Perera dies broken hearted

by Chris Griffith
Published 27 Oct 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


Brisbane man Peter Perera last Saturday died a broken-hearted man, the victim of a broken government promise to introduce a Fitzgerald report-inspired reform.

For seven years, he desperately tried to prove he was innocent of the crime he was imprisoned for.

In March 1986, the Sri Lankan-born Perera was jailed for eight years, for selling $11,000 of heroin. He was released on home detention in 1989 after suffering three heart attacks.

He soon became a focus for many innocent Queenslanders claiming that police had secured their convictions with fabricated confessions in the bad old pre-Fitzgerald days.

The police verbal certainly was no fiction. It was acknowledged by the 1977 Lucas Inquiry. At the Fitzgerald Inquiry, police openly admitted to verballing.

The 1989 Fitzgerald report said: "The verbal confession, has long been a feature of Queensland criminal trials."

The report recommended the CJC be charged with reviewing addressing the plight of the verballed.

Shortly after its election in December 1989, the Goss Government promised to establish a "Remediation of Miscarriages of Justice Unit" to acheive this aim.

Perera's hopes were then well and truly built up by a series of letters he received from the State Government.

On 16 May 1990, Attorney-General's Department director-general Brian Stewart wrote to Perera and said: "Because of the parlous state of your health the Attorney-General (Dean Wells) will recommend that your case be given priority when the investigative facility commences work".

On July 1, 1991, Mr Wells wrote to Mr Perera, and said: "The proposal for a Miscarriages of Justice Unit in Queensland, as recommended by Mr Fitzgerald, QC, is currently before the Honourable the Premier for consideration."

However, the proposal died after some buck-passing between the government, the CJC, and its parliamentary committee.

In October 1991, a disillusioned Anne Warner - in her capacity as Perera's local MP - wrote: "Of course, you can understand Mr Perera's frustration. His expectations have been built up by various sources that this unit would give him the opportunity to prove his innocence and it still does not exist."

Perera's last hope was the United Nations which he petitioned in 1993. Unfortunately, the UN did not believe it had the jurisdiction to deal with Perera's case.

At Perera's funeral, the prison chaplain who visited him in jail, Lutheran Church Pastor August Frickie, said "an acute embarrassment has passed away with the passing of Peter Perera".

"Peter desperately wanted to clear his name and he believed that justice had to come to him sooner or later. It wasn't meant to be.

"His vain pursuit of justice over the years killed him."

Widow Faye Perera said her husband wanted also to clear his family's name - particularly in Sri Lanka where his family's reputation was everything.

"He was broken hearted during the last five years because he could never achieve this."