commissioner for Victims' Rights, Michael O'Connell, says that while he does not object to advocacy for prisoners, he denounces "prisoners misrepresenting their crime and/or profiteering from their crime via internet-based prisoner advocacy organisations".

O'Connell says that victims have a right to be heard during the prisoner classification process and their engagement allows for a robust and just system.

"Prison advocates should take heed. Victims should not be outsiders in a modern, progressive criminal justice system," he says.

If you are a victim of crime, each state has its own Victim Assist program with free counselling services, financial assistance and for information about your rights.



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