Many have lavished the high-profile, quirky and controversial cricket writer Peter Roebuck with praise for his writing after his sudden death that has now been confirmed as suicide and appears to have been prompted by South African Police inquiries of him that left him in an “agitated state.”
Francis (“the”) Leach – a former ALP member, discredited minor-level branch-stacker turned B-grade sports radio broadcaster in Melbourne – declared his love for Roebuck this morning on the sports-programme ABC Offsiders saying “we’ll miss him dearly” while others of less stench but higher rank like Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood, The Age editor and suspect in the criminal hacking investigation Paul Ramadge and even the nation’s Sports Minister Mark Arbib all expressed their sadness at his death.
We’d have thought the praise might have been best given in context given his form as a convicted criminal abuser of teenage lads in his care and the widespread gossip in media circles that Peter Roebuck was an exploitative sexual predator who used his money and clout to have his way with the poorest and most desperate of kids who wanted a way out of poverty and a chance to play cricket at an elite level that Roebuck was tempting them with.
We’re not certain that pedophile is the right word for him technically, as we are only aware of him preying on kids above the age of consent, but his behaviour certainly sounds creepy, exploitative and disturbing and it seems that his employers at Fairfax and the ABC knew his form and knew that it continued until the present day.
The issue for Fairfax and the ABC is what did they know and when did they know it? Did they enable or facilitate his wrongdoing by keeping him in a prestigious position of power, knowing that he was abusing it to sexually exploit young people?
Roebuck asked the boy to bend over and delivered three “forceful strokes” over his clothing. (He) then pulled the boy towards him, in what appeared to be an act of affection. He then asked if he could look at the marks on the boy’s buttocks, something which he in fact did.
Many of those praising him presumably knew of his private life too. More sensible folk like Gideon Haigh – probably the best cricket writer running around – generously described his work but noted the “tragic” circumstances of Roebuck’s demise.
Those who knew the whole story must have held their nose while describing him in such glowing terms.
These are not nice things to discuss when the body is still warm. There’s a taboo against it and against reporting on suicide too.
But given how pompous and judgmental and exacting the standards set out by Fairfax/ABC when evaluating how Churches, a Melbourne yeshivah and even a Governor-General deal with sexual predators who exploit those in their care for their own gratification, then it is right for there to be serious questioning of what went on here and also what Fairfax/ABC management knew and when they knew it and what – if anything – they did to stop him. Did they facilitate or enable his wrongdoing?
These are three stories that make it quite clear that Roebuck was up to no good and may well have used his authority in the cricket world that came from writing for Fairfax and working for the ABC to gain access to potential targets of exploitation. The nasty details are yet to fully emerge, but they will soon, potentially creating yet another PR crisis for the beleaguered Fairfax newspaper publisher and Australia’s state-sponsored broadcaster, the ABC:
■ In a statement, the victim said Roebuck told him: “I’m going to cane you now. Then it will be over and I will forgive you and, if I don’t cane you, I will feel differently about you.”
Roebuck asked the boy to bend over and delivered three “forceful strokes” over his clothing.
Mr Fenny said: “Roebuck then pulled the boy towards him, in what appeared to be an act of affection. He then asked if he could look at the marks on the boy’s buttocks, something which he in fact did.”
Another boy was beaten by Roebuck when he failed to keep up on a run. “He, too, was left feeling considerable distress and humiliation.”
A third boy, who now plays for a local team, received similar treatment, being beaten by Roebuck and asked to show the marks.
The second boy, now living South Africa, said: “I did not consent to any assault but he is a dominant person who makes you feel that you must do as he says.”
He said: “It was not appropriate to administer corporal punishment to boys of this age in circumstances such as these. It seems so unusual that it must have been done to satisfy some need in you.
■ Former Somerset cricket captain Peter Roebuck has been given a suspended jail sentence after admitting caning three young cricketers he had offered to coach.
Roebuck, 45, of Exmouth in Devon, pleaded guilty to three charges of common assault involving three South African teenagers between 1 April and 31 May, 1999.
He had pleaded not guilty to three counts of causing actual bodily harm, which was accepted by the prosecution. Roebuck was sentenced to four months in jail for each count, with the sentences suspended for two years, at Taunton Crown Court.
Judge Graham Hume Jones told Roebuck he had abused his power and influence over the boys, who were far from home and far from friends and family.
The court heard how Roebuck caned the young cricketers on the buttocks after they failed to meet his standards during coaching sessions at his former home in Taunton.
Roebuck met the three young cricketers, Keith Whiting, Reginald Keats and Henk Lindeque, who were all 19 at the time of the offences, while working as a commentator abroad.
He invited the men to live at his home near Taunton and promised to coach them.
He said he warned each young man beforehand that he would use corporal punishment if they failed to obey his “house rules”.
He also said he thought they were from a culture in which corporal punishment was accepted.
The offences came to light when one of the cricketers showed the marks Roebuck had caused to the secretary of Bishop’s Lydeard Cricket Club, who passed the matter to the police.
Paul Mendelle, defending, said Roebuck was a “complex man” who set high standards for himself and expected them of others, and who had used corporal punishment only to encourage the teenagers.
Mr Mendelle said more than 20 other promising young cricketers had stayed at Roebuck’s house while receiving coaching and had never complained about any inappropriate behaviour.
UPDATE: Peter Roebuck’s former employer, the Sydney Morning Herald, many hours after VEXNEWS was first with the worst, has confirmed what many suspected:
A Cape Town detective and a uniformed police officer from the sexual crimes unit began speaking with Roebuck, 55, in his room at the Southern Sun Hotel, Newlands, about 9pm.
Roebuck, who was agitated, asked a fellow cricket journalist for help. ”Can you come down to my room quickly? I’ve got a problem,” he said. He asked for help to find a lawyer and for contact to be made with the students he helped to house in Pietermaritzburg, near Durban.
His employers need to now explain themselves about what measures they took to ensure their own employee was not using his position of power and prestige in cricket to exploit vulnerable young people.
UPDATE: A number of excitable tweeters thought it was appalling we dared write about these matters. We notice they’ve gone quiet now.
UPDATE: Even a sympathetic treatment of Roebuck noted he was keener on finding ‘followers’ rather than ‘partners’ in his private life…
Suggestions that he was gay have circulated since his playing days, but if true he has never acknowledged it to anyone I know. In any case, he did not crave partners on an equal footing but followers.
UPDATE: The Times of South Africa reports that Peter Roebuck made the young men in his care call him “Dad”
UPDATE: The victim of Peter Roebuck’s sex assault has spoken out to friends about the trauma.