Podcast – Shadow of a Doubt
Podcaster: Richard Guilliatt
Reviewer: Megan Brooks
Episode 1: Australia’s Most Evil Dad
The existence of so-called ‘repressed memories’ remains a controversial idea in clinical and legal settings. Now often referred to as dissociative amnesia – a trauma-dissociation model based on the idea that ‘the body keeps the score’ even if the person cannot recall or has had no awareness of the severely traumatic experience supposedly causing the mental state – the reliance on previously repressed memories as evidence of abuse received much attention in the 1990s. A recent bibliometric analysis of the PubMed search engine revealed very little scientific endeavour on the topic of dissociative amnesia and repressed memory over the past decade or so and concluded the most likely explanation is that dissociative amnesia is not a widely accepted concept.
This latest podcast from The Australian, responsible for the smash hit crime podcasts The Teacher’s Pet and Shandee’s Story, looks at what is regarded as one of this country’s worst cases of domestic child abuse.
Many of you will recall the case that made international headlines the allegations were so disturbing. After a 10-week trial in the NSW District Court, a jury found the parents involved guilty of 86 charges brought in relation to the sexual and physical abuse of two of their four children over a period of 13 years. In 2016, the father received a sentence of 48 years – the longest sentence for child abuse in Australia’s history; the accomplice mother received 16 years. Their appeals to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal and High Court of Australia have failed. They maintain their innocence, as do their two other children who claim they saw no sign of the sustained and exceptionally violent abuse metered out upon their siblings.
Episode 1 details the increasingly serious allegations made by one victim as her mental health deteriorates in late adolescence in the context of her participation in elite level sports, coached by her ultra-competitive and disciplinarian dad.
She is ultimately diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and evidence she gives of the abuse is said to be based on memories she had previously suppressed due to their traumatic nature. The jury was not informed her memory of the alleged abuse was relatively recently recovered during psychotherapy. With access to boxes of material now made available to the family, expert evidence of the possible unreliability of the recovered memories – apparently not used by the NSW Legal Aid lawyers who took over the case when the defendants ran out of money – along with intriguing details of buried evidence, previous allegations against the father, and a magistrate involved in the matter at an early stage who allowed one victim [to stay] at his house pre-trial, this podcast promises to be as riveting a drama as The Teacher’s Pet and Shandee’s Story. Whether it will have similarly shocking legal consequences for those involved remains to be seen.
Available on Crime X on Apple podcasts and to subscribers of The Australian.
 Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L., Patihis, L., Merckelbach, H., Lynn, S. J., Lilienfeld, S. O., & Loftus, E. F. (2019). The Return of the Repressed: The Persistent and Problematic Claims of Long-Forgotten Trauma. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(6), 1072–1095.
 Pope, H. G., Schnabel, J., & Hudson, J. I. (2023). Current scientific interest in dissociative amnesia: A bibliometric analysis. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 37(1), 42– 51.