ON THIS DAY – July 29, 1991

A judge, his voice cracking with emotion and with tears in his eyes, sentenced a former ‘ church elder to life imprisonment for the “terrible” murder of a six-year-old girl. “Life means life,” Justice Philip Cummins said, as he sentenced Robert Arthur Selby Lowe, 57, for the murder of Sheree Beasley. The judge did not set a minimum term. What you did was every child’s fear and every parent’s nightmare,” Justice Cummins said. Lowe was found guilty on Wednesday of kidnapping and killing Sheree at Rosebud, on the Mornington Peninsula, south-east of Melbourne, on June 29, 1991. Justice Cummins also sentenced Lowe to 15 years’ jail for kidnapping. Sheree disappeared while running an errand for her mother near her home. Her remains were found in the nearby suburb of Red Hill three months later. Justice Cummins said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lowe had sexually attacked Sheree and that she had choked to death. Lowe had then forced her body down a drain. After Justice Cummins sentenced Lowe, the public gallery erupted in cheers and people yelled, “Suffer* Lowe”, “Sheree got the life sentence”, and “You’ve still got your life”. There were similar scenes on Wednesday, when the verdict was announced. In his sentencing comments yesterday Justice Cummins said the trial had been one of the most harrowing he had experienced.  Before sentencing, Lowe’s previous convictions, including ones for indecent assault and offensive behaviour dating back to 1956, were read to the court. Justice Cummins said Lowe’s “sexual interests” had been fuelled by the abduction of Karmein Chan, 13, who was kidnapped from her, home in Templestowe, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, in April 1991 — two months before Sheree’s murder. The judge said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt with evidence given by a cell-mate of Lowe’s. Lowe had told the prisoner that he had forced Sheree to do “dirty acts”. “She choked to death,” Justice Cummins said. “You were uncomfortable with the words oral sex — you used the words ‘dirty acts’.” Justice Cummins said Lowe had first seen Sheree when he had been in Rosebud the weekend before she was murdered. He had returned on June 29 and had forced her off her bicycle and into his car before speeding off. Witnesses said, they had seen a fearful Sheree in the car. Justice Cummins said Lowe had been articulate and manipulative in his lies to police, whom he commended for their persistence.”Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive,” the judge told Lowe. “And you wove a tangled web around yourself which eventually captured you.” Justice Cummins said Lowe had shown no remorse for his crimes and had even been excited when he had gone to the scene of the crime with his psychotherapist. Lowe stood impassively as Justice Cummins sentenced him. He held an envelope to the side of his face, to hide it from journalists sitting near the dock. Sheree’s grandfather, Neil Greenhill, told reporters the sentence was what the family had hoped for. “You can’t replace what’s been taken away,” he said. “I hope he gets no peace … we hope he rots in hell. There’s no forgiveness … none at all.”