Grieving mother denied compensation as her son's killers declare bankruptcy

Five men from Alice Springs have used bankruptcy declarations to evade a court order to pay $180,000 compensation to a grieving indigenous mother over the death of her son. Trainee ranger Kwementyaye Ryder, 33, died after he was bashed and kicked in the head by a group of young white males on a drinking binge on July 25, 2009. He had a pre-existing aneurysm.

Andra Jackson Sydney Morning Herald 26 October 2013

Therese Ryder with a portrait of her son Kwementyaye.
"They can't just do what they did and forget about it": Therese Ryder with a portrait of her son Kwementyaye.
(Photo: Chloe Geraghty SMH)

Five men from Alice Springs have used bankruptcy declarations to evade a court order to pay $180,000 compensation to a grieving indigenous mother over the death of her son. Trainee ranger Kwementyaye Ryder, 33, died after he was bashed and kicked in the head by a group of young white males on a drinking binge on July 25, 2009. He had a pre-existing aneurysm.

His mother Therese Ryder said: "It is not about the money. They should be paying for what they did. They can't just do what they did and forget about it. It is me that's going through pain."


Kwementyaye Ryder

Mrs Ryder and Jade Keil, Ryder's fiancee, wanted another way of holding the men to account after they felt let down by the criminal trial of the men in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. In April 2010 they were found guilty of manslaughter. The longest sentence they received was six years with a non-parole period of four years. Shine Lawyers suggested a civil damages claim and a writ was issued in the Territory's Supreme Court on July 20 last year.

Two weeks before the case was due to be heard last month, agreement was reached before Justice Jenny Blokland for the five to pay Mrs Ryder and Ms Keil $125,000 and costs of $55,000.

Earlier this month the five, Anton Kloeden, Joshua Spears, Glen Swain, Timothy Hird and Scott Doody - now out of prison, in their mid to late 20s and four of them working - successfully applied to the Australian Financial Security Authority to be declared bankrupt.

A bankrupt does not have to pay off debts but may be required to make repayments to creditors when their earnings exceed $37,146 a year. They are denied a credit rating for seven years.

Mrs Ryder, a highly respected artist, had wanted the men jailed for 20 years.


Kwementyaye Ryder's memorial, Schwarz Crescent

"They can't just go and cut down a young man's life and go ahead with their jobs," she said. "It has turned my life upside down. They've been to prison and they should have been there for five years but they got out after three years [because their sentences were backdated to their arrests]. At least they could have paid me, a mother who has gone through pain and sorrow."

In a similar case in NSW in 2011, Scott Miller, who had a brain aneurysm, died after being bashed and stomped on. Adam James Matthews was convicted of his murder and jailed for at least 11 years.

Ms Keil said: "I feel like they've always denied their responsibility, denied their guilt. I'm happier for them to go bankrupt rather than take their money. They just don't realise what they've done."

Mrs Ryder has suffered twice over. Another son went missing after Ryder's death and his remains were only recently found, she said.

Timothy Hird, one of the convicted men, said: "What, do time and then expect to pay them at the end of it when we are trying to start our lives over again? I don't think so."

Referring to the women, he said: "They got paid victims of crime [compensation] and we ended up having to pay that back, not the government, us. We tried to stress that over the case and they still wanted more out of it. How do they expect to get blood out of a stone? We were in prison earning nothing."

The victims of crime payment was $5000 to Ms Keil and funeral costs to Mrs Ryder. "Do you think we wanted to go bankrupt? Not at all, but believe me, we had no choice. They asked for a ridiculous figure," Mr Hird said.

Shine's lawyer George Newhouse said: "The family felt that justice had not been served so the creative solution was to run an O.J. Simpson-style case where we held Mr Ryder's assailants liable in the civil law. That is not often done. The men are still in bankruptcy for the next three years and we will be monitoring their bankruptcy estate to ensure Therese and Jade receive some measure of justice."