Sid Astbury, iol.co.za, Apr. 6
Sydney — Back in July 2001 things were not going well for Sef Gonzales.
The baby-faced 20-year-old was failing his university course, his girlfriend had ditched him and his rich Philippine-born parents were threatening to stop his allowance and take away his flashy new car unless he got his life in order.
Three years later matters could not be worse. Gonzales is on trial for the murder of his whole family and faces the prospect of a life-long jail term.
Teddy Gonzales, 46, wife Mary Loiva, 43, and their 18-year-old daughter, Clodine, were found hacked to death in their four-bedroom family home in a leafy Sydney suburb in July 2001.
“All three were attacked with vastly more force than was necessary,” Crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi told the Supreme Court trying Gonzales.
“This was no professional killing; it was the slaughter of an angry amateur who wanted to make sure they were dead and had no idea how many times he needed to stab them in order to cause death.”
The motive for wiping out his family, the court was told, centred on the millions of dollars he stood to inherit if he were the sole surviving Gonzales.
The accused killer’s account to police was that he returned home after a night in town to find his father bashed to death on the garage floor. After ringing for emergency help, he rang the emergency number and, according to a transcript of the call, told the operator that “they are all bleeding there on the floor”. As Tedeschi told the court, Gonzales phoned for help after seeing only one body but intimated he had seen all three.
The case has attracted widespread media attention because many people find it hard to believe that Gonzales could be capable of such a diabolical act.
At the funeral, he sang a solo and gave a moving eulogy to his lost loved ones. In the week following the funeral, he called a press conference and chided Australians for showing little interest in the killing of an Asian family.
Nearly one year after the grisly find, police charged Gonzales with murder. It was a complicated investigation because, detectives allege, it wasn’t an impetuous killing. When police arrived at the house in answer to Gonzales’ emergency call, they found daubed in blue paint on the wall a message reading: “Fuck off Asians. KKK.”
Gonzales said he had seen one or two men running from the scene and chased after them but could not catch them.
Police allege Gonzales originally intended to poison his family, citing evidence that he placed orders over the Internet for poisonous seeds. A week before she died, Mrs Gonzales was admitted to hospital with food poisoning but recovered and was released.
They also say that Gonzales, to set up a “smokescreen”, wrote letters to a food company, to the police and to quarantine authorities to whip up a food contamination scare. One of the letters, police claim, had his fingerprint on it.
Police said he eventually lost patience with the poisoning plot, and settled on battering his family to death.
At the time of the killing, Gonzales said he was in a brothel. He had gone there by taxi and had a docket from the driver to attest to that.
But police claim the account doesn’t stand up. The madam at the La Petite Aroma brothel did not back up his story, saying the prostitute he said he was with was not working that night.
The taxi driver said he had been approached by Gonzales six months after the crime and had been paid to help him with an alibi. For a small fee, he had written out a false docket for July 10, 2001.