Related content: Ebony’s murder remembered 25 years on
Twenty five years have passed since Andrew Peter Garforth raped and murdered nine-year-old Bargo schoolgirl Ebony Simpson, but the mere mention of his name, even now, causes a tingling sensation to course down my arms and a wave of anger to wash over me.
Deep down at my primal core, it rankles that this depraved monster still breathes. Knowing he rots in a jail cell with no chance of ever being released barely seems like suitable punishment for what he did.
I was a reporter working locally when Ebony disappeared and no story before or since has affected me so profoundly.
Just hours after she was reported missing, police began treating the case as an abduction. They told journalists that Ebony was a happy little girl who had no reason to run away from home.
A search party of 150 police and volunteers on foot, motorbikes and horseback began scouring bushland as fear and dread understandably spread through the small tight-knit Bargo community.
That fear became fury when Garforth, a local who had joined in the search, was arrested less than two days later and confessed during a police interview to snatching Ebony, driving to a nearby dam, binding her hands and feet with wire before sexually assaulting her and throwing her in the dam to drown.
The death penalty was formally abolished in NSW in 1985 but Garforth’s court appearances attracted crowds baying for its reintroduction.
The then independent member of the NSW Legislative Assembly Tony Windsor backed calls for community debate on the issue, saying he agreed “that in certain extreme circumstances where there is absolutely no doubt that the offender has committed a horrendous crime the judicial system should have the option of imposing the death penalty.”
He had Garforth in mind when he made the statement but although 400,000 people signed a petition backing Mr Windsor’s Capital Punishment Referendum Bill in 1994, the debate never really had legs.
Ebony’s murder is the real-life version of every parent’s worst nightmare.
I doubt we’ll ever see capital punishment reintroduced in Australia but if it is, I could probably be persuaded to campaign for Garforth to be among the first to go.
Rest in peace Ebony.