Criminal Law

By Rachael Scott


Joe Cinque’s Consolation

There has been plenty of talk recently about the release of “Joe Cinque’s Consolation”, a film adaption of the true story written by Helen Garner of the same name. It tells the story of one of Canberra’s most infamous murder trials.

In October of 1997, Anu Singh killed her fiancée, Joe Cinque, by lacing his coffee with Rohypnol and then administering two lethal doses of heroin. It was initially Singh’s plan to commit suicide, but after coming to the conclusion that Cinque would not be able to live without her, she developed the plan to kill Cinque before committing suicide. One of the most intriguing, yet undoubtedly disturbing, facts of the case was that Singh had told several of her friends about her plan and yet they did nothing to intervene or warn Joe Cinque of what Singh had planned.

Singh’s best friend, Madhavi Rao, a fellow law student, knew about Singh’s plans and helped her formulate them, seemingly without question. As a result of her involvement, she was charged with murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, and administering a stupefying drug, but she was acquitted at trial.

There were also a number of indications leading up to the murder that Singh was not mentally stable. Her mother had even contacted a mental health crisis team a number of times in relation to Singh’s diminishing mental state, but she fell through the cracks as seemingly normal. However it was the opinion of several psychologists during the trial that Singh had a personality disorder of long-standing and was disassociated from reality.

Ultimately, Singh was found guilty of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility because of her mental state. It was concluded by the Court that Singh’s decision to kill Cinque was the product of her delusional beliefs and disordered thinking. She was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and served four, completing her law degree while incarcerated.

As was the case at the time of the crime and during the trial, this movie leaves the broader community struggling to come to terms with how a life could be taken in such bizarre circumstances.