Year 12 English classes hear of crime first-hand

Detective Station Sergeant Harry Hains with the Year 12 English classes

Detective Station Sergeant Harry Hains with the Year 12 English classes

By Year 12 student Maxine Kerruish

Last Wednesday, 28 October, former Detective Station Sergeant Harry Hains visited the College to talk to two Year 12 English classes. Detective Hains retired last year after a 29-year career with the Australian Federal Police in Canberra and is a key figure in Helen Garner’s bestselling 2004 book, Joe Cinque’s Consolation. The book follows the aftermath of the death of ANU student Joe Cinque in Canberra in 1997. Detective Hains was a first responder and instrumental in investigating Cinque’s girlfriend and killer, Anu Singh and her friend Madhavi Rao.

The English classes that were fortunate enough to meet with Detective Hains are studying Garner’s true crime book as part of our study of literary perspectives of truth. Garner’s book uses elements of new journalism, logic and emotion to convey the moral failures of the Australian justice system and the impact of these failures on victims of crime and their families.

While Detective Hains offered us a detailed description of the events, what was most interesting and informative to students was hearing his own opinions and his admitted personal bias that he possesses “no sympathy for Anu Singh”. Even 23 years after Joe Cinque’s death, it was clear that the case still occupied parts of Hain’s mind and remains a source of emotional turmoil.

During the investigation and trial of Singh and Rao, Detective Hains became close with the Cinque family and he clearly holds a deep sympathy for them to this day. Detective Hains offered a personal insight into the characters of Singh and Rao, and vividly described their unusual circle of friends that only added to the absurdity of the case.

One student asked, “What do you think would have had to have happened for justice to have been served?” Haines responded, “Justice is always served. Was justice served in the eyes of the Cinque family? No. But justice is always served in the eyes of the court.”

Detective Hains’ answer speaks to the thematic concerns of Garner’s book; themes of injustice and the bigger question of whether victims can ever truly be compensated for damage or harm. In the case of the Cinque family, it begged the question: Can there ever be real justice for a family that has lost a son?

Like Garner, Detective Hains believes it is important to keep the memory of Joe Cinque alive, and to remember his tragic death as an example of a failure of the Australian justice system, while not diminishing his name for the sake of morbid curiosity or sensational true crime literature.

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