THOMAS MURDER CASE: Sister tells of violent abuse

The crime scene around the time of the murders. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL
The crime scene around the time of the murders. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

IAN David Thomas shed silent tears yesterday morning as his sister told of physical abuse they had suffered at the hands of their father.

The man accused of killing both his parents, Bill and Pauline Thomas, wiped his eyes but kept his gaze intently on his sister, Bernadette Cameron, as she gave evidence via videolink from Queensland.

Ms Cameron in turn held her head in her hands, her voice shaking as she agreed with statements that their father Bill Thomas often beat them with belts, sticks and even a bridle.

Mr Thomas, 64, and his wife Pauline, 63, were found dead in their Wangaratta home on April 22 last year.

Ms Cameron, 39, had made three statements to police; yesterday she told the committal hearing that she had not wanted to but was compelled by police.

Under cross-examination by defence barrister John Desmond, Ms Cameron said her and her siblings’ childhood “wasn’t nice”, under the watchful eye of their father — a “disciplinarian who was very critical” and who she had feared from the age of five.

He would use various objects to chastise his children, she said, including a belt nicknamed “Joey”.

Ms Cameron — the eldest of the five Thomas children — said they grew up working hard on the farm with little time for friends.

She, Ian and John would cop the brunt of Mr Thomas’ quick temper: “I never saw him hit mum, Donna or Jacinta (the other siblings).”

“I had to wear pants to primary school to hide the marks on my legs ... he would use whatever he had near to hit me,” her statement read.

“Not only was he physically abusive, he was emotionally abusive to me ... he said things like I was a stupid bitch.

“Mum would stand by and allowed dad to do what he did. I couldn’t understand why.”

Ms Cameron left home at 17, and Ian two years later at 16; he joined the Navy and, though they were close growing up, spoke very little until he settled in Perth at 22.

They spoke intermittently over more recent years but often for hours at a time.

“Eventually we would talk about mum and dad ... we were very angry at the way we were brought up as children and the way mum stood by and let things happen,” her statement continued.

However when asked in court if they were angry or hostile about this, Ms Cameron disagreed.

Ms Cameron also denied suggestions from Mr Desmond that she had initially told police her brother had told her he wanted to kill their parents.