Convicted rapist Danny Ferguson had been on the run for a month while police dithered when he beat his partner to death with an axe handle.
Convicted rapist Danny Ferguson had been on the run for a month while police dithered when he beat his partner to death with an axe handle.

Rapist, wife basher free to kill another

"THIS despicable conduct really epitomises the character of Daniel Ferguson, someone who had no respect for women in life and in Serina's case in death. He treated them with contempt, he used them like objects and refused to be accountable for all his actions."

- Council assisting South Australian state coroner Mark Johns, Naomi Kereru.

Danny Ferguson. Picture: SUPPLIED
Danny Ferguson. Picture: SUPPLIED


IN late June, 2015 Danny Ferguson and his girlfriend Serina Amos packed Ms Amos's red Toyota Tarago and set out from the home they shared in Oodnadatta, headed for one of the campsites dotted around the remote South Australian outback town.

Only Ferguson knows exactly what happened during the six-day camping trip that followed because by the time the pair returned to Oodnadatta on July 3, Ms Amos was dead.

Despite initially blaming another, innocent, man for his girlfriend's death, a jury would later find it was Ferguson who killed Ms Amos, by beating her to death with an axe handle in a horrific act of domestic violence that left the 34-year-old with a total of 56 individual injuries. A forensic pathologist would conclude Ms Amos's death, drawn out "over a period of a day", was a result of organ failure due to blood loss caused by injuries sustained in three separate, frenzied attacks inflicted on her by the man she loved.

Ferguson is now serving a minimum of 12 years in a South Australian prison for manslaughter after the jury ruled it was plausible he "might have been unaware of the extent … and life-threatening nature" of the injuries he inflicted as he repeatedly struck his helpless victim with the axe handle.

But this wasn't the first time Ferguson had viciously beat a domestic partner.

At the time of Ms Amos's death, the callous killer was on the run from authorities in the Northern Territory where he had been convicted of the cruel and violent rape of another woman in Finke, outside Alice Springs.

But rather than going to ground, Ferguson had been hiding in plain site.

SA State Coroner Mark Johns, pictured in his office.
SA State Coroner Mark Johns, pictured in his office.

 

 

DANNY Ferguson's history of violence began at the age of 17, when he moved interstate from his Northern Territory home town of Finke in 1997.

He spent three years in juvenile detention and adult convictions for "the use or threatened use of unlawful violence" and for aggravated assault would follow.

Ferguson was jailed for each of those crimes and as a result was still under the supervision of NT authorities in October 2013 when he committed his penultimate sadistic act of violence against his then-partner back in Finke.

The NT Supreme Court heard the woman had been involved with Ferguson since 2012 before the couple moved into a "tin shed" at the back of a relative's house in early 2013.

It was there the relationship turned violent, with Ferguson subjecting his partner to daily bashings and even threatening her with a rock he kept under a couch for the purpose.

There was no bathroom inside the shed - which became the woman's prison while Ferguson was away at his job with the MacDonnell Shire Council - and when she was allowed out to use the toilet or shower, Ferguson would follow her and keep watch before locking her back up.

When the woman dared to deny Ferguson sex on the night of October 2 he flew into a rage, throwing her to the ground and jumping and stomping on her head as she lay face down on the floor.

He continued to punch her and laughed at her pain as he proceeded to violently rape her.

After a terrified, sleepless night - for the woman, not for Ferguson - he left "to buy a drink and a pie" and she managed to unlock the shed and escape to safety.

In sentencing Ferguson to a minimum of 11 years and six months' jail in 2016 (later reduced to seven years on appeal), Justice Dean Mildren said he was apparently motivated by a number of factors.

"First, to dominate the victim for the purposes of your own sexual gratification, regardless of the victim's wishes," he said.

"Secondly, to punish the victim for not complying with your wishes and perhaps also for having a supposed affair with another man … and thirdly, perhaps for sexual jealousy."

Ferguson was arrested for the attack the next day but when police later lost track of the victim he was released on bail the following May.

Inexplicably and despite the seriousness of the offending, Ferguson's bail was unconditional, meaning there were no restrictions placed on his movements between then and his trial date the following June.

In handing down his findings into the death of Serina Amos in March this year, South Australian state coroner Mark Johns described this development as "surprising".

"As a result of that circumstance Ferguson was free to come and go from the NT as he pleased and this he did when he established the relationship with Ms Amos in 2014," he said.

Justice Dean Mildren in the Supreme Court. Picture: PATRINA MALONE
Justice Dean Mildren in the Supreme Court. Picture: PATRINA MALONE

 

 

DANNY Ferguson's Northern Territory rape trial began on June 1, 2015.

By day three, Ferguson was a no show at the Alice Springs Supreme Court and Justice Dean Mildren issued a warrant for his arrest before pressing on to allow the jury to deliver its guilty verdict the next day.

A year earlier, after being released on bail, Ferguson had met Serina Amos at the Finke Desert Race and it is likely the pair drove back to Oodnadatta in Ms Amos's red Tarago on the day he skipped out on his trial.

As the relationship progressed, Ms Amos's family members noticed her change "from an outgoing and friendly woman to someone who was withdrawn and would wear sunglasses at odd times".

On one occasion, Ms Amos's daughter saw a drunk Ferguson pick up a kitchen chair and throw it at her mother's head but despite the warning signs, nobody ever called the police.

After the warrant was issued on June 4, NT Police Detective Senior Constable Tim Easthope took charge of efforts to find Ferguson and arrest him, making "numerous inquiries" - but went interstate the following day and didn't return until June 11.

By June 18, two weeks after Ferguson fled the jurisdiction, NT Police were aware he may now be in Oodnadatta and issued an intelligence alert to their cross-border colleagues urging them to "be on the lookout for" the convicted rapist.

"Due to Ferguson's location being unknown, extradition has not yet been approved," the circular read.

"All inquiries made interstate at this stage are for information only."

At the time, the officer in charge of criminal investigations in Alice Springs, Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Malley, considered that Ferguson was "a high risk for us and we needed him in custody".

A copy of the circular was emailed to the officer in charge at Oodnadatta Police Station, Brevet Sergeant Matthew Sampson, who followed up by visiting Ms Amos's home and by June 22 had positively identified Ferguson in her front yard.

While it would have been possible for Brevet Sergeant Sampson to arrest Ferguson on sight, as a rule police will not make an arrest on an interstate warrant without written confirmation extradition will be pursued in the other jurisdiction.

So Brevet Sergeant Sampson instead contacted Senior Sergeant Malley in Alice Springs, telling him he would be able to bring Ferguson in as soon as extradition was approved.

Just before 2pm, Senior Sergeant Malley emailed his commander seeking permission to extradite Ferguson for sentencing.

"I think we need to move on him very quickly," he wrote.

"This one is a bit different as he has been convicted and only needs to be sentenced. He took off on day three of his trial. If this isn't possible I'll begin the normal application and go through the normal process."

Senior Sergeant Malley's boss responded in favour of a quick response and he emailed Brevet Sergeant Sampson saying he hoped to have approval by the following day.

In the meantime - Senior Sergeant Malley would later tell a coronial inquiry - he ran into Deputy Commissioner Mark Payne in a hallway of the Alice Springs police station and requested verbal approval for the extradition. But Senior Sergeant Malley said Mr Payne declined and instead asked "to see the full file".

"I did not hear from Deputy Commissioner Payne in these proceedings," state coroner Mark Johns said.

"He has not had an opportunity to comment on the above version of events as related by Detective Malley (so) I cannot therefore express criticism of him.

"At best all I can say is that it is very unfortunate that if a verbal briefing did take place, it did not result in verbal approval being readily and fulsomely granted."

Either way, no one told Brevet Sergeant Sampson there would now be a further delay.

The next day, he again contacted Senior Sergeant Malley for an update and was told the NT cop would speak to his superior and get back to him but he never did.

On June 26, Senior Sergeant Malley was asked to submit a second memo to the Deputy Commissioner in support of extradition.

"Again, it is unfortunate to say the least that NT Police could not move more quickly in relation to what on the face of it was a straightforward decision," Mr Johns said after the inquest.

"Namely, that there could be no dispute that extradition should proceed in respect of Ferguson and that they should inform SAPOL that it would proceed and to arrest him immediately - why that did not happen remains a mystery."

Landscape images along the Outback Highway and Oodnadatta Track. Wangianna ruins about 35km west of Marree. PICTURE: Brad Fleet
Landscape images along the Outback Highway and Oodnadatta Track. Wangianna ruins about 35km west of Marree. PICTURE: Brad Fleet


IN the early hours of June 27, police received two calls from addresses on Ikaturka Tce, Oodnadatta where Serina Amos and some of her family lived.

One caller, Ms Amos's aunt, Julie Amos, told police a drunk Ferguson was arguing with her daughter, Kimberly, in the backyard just before 5am.

At 8am, two senior constables from Coober Pedy arrived in Oodnadatta to investigate the calls.

They drove to Ikaturka Tce where they found a local clinic nurse and ambulance driver who told them there had been no issues overnight and she hadn't treated any injuries.

The senior constables knocked on the doors of the houses on Ikaturka Tce but no one answered and after making a few further inquiries around town they found no cause for concern and headed back to Coober Pedy.

By the time Brevet Sergeant Sampson returned to Oodnadatta later that day, the red Tarago was not in the driveway at Ikaturka Tce and Ferguson and Ms Amos were gone.

Two days later, on June 29 - almost four weeks since Ferguson fled from justice - Brevet Sergeant Sampson received an email from Senior Sergeant Malley telling him extradition had been approved and requesting that the fugitive be arrested.

IN handing down his findings on the death of Serina Amos in March this year, state coroner Mark Johns commended South Australian police for changing their general orders so officers no longer have to rely on police from another jurisdiction before acting on an extradition.

Mr Johns said he hoped the change would "prevent a repetition of such a tragedy as Ms Amos's death at the hands of Ferguson in future".

"However, it is plain that the central problem in this case was the extraordinary delay in the NT Police obtaining approval for Ferguson's extradition and then advising SAPOL once the approval had been obtained," he said.

"I heard evidence from one of the NT Police officers that they have now changed their procedures in relation to extradition to ensure that if this situation were to occur again, extradition would be able to be approved on the same day it is requested.

"It is deeply regrettable that NT Police did not respond promptly and efficiently in 2015 in this case."

NT Police was contacted for comment.

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