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Another innocent victim of suicide: the train driver

By Nick Ferrett - posted Friday, 1 October 2004

Earlier this year, a friend of mine committed suicide. He was not a very close friend but it was close enough to home to really shake me. His life had been going badly. His marriage had broken up and there were three teenage children. His sister, to whom he was very close, had committed suicide a couple of months earlier. He appeared morose to his friends (although, at least to me, not suicidal). All of his friends to whom I spoke about it had no presentiment of his suicide.

Upset about the tragedy and at a loss to explain it, I spoke to my mother who is a psychologist. I learnt from her that suicidal people will often, in their last days, actually appear to be on the mend in terms of depression: the decision to end it all is a resolution and a comfort. The other side of that is that pre-meditated suicide in our society is not something that evolves over a short period. More often than not it is something which is simmering along in the person for quite a while.

The other thing to be said is it is an aberrant and often unforeseeable reaction to a range of factors.


These things lead me to the view that attempts to blame Peter Beattie and his government for the death of Greg Maddock, the late Chief Executive of Energex, are ludicrous.

Mr Maddock was, by all accounts, an honest and honourable man. That is the impression given by work colleagues, friends and family. It follows that he had nothing to fear from the government’s investigation of the unusual financial transactions to which he was party. It sounds from what we have heard as though the worst that could have come from the investigation is that the corporate practices of Energex may have been revealed as being a bit loose.

The investigation seems to me to have been a justifiable one. Anyone hearing that the CEO of a company receiving re-imbursement for improvements to his private home when it is not part of the package expressly recorded in his contract might take a second look. Such an arrangement is bound to raise suspicions of misconduct. It is another thing entirely to say that there was any misconduct, but investigations happen because of the suspicion rather than because of any actuality.

Apart from that, it is doubtful whether the investigation would have been the only reason for Mr Maddock’s tragic end. Maybe he was chronically depressed. Maybe there were other things going wrong in his life. We just don’t know.

Perhaps this tragedy might inspire Mr Beattie and his colleagues to reflect on the ludicrous nature of the comments of his backbencher, Ms Molloy, who accuses the Howard Government of having the blood of the Bali bomb victims on its hands. Ms Molloy’s main claim to fame apart from being the member for Noosa is her dedication to nudist beaches. Perhaps, for that reason, the ALP has felt that a dressing-down would be ineffective. In any event, Ms Molloy’s husband, an ALP candidate for the House of Representatives, adopts his wife’s lunatic statements. Her assertion can be dismissed as that of a flake. His adoption is that of an academic claiming expertise and learning in the relevant area. It is an attempt to shift the blame from the murderers to the people who are doing their best to fight them.

I imagine that Mr Beattie regards himself as hard-done-by with respect to Mr Maddock. To his great credit he has not come out fighting on the issue, but when he sits back and thinks about how badly he is being treated in the debate, maybe he might also think about putting his own house in order by disowning the Molloys.


What is really tragic in all of this - and as far as I can see it has received not even the slightest attention - is that somewhere there is yet another innocent train driver who has someone’s suicide to haunt him. Spare a thought for that train driver, because whatever sort of person Greg Maddock was, he chose to drag an innocent victim into his nightmare - someone who has to live with that nightmare.

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About the Author

Nick Ferrett is a Brisbane-based Barrister.

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