Norfolk Island might be an Australian territory, but it operates very differently. There is no income tax, no tax on cigarettes and alcohol, no law to insist on the wearing of seatbelts, and no mobile phone network. It is an island where everyone knows everyone – and where half of the 1600 residents are related to the mutineers from the Bounty. But the apparent peace of Norfolk was shattered in 2002 when Janelle Patton, an Australian mainlander who had been working on the island for two years, was brutally murdered. Were the islanders living with a murderer in their midst, or was the act of a violent visitor? How could the murder be carried out in broad daylight, the body dumped in the open, without anyone seeing anything? And why was Janelle Patton killed?
When Timothy Latham visited Norfolk in the wake of the murder to make a radio program for ABC Radio National, he found a place with more problems than the murder. There were stories of widespread domestic violence, road and health systems which are struggling and a strong movement to secede from Australia, to prevent Australia having any say on how things are done on Norfolk.
Timothy’s coverage of the murder lead to his commissioning to write Island of Secrets which explores not just the killing but the unique makeup of the island community, in an attempt to give an insight into how such a crime could happen and how it could remain unsolved.
Like any book on the subject of murder, this is not happy reading, but it is well researched and informative, providing a fascinating glimpse of the society of Norfolk Island.
Norfolk: Island of Secrets, by Timothy Latham
Allen & Unwin, 2005