April 2014

Essays

David Kelly

Last train to murder

LEFT: Angelo Kaloudis waiting for the train at Newcastle. RIGHT: Harley Page and Nathan Isherwood after getting off the train at Cardiff.  CCTV images courtesy of NSW Police.

One terrible night on the Newcastle line

A sound of stomping echoes from the cells beneath the Newcastle Supreme Court. A sheriff appears, leading Nathan “Ninzo” Isherwood up the stairs and into the glass confines of the dock. Thirty-year-old Isherwood is white, of medium height, and his mouth is clamped shut. His hair is greasy brown and he wears a crumpled black shirt. Above his left eyebrow is a furrow shaped like a divining rod. If he followed its lead he could see his father leaning towards him from the public gallery. The sheriff ushers Isherwood into the seating compartment, then blocks his way while his co-accused is brought up.

Harley Page is indigenous and about half a foot taller than Isherwood. At the time of the offence, in 2011, he was 22, but in October 2013 he looks younger. Gone are the mullet and the black, wispy goatee that made him look like a Persian warlord. His hair has been clipped to a number two and he has lost weight. His ears stick out. He wears a dark grey suit, a white shirt and a burgundy tie. He lifts his mournful eyes to his mother, who is sitting in the opposite gallery to Isherwood’s father. He keeps his eyes away from Isherwood. Sheriffs are gathered around them and the biggest one takes a seat between them.

The defence counsel approaches the dock and his eyes lock onto something he doesn’t like.

“Why has Mr Page got cuffs on?”

The five sheriffs give uncertain glances to one another.

“They have to be kept separated,” says the most senior. “They can’t be near each other.”

A mini conference ensues and Page’s cuffs are removed. No one looks to see whether Isherwood has been restrained, and I can’t see his hands to tell.

Three sharp wooden knocks ring out.

“All rise.”

The judge is a short, trim, bespectacled woman, almost swamped by her robes. As she walks she has to hold her arms out as an underframe to stop the garment sliding. When she turns to ascend the steps to the bench, she reveals pastel-coloured pants and slip-on flats. The judge says it’s a murder trial and the courtroom quietens. She tells the story of Angelo Kaloudis, the 76-year-old homeless man who was attacked in the early hours on a Newcastle to Sydney train. Some of the potential jury members stare at the two young men, who sit on either side of the giant guard, like salt and pepper shakers in a cruet set. 


I hadn’t been able to sleep, so I was swilling aspirin at the kitchen sink when the train carrying Angelo Kaloudis went by at the end of my street. By the time I woke, news of the attack was on the radio. A tremor went through me. How could my town spawn such monsters? Newcastle is a small enough place, a string of villages, really, merged along a train line. I’d lived here for 18 years, but suddenly I felt physically vulnerable in a way I hadn’t since I was a teenager living in Queensland.


“Nathan Warren Isherwood, how do you plead?”

Isherwood straightens up and sets his shoulders back.

“Guilty,” he says. 

“Harley Page, how do you plead?”

“Not guilty.”

Isherwood’s trial is put over for sentencing and he is sent back down to the cells. As Isherwood is led past the knees of the seated guard, Page’s body contracts like a snail, but Isherwood controls himself and keeps walking.

The room takes a moment to find its breath. After the jury is empanelled, Harley Page is told what he is there to face.

“Between Broadmeadow and Cardiff train stations, in company with Isherwood, you did assault Angelo Kaloudis with intent to rob and you did murder Angelo Kaloudis.”

Page stands as the jury depart for their first break. As he descends the stairs, he looks to his mother. He looks hopeful.

In the foyer, Nathan Isherwood’s father sits by himself on a pale wooden pew. He wears a T-shirt, quarter-length denim shorts, ankle socks and white joggers. A diamond stud twinkles in his ear. 

“The toilets are through that door,” he says, when he sees me looking about. “Down the stairs and to the right.”

“Thanks,” I say, and take a seat opposite him. “How’s Nathan?”

“Shocked. His mother died two months ago.”

“Did they let him go to her funeral?”

“Yeah.”

He stands to direct a woman to the toilets and sits back down.

“Were you separated by the time she died?”

“Yeah.”

“How are you going?”

“I’ve also been retrenched.” He laughs.

“What did you do for a job?”

“Fitter,” he says. “I’ve got a security licence but I only get the occasional shift.” He guesses I’m a writer, what “with all the scribbling”.

 “When I first heard about the assault, I thought they’d be monsters,” I say. “That’s why I’m here. But they’re just a couple of idiots.” 

“In goes the booze,” he says, “out goes the brains.”

“Writers don’t earn very much,” I say. “I could be homeless in a minute and need to know I can sleep on the trains.”

He throws his head back and laughs. He looks like the actor Ed Harris. I ask him what he thinks of Nathan’s guilty plea.

“His barrister told him to, because it’s only his fingerprints on the windowpane,” he says, his voice hardening. “I don’t think Nathan should carry the can.”

“These last few years must have been hell.”

“Murder.”


The perpetrators aren’t creatures from a ’50s horror movie. Nathan Isherwood is a stupid white man with dependency issues, and Harley Page is his younger, indigenous equivalent. My curiosity satisfied, I should have gone home. I hesitated because of Angelo Kaloudis. There didn’t seem to be anyone in the gallery for him. Who was he? I also hesitated because of Isherwood’s father. I liked him. And, although I didn’t see it at the time, I probably hesitated – was captivated – because I glimpsed something of myself, of my lost brothers, in Isherwood and Page.


“You should sit up the other end,” the defence counsel says to Page’s mother, walking back into court and motioning to the seats with a better view.

“I don’t want to see,” she says, shaking her head.

“It’s only footage from a railway station.”

“I know, but I don’t want to see.”

Angelo Kaloudis stands with his hands behind his back at Newcastle Train Station. It’s 2 am on Friday, 26 August 2011. He is a small, neatly bearded, bottle-shaped man dressed in dark clothes and black boots. He looks like a captain waiting for his ship to come in.

“Go forward to 3.07.51,” the Crown prosecutor says to the technician. Kaloudis shuffles along the raised blue plastic spots that line the edge of the platform. A loaf of bread swings from his hands.

The film is fast-forwarded to Hamilton, three stops south on the line towards Sydney. Page and Isherwood walk through the passenger waiting area, sharing a cigarette. The pubs and clubs of Beaumont Street are just outside and the station is busy. On one of the blue wooden benches a young man, head tilted, strums a guitar. Isherwood greets and awkwardly hugs a young woman. She disengages and melts away.

While Isherwood and Page wait for the train, Isherwood promenades down the platform with his fingers resting at the back of Page’s neck. It’s a courtly gesture, as if it’s an honour to be out with him.

Page watches his onscreen self turn and face his companion. He watches Isherwood whisper intently to him. It looks like a plan. Their faces are close enough to kiss.

A mobile phone rings in the gallery and Page’s mother rushes to silence it.

The train carrying Kaloudis pulls in and the two men board through different doors.


I grew up in Ipswich, an industrial, coal-mining city similar to Newcastle, in the ’70s. My father worked for Queensland Rail. Train tracks ran at the end of our street there, too. Dad couldn’t have kids, so the six of us, three girls and three boys, were either adopted or fostered. Both of my brothers were Stolen Generation – part-Aboriginal kids removed from their families. One of my earliest memories is of clambering up the embankment to stand between the train lines with my eldest brother. He was trying to find his way back to his real parents and I was along for the ride. Before too long, our father dropped off the radar. Our mother had left him for his best friend.


At Cardiff, ten minutes after Page and Isherwood boarded, the eight-carriage train has overshot the platform. The first three carriages are parked in darkness. While Page and Isherwood climb up from the tracks, early-morning commuters are filmed boarding. The attendant waves a torch, giving the all-clear.

Page ignores the footbridge that would take him home.

“When we were on the train, a bloke tried to rob me for my last ten bucks,” Isherwood tells the stationmaster, showing his injured right hand. “The bloke shouldered the window out of the train and tried to hit me with it. That’s how I cut my thumb. No one robs me. That was my smoke money.”

The stationmaster hands him some paper towel and a bandaid.

We see Page enter the toilet and then swap places with Isherwood, who’s been waiting outside. Page moves to the edge of the platform and gazes into the darkness after the departed train.

At 4.48 am Page and Isherwood board a train headed back to Newcastle. When they disembark at Adamstown, Isherwood’s home station, Page is carrying somebody else’s backpack.

At Fassifern, a stunned-looking Kaloudis is wheeled along the platform, strapped into a portable wheelchair. He has lost his loaf of bread.

The ghostly face of Page’s mother is reflected in the dock’s glass panels. Page’s mouth hangs open as if he can’t digest any more information.


Harley Page has 183 Facebook friends. There is a photo of him at a party with his arm slung around his brother Levi. Listed among his favourite pages are ‘How Good Is the Word C—t!’ and ‘Money Does Grow on Trees Its Called Marijuana’.

In 2011 Nathan Isherwood had a Myspace account. He is listed as single, straight and an apprentice chef. His body type is “average”, and he says he is 185 centimetres tall. He is an Aries and he wants children, “someday”.

There are two images on Isherwood’s Myspace page. The first is a shot of him asleep in a car parked alongside a desolate sports oval. The brim of a Champion brand baseball cap shades his mouth, and he wears a Champion pullover.

The second image is a coloured drawing of a demonic skull with goggle eyes, mad tongue and yellow teeth. Blood spews from its mouth.


The senior constable pulls on blue disposable gloves in the witness box and drags a train windowpane out of its protective wrap. The window is the size of an average coffee table.

 “Can you confirm that is the unbroken pane of glass that was collected?” the Crown prosecutor asks.

It looks heavy but the senior constable holds it up with ease. Fingerprinting powder has left a cloudy film, as if the glass is covered in soap scum.

“Yes, it’s the same.”


On weekends my brothers and I would smash up classrooms and break into factories to destroy machinery and light fires. It was my job to find the way in. We were never caught because there wasn’t any CCTV.

By the time I could have graduated to bigger things, both of my brothers had run away, scared off by our violent stepfather.


Kristopher Long, a Sydney finance officer, boarded the train at Broadmeadow. As he walked to his regular seat in the upstairs section of the third carriage, he could see two young men standing near an old man in the rear mezzanine.

“What did the men look like?”

“One man was of Aboriginal, or ethnic, appearance. The other person had their back to me.”

“Didn’t he say ‘Aboriginal’, Your Honour?” the defence counsel says. “I thought we had moved on from this in this country.”

“Don’t be too precious,” the judge says. “He also said ethnic.”

Looking over her glasses frames, the judge asks the witness to confirm what he meant.

“I meant Aboriginal, or ethnic.”

Harley Page is curled over against the dock’s side wall. From the back he looks like a child in a game of hide and seek.

“Then what happened?” the prosecutor asks.

“As I walked to my seat, I saw and heard words coming from the man of Aboriginal, or ethnic, appearance. Then, sitting with my back to them, I heard, ‘Give me some money … Give me $10.’ These words were in the same voice.”

“Then what did you do?”

“I heard, ‘Take a swing at me. Now you’re scared, cunt,’ and decided to leave the carriage.”

Harley’s mother has her hand over her mouth.

“You were facing the other direction when you heard the words, ‘Give me some money. Give me $10,’” the defence counsel says. “Could the words have been coming from the other person?”

“Not in my opinion.”

“I’m not trying to trick you. I’m just trying to work out …”

Nathan Isherwood’s father shifts in his seat, making little sounds of derision.


“Harley is lucky to have a supportive family like you,” I say to his mother.

“That’s what families do!” she says, with pain on her face. It’s a look I remember seeing on my mother’s face. Not on my stepfather’s, though. No one called the police after my brothers bolted. No one went looking. Our mother said they would be safer away, but she never knew where “away” was. 

“Do you want your water?” Harley’s mother asks her youngest son, holding up his bottle as he walks past.

Levi nods.

“Yes, please,” she says, loud enough for the entire foyer to hear.

“Yes, please,” Levi says, smiling and reaching out a hand.


Jack Kelly, a RailCorp telecommunications operator, has a habit of looking from the Cardiff platform into the train carriages as they roll in, to see where he will sit.

“What did you see?” the prosecutor asks.

“I saw two, maybe three [people], hitting something on the ground.”

Kelly stands and gives an impression. It’s like he’s trying to start a lawnmower.

“Can I suggest this?” the defence counsel asks during cross-examination. “You’re not sure about the punching. I suggest that only one person was doing the punching.”

“That’s your opinion.” Kelly’s tone is clipped and wary.

The court is played the tape of Harley Page’s first police interview. His mother, having been contacted by police, had picked up Page from Isherwood’s place on the day after the assault and brought him to Charlestown Police Station.

“Did you witness any assault on the train?” a detective asks on the tape.

“Nah,” Page says.

“Tell us about your night.”

“There were heaps of other fights going on. I remember that!” He is gravel-voiced and enthusiastic. “I met this sheila at the Kent, bought her a few drinks and arranged to meet her later on. I got off the train at Broadmeadow to go see her in a little park.”

“What’s her name?”

“I don’t know!” Page says, and laughs incredulously.

“Are you sure you didn’t witness any assault on the train?”

“No. No,” he says. “When I was 12, this bloke said he’d bash me if I didn’t give him a thousand bucks. I was so scared.”

In the gallery, Page’s mother covers her face with both hands.

“Are you friends with Nathan Isherwood?”

“Not really friends,” he says. “He’s OK to drink with.”

Isherwood’s father exhales through his nose.

“Did you wear a jacket on that night?”

“My blue-and-white Central Leagues club jacket.”

He is shown a photograph of himself wearing a different jacket.

“Is that you?” the detective asks.

No answer.

Kaloudis dies that evening, Saturday, 27 August, at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital.


On Monday, 29 August, Page texts his mother from Isherwood’s place: “Mum I need to tell you something. Ninzo hit that old man with a window. He made up my story for the cops. I didn’t touch that poor old man.”

Page’s mother asks if he wants to be taken back to the police station. Page tells Isherwood he’s going to get “a feed”.

“I’m no dog,” he says on the recording of the second interview, “but I don’t know what to do. He just snapped. I had nothing to do with it. He just snapped.”

“Who snapped?”

“Ninzo.”

“Why did you tell us you got off the train at Broadmeadow?”

“Nathan told me to stick with that story.”

“Where’s the jacket?”

“Nathan hid it somewhere in that empty block behind his units. It had blood on it.”

In the courtroom, Page’s mother has collapsed forward with her clenched hands thrust over the next gallery seat.

The professor who performed the autopsy is called. “There were two lacerations on the nose and a cut to the upper eyelid,” he says, “and a cut in the deceased person’s mouth.”

He lifts his lip with his finger and bares a canine.

“Is that consistent with someone punching downwards?” the Crown prosecutor asks.

“Yes,” the professor replies. “But the punches were insufficient to cause death.”

“What do you mean?”

“The brain is in a box. There is no connection from inside to the outside. The strike of the window was the cause. The force transferred itself directly through to the brain. Shake a bowl of jelly and the jelly will crack.”

Page swallows and moves his tongue about. He is next on the stand.

“Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

“Yes.”

“How old are you?” the defence counsel asks.

“Twenty-four,” Page whispers.

“How long have you known Isherwood?”

“A few years.” 

“Roughly, how often would you stay at Isherwood’s?”

“Three or four days …”

“Can you speak up?”

Page nods. “Three or four days a week.”

“Can you tell us how much you had to drink that night?”

“I had about six beers at Nathan’s and about the same out in town.”

“Did you take any drugs?”

“No.”

“Was Nathan Isherwood drinking or taking anything?”

“He had a few things,” Page says, in a knowing way.

“Drugs?”

“Yeah.”

“What time did you leave to go into town?”

“About nine. We caught the train to Hamilton to go to the Sydney Junction Hotel but Nathan wasn’t allowed in.”

“Why?”

“He was acting like an idiot, trying to fight people. He tried to fight someone on the train into Hamilton.”

“A fight on the way into Hamilton,” the defence counsel says. “What was that about?”

“I remember Nathan saying, ‘You wanna have a go? You wanna have a go?’”

“What did you do when you saw him trying to pick fights?”

“I said, ‘If you get into a fight, I’m not backing you up.’”

“So where did you go?”

“We went to the Kent Hotel. Then we started walking to the Shell servo to get a feed, but Nathan didn’t want to walk anymore. He wanted to catch a train.”

“What was Nathan like at the station?”

“He was drunk and loud.”

“So when the train arrived?” the defence counsel asks.

“Nathan gets on the train further up.”

“What happens then?”

“I saw an old fella sitting next to the window,” Page says. “I sat on the arm of the chair and asked him how he was going. That’s what I do – I talk to people.”

“What did the old man say?”

“He said, ‘Going home,’ and then he pretended to fall asleep.”

“So what did you do?”

“I stayed there on the chair arm because the trip wasn’t very far. Then Nathan rocked up, wanting a cigarette. I said, ‘I’ve got smokes.’”

“Tailor-made ones in your pocket,” the defence counsel says.

“Nathan said, ‘I want one from him,’ and pointed to the old man.”

“What did Nathan do then?”

“He leant in and punched him two times in the face.”

“What did you do?”

“I was filthy with him and pushed Nathan away.”

“What was the old man doing?”

“He was making scared cries.”

“What did you do?”

“I bent down and asked him if he was OK. I was worried for him. Then Nathan came in over the top of me and hit him. But it wasn’t with his fist. He hit him with a massive window.”

“Why didn’t you go home at Cardiff station when you had the chance?” the Crown prosecutor asks during cross-examination.

“Nathan had a cut hand,” Page says. “He wanted me to go to his place.”

“How did Nathan cut his hand?”

“One of the windows smashed when he hit it against the armrest.”

“Where did you get the backpack you were filmed carrying at Adamstown?”

“It was near somebody,” he says, sheepishly. “On the train back into Newcastle.”

Isherwood’s father’s watch beeps, as if it’s time to take medicine.

“In your first interview with the police, you told them you’d only just met Nathan Isherwood. You also said you got off the train at Broadmeadow to meet a girl.”

“The stories were all his,” Page says, exhaling a deep breath.

“Lies, lies, lies,” the Crown prosecutor says.

“He told me to stick to them,” Page says. “He didn’t want me to have anything to do with this. He just thought it would be a little assault!”


That whisper between them on the platform at Hamilton, the way they split up to board the train: it seemed to me that they were going on a hunt. Page’s job, I’ll bet, was to find and mark the victim. It was akin to mine in my teens, in a way, shimmying up pipes and squeezing through cracks to let my brothers into places. I could never do as much damage in our break-ins but I always pitched in. My specialty was chalked obscenities and diagrams on the school blackboards. My favourite word to scrawl was “cunt”.

During the break, Isherwood’s father tells me, “Nathan’s a follower, not a leader. We sent Nathan away to boarding school to stop him following bad people, but when the school booted him out he came home and followed another lot.”

“Was he good at anything in school?”

“Nothing,” he says.

“Was he good at anything after school?”

“Cooking. When his mother was alive he’d make the best roasts I’ve ever tasted.”


“You told the police that Isherwood just snaps,” the Crown prosecutor says. “You said, ‘Do you have to tell Nathan I’m here?’ and the detective asked, ‘Are you scared?’ and you said, ‘Yes.’”

“He just snaps,” Page says. “You never know when he’ll snap.”

“How many times have you heard about Nathan Isherwood’s snapping?”

“I’ve heard stories, and I’ve seen him hit people with his fists. He’s a violent person.”

“After the assault, why did you stay at Isherwood’s place from Friday to Monday?”

“I was scared he’d do something if I didn’t.”

“Did Isherwood ever threaten you or say he’ll do something?”

“No.”

“By the time you sent the text, you knew Angelo Kaloudis was dead,” the Crown prosecutor says. “You saw it on the television and you knew it was now on a whole different level.”

“I didn’t even think of anything like that!” Page says.


There was a sign fixed to the wall of the carriage with the instruction: “If danger present move to another carriage.” Kaloudis would have felt cornered when Page sat on the chair arm. He told Page he was going home and then he feigned sleep. Kaloudis was playing possum.

If only Kaloudis had turned his helplessness into an asset. If only he’d said I am homeless, he might have stood a chance.

The train passed through Tickhole Tunnel to get to Cardiff. In this 205-metre-long concrete container, with the sound of the train amplified and ricocheting, Nathan Isherwood and Harley Page would have seen themselves reflected in the fathomless black of the carriage windows, brothers in crime.


“I’m a single mother who raised five kids,” Page’s mother says, in a sunlit spot in the foyer. “I’m not blind to the mischief my kids get up to.”

When she says the word “mischief”, she looks embarrassed. “But that thing about my son sitting on the chair arm talking to that old man is Harley,” she continues. “That’s what he does. He talks to people. He likes people. That soft way he speaks is how he speaks.”

Page’s mother finds a tissue in her bag and starts to wipe her hands.

“Harley was raised a Christian and went to a Christian school,” she says. “He saw an old woman mowing her lawn in the heat of the day and he did it for her. He saw an old man carrying shopping bags up a hill and he carried them for him. Harley would never hurt an old man.

 “I told him to stop mixing with Nathan Isherwood,” she says, stashing the tissue. “But Harley’s a follower.”

Back in the courtroom, the Crown prosecutor sums up. “Two very impressive and credible witnesses have given evidence that proves that the accused was much more than a passive onlooker.

“Harley Page had an intention to steal,” he says. “Mr Long saw and heard banter coming from the Aboriginal person and then, after sitting, heard, ‘Give me some money. Give me $10,’ in the same voice.”

The defence counsel is swinging his prescription glasses by the arm.

“Jack Kelly,” the Crown prosecutor says, “saw them hitting someone on the ground.”

The jury is still and listening.

“Harley Page is a demonstrable liar who sent a self-serving text message,” he says. “You would have to be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Harley Page is guilty.”

Harley Page is rocking gently from side to side and his lawyer is now spinning his prescription glasses like a propeller. Shortly it’s his turn.

 “Is Harley Page responsible just because he is with someone?” the defence counsel counters. “Is that how a person should be found guilty of murder?

“Fair enough if it were two robbers in a bank and one has a gun,” he says. “But a train window?

“How could Page have foreseen this? Should he carry a ouija board?

“There are all sorts of problems with Long and Kelly’s evidence. Mr Long had anything but a clear view. He heard banter but can’t remember the words: words that appeared Aboriginal. What does that mean?”

The defence counsel stops to pour water into a styrofoam cup.

“All I ask you is to think about things without prejudice,” he says. “Without prejudice.”

He takes a sip and puts the cup down.

“Mr Kelly saw two, maybe three, people, punching. In the same way he’s inaccurate about the numbers, he could also be wrong about the punching.”

Three of the jury members have their arms crossed. Another picks at her jumper, while the juror next to her wipes his face. One unscrews the lid of her water bottle and one taps his teeth with his fingernail.

“Harley’s text to his mum is the sort of thing you can believe,” he says. “Harley swears he didn’t touch Angelo Kaloudis.

“What Nathan Isherwood did was extraordinary and unpredictable. There’s no way Page could predict that. No way.”


I recently found one of my foster brothers. After he ran away, he slept on the trains and ate out of bins. Now he’s on Palm Island, North Queensland’s largest Aboriginal community, where his real father lives. He only met his real mother once, when she was on her deathbed. I showed him photos from our childhood but he couldn’t remember because of alcohol abuse. He held the photos and cried.

The last I learnt of my other foster brother was from a newspaper article, which reported his arrest for impersonating a police officer and trying to extort money from gay men at beats.


“Did Page demand money?” the judge says. “Did Page also assault? Was Page aware Isherwood could be violent?”

The jury have all swung their chairs in her direction.

At the bar table, the defence counsel wipes his face, pours more water, sips, chews his glasses, puts them down and sips his water again.

“The accused’s case is that Mr Isherwood was on a frolic of his own,” the judge continues. “The Crown has to prove assault and that the assault was done to deprive Angelo Kaloudis of property. The other thing to prove is that Isherwood and Page shared the same purpose in assaulting Mr Kaloudis.

“You have three options,” the judge says. “Murder, manslaughter or not guilty.”


“Nothing’s been said about Angelo Kaloudis,” I say to one of the Charlestown detectives. “Do you know anything about him?”

“Only that he had a daughter in Greece,” he says. “She was in the process of reconciling with him when he was murdered.”

“What happened to his body?”

“The Greek Orthodox Church buried him,” he says. “Ring the church.”

 “Rookwood,” the Greek priest says in a thick accent. “He is buried at Rookwood.”

“Did you know him?”

“A long time. I knew him for a long time,” he says. “He used to work in a furniture factory at Newtown, but he got sick.”


The next morning, the air is thick with bushfire smoke and the light in the foyer is tinted as if seen through sunglasses. The defence counsel parks his suitcase at the end of the two rows of seats that split the foyer.

“Any word on the jury?” he asks the sheriff.

“None.”

“I drank six Coopers last night,” he says, shaking his head.

“What’s your star sign?” Page’s mother asks him.

“Sagittarius.”

“Elvis Pointy Toes,” she says, holding up her mobile phone. “It’s your elf name.”

Isherwood’s father arrives. He’s late because he had to detour around a bushfire at Wallsend.

“I saw an entire gully up in flames near an old people’s home,” he says.

At 20 minutes to noon, Harley Page is brought up. The back of his suit collar is askew. In the gallery, his mother raises her hand in a futile gesture to fix it.

Everything happens quickly.

“To the charge of assault with intent to rob, how say you?”

“Guilty,” the jury foreman says.

“To the charge of murder, how say you?”

“Not guilty,” the foreman says.

“To the charge of manslaughter, how say you?”

“Guilty.”

Page leans forward as if he’s about to topple.

The judge sets the sentencing date.

“See you Sunday!” Page’s mother sings out as he’s led down. His face is a wobble of emotion.

“What do you think?” I ask the Charlestown detective.

“I think it’s fair.”

I walk through the foyer and hear Page’s mother on the phone. “It’s better than what we expected, so we’re happy.”

I pass Isherwood’s father, who is retrieving his bike helmet and leather jacket at the sheriffs’ office.

“How are you?” I ask.

“I’m not happy at all.”

He is silent as we walk down the Supreme Court steps. The sky is a weird yellow-brown and the city smells like fire.

“Harley Page is more implicated than he’s made out,” he says. “Harley Page threw punches.”

“I think so, too,” I say.

“Do you understand?” he says, as if reproving me.

Yes, Dad, I want to say. This is off. I came here to see who killed the old homeless man and instead it’s become Old Home Week. I shouldn’t be here. I should have left ages ago.

“It was the swing of the window that killed Angelo Kaloudis,” I say, sorry to remind him. “Not the punches.” 

“He’ll get less time for manslaughter, and that’s not fair,” he says, his voice raw.

We watch Page’s mother walk down Bolton Street. Her children revolve around her and emit crackers of laughter.

“Nathan and Harley are both in Cessnock Correctional Centre,” he says, mounting his motorbike. “Harley has already been attacked three times for being a dog.”

I am dumbstruck. Isherwood’s father bends his head into his helmet, chops me a wave and roars off. The engine sounds long after he’s disappeared into the yellow-brown gloom.

Postscript: Harley Page will be eligible for parole in early 2018. Nathan Isherwood will be eligible for parole in late 2022.

David Kelly

David Kelly is the author of Fantastic Street, a novel. He is a casual academic and works part-time in a call centre.

April 2014

From the front page

Pub test: the republic

First things first, say punters in Matt Thistlethwaite’s electorate

Image from ‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’

‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’, an incomplete portrait

This nostalgic documentary about the eminent designer raises more questions than it answers

Still from The Old Man and the Gun

‘The Old Man and the Gun’ and the outlaw Robert Redford

David Lowery’s new film pays too much tribute to the Sundance Kid

Image from ‘House of Cards’

The magnificently messy ‘House of Cards’

The show that made Netflix a major player comes to a satisfying and ludicrous end


In This Issue

The triumphalism of Tony Abbott

The Liberals' winner-takes-all political payback

© Lisa Tomasetti

Sydney Theatre Company and the Australian Defence Force’s ‘The Long Way Home’

The lives of returned soldiers

Oil, gas and spy games in the Timor Sea

Australian scheming for the Greater Sunrise oilfield has a long history

© Cybele Malinowski

Sally Seltmann’s ‘Hey Daydreamer’

The fourth solo album from the Sydney singer-songwriter


More in The Monthly Essays

Image of Scott Morrison

Looking for Scott Morrison

The rise, duck and weave of Australia’s no-fault prime minister

Image of Nauru

I left the immigration department to speak out

An insider breaks ranks on offshore detention

Coloured transmission electron micrograph of a cross-section through a cancer cell

A new theory of cancer

After billions spent for little benefit, it’s time to look at the disease in a different way

Image of Nakkiah Lui

A golden age of popular Indigenous storytelling

Against the blinding whiteness on Australian stage and screens


Read on

Image from ‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’

‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’, an incomplete portrait

This nostalgic documentary about the eminent designer raises more questions than it answers

Image from ‘House of Cards’

The magnificently messy ‘House of Cards’

The show that made Netflix a major player comes to a satisfying and ludicrous end

Image of Scott Morrison and the ScoMo Express

The ScoMo Express backfires

The PM’s farcical bus tour cements spin over substance as his brand

Image from ‘Suspiria’

Twisted sisters: Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Suspiria’

Sentimentality ruins the magic of this otherwise unsettling and actively cruel film


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