Ralph ‘Terry’ Gibbs believed he was “acting out of love” when he made an ill-fated dash across the Australian outback to bring his partner with dementia home, but the 80-year-old ended up with a suspended jail sentence and a two-year restraining order.
Gibbs took his partner of 15 연령, Carol Lisle, 의 위에 4 January from a nursing home in Mandurah – an hour south of Perth. The builder said he wanted to take her back to their Queensland home near the beach.
Police found the pair in unforgiving 43C heat, deep in the harsh and remote Western Australian desert – just an hour from the Northern Territory border.
After two days on the lam, the 84-year-old, wheelchair-bound Lisle was reportedly found distressed, smelling of urine, and still in the same trousers and floral top she was wearing when taken.
깁스, who the court heard had not slept properly for days, was interrogated, arrested and placed in jail.
He was charged with deprivation of liberty and endangering Lisle’s life, but on 9 February he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful detention.
이번 주, wearing thongs and supported by a bare wooden crutch, Gibbs hobbled into Perth magistrates court and was sentenced to seven months’ jail, suspended for 12 개월.
Magistrate Raelene Johnston told Gibbs that although he was motivated by love, he had put his wishes above Lisle’s needs.
“I accept that you believe you were acting out of love and that you were acting out of care for your partner and that you wanted to be with her, and you believed that she wanted to be with you,” Johnston said.
“But objectively your conduct was extremely dangerous, and the objective seriousness of your offending was made clear by the reactions of those people who observed you.”
The court heard that witnesses at a shopping centre in Kalgoorlie, about seven hours’ drive east of Mandurah, saw Gibbs leave Lisle in the car and suggested he take his passenger to hospital.
Gibbs maintained she was happy and fine on the journey. He said he had plenty of food, 변종에 대해, medication and 11 jerry cans of diesel to fuel his recently purchased Mazda ute.
He said the pair had traversed gravel tracks and slept in the car on the edge of the road during their trip.
But Johnston, in her sentencing remarks, said the escapade could have ended in tragedy.
For Gibbs it did. The sad reality is that a two-year restraining order now imposed on Gibbs, who has medical issues and reduced mobility, means he may never see his lover again.
“I fear that I might never see my little girl again, she is fading quickly,” he told the media outside court.
The case highlights the brutal toll dementia can take on families.
Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in Australia and there are an estimated 487,5000 Australians living with the disease 에 2022, according to Dementia Australia.
Lisle has Parkinson’s disease and has suffered dementia symptoms for the past three years, Gibbs said outside court.
She was placed in the Mercy Place Mandurah aged cared facility in March last year by the State Administrative Tribunal under a guardianship ruling.
“Seeing her in the care home in Perth was devastating,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs is disputing the guardianship.
The magistrate acknowledged that Gibbs had a right to feel frustrated by the guardianship rules but said individuals cannot go against orders by the court simply because they don’t agree with them.
Gibbs said that since Lisle was taken from Queensland while he was in hospital, Covid restrictions have meant he had only been allowed into WA to visit her on four occasions.
“The whole thing was very frustrating.”
He said he treasured what little time the pair could spend together. “I sat there for the whole day, just holding her hand, that’s all I did.
“All day every day she says, ‘please take me out of here, please take me out of here’, and when I would leave to go home she would say, ‘can I come with you?’
“She even wanted to walk to the airport.”
A New Zealand native, Gibbs is the father of five children, two who still live in his birth country.
His daughter Rochelle Gibbs has started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for her dad’s legal costs.
In court, Johnston said Gibbs’ behaviour was in the “very high category of seriousness” for this type of offence, despite his love for Lisle.
The magistrate labelled the crime premeditated but said there have been no long-terms effects on Lisle.
She said sentencing was not an easy exercise in this case because Gibbs had acted out of love.
당시, Lisle’s disappearance sparked an extensive man hunt through remote WA before the pair were found near Warakurna, a large Aboriginal community on Ngaanyatjarra country.
Lisle was taken to a nursing post in Warakurna before being airlifted by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“As she was about to be taken to the plane she was asleep and I yelled out to her and everyone heard me say, ‘love you sweetheart’ and her eyes opened and she said, ‘love you too’,” Gibbs said. “That’s the way we were all these years.”