Thirty four years after Raymond Keam was beaten to death in a Sydney park in a suspected gay hate killing, the New South Wales police will offer a $1 million reward for information about the murder. The reward was announced on Wednesday by the police and the NSW government.
Raymond’s murder was one of the 88 killings of gay men and trans persons between 1976 and 2010, that was looked into by the police as part of Strike Force Parrabell. A NSW parliamentary inquiry had last month recommended a judicial inquiry into the killings, including 23 cases, like the killing of Raymond, that have remained unsolved.
Forty-five year-old Raymond, a martial arts expert and father of four, was beaten to death at Allison Park in Randwick on January 13, 1987. A postmortem report said that Raymond had died as a result of severe head injuries and a 1988 inquest found that he had died due to being bashed by “a person or persons unknown”.
Raymond’s murder has remained unsolved. Ron Harmer, a gay man, in 2013 had revealed that he had been chased by a dozen boys and beaten unconscious in the same park a year before Raymond’s death.
In his book Bondi Badlands, journalist Greg Callaghan wrote that while Raymond did not identify as gay, he did occasionally visit the gay beats.
A formal review of Raymond’s murder was undertraken in 2019 and detectives attached to Strike Force Augenaut started re-investigating the case.
“As inquiries continue, police are renewing their appeal to the community to come forward with any information that may assist detectives with their inquiries,” the police said.
Raymond’s Family Appeals For Answers
Raymond’s family are hoping that the large reward will motivate people who may have information about the murder to come forward and report it to the police.
“Raymond was a kind and caring partner, father and step-father. At the time of his death we had been planning out our life together – then it was all ripped away in an instant,” Diane Smart, Raymond’s partner said, hoping that the family will get some closure.
“I didn’t just lose my partner that night, I lost my life and my future, and we all lost a huge part of our family. Raymond was a bright, strong, smart and generous man, who can never be replaced,” said Smart.
Raymond’s daughter Stephanie Raymond appealed to anyone who had any information about her father’s murder to come forward, not just to help the police solve the case, but also provide the family with answers.
“Thirty-four years ago, I not only lost my father, but a good friend, and have always felt a shadow over me not knowing why he was so cruelly taken from us,” said Stephanie.
“When something like this happens to a loved one, it changes you – it leaves a stain. We are all desperately hoping to find some answers and we ask anyone with information to come forward to police and help our family find peace,” added Stephanie.
NSW Police Exploring New Lines Of Inquiry
“Raymond was a young father of four children when his life was viciously taken more than three decades ago in Sydney’s East,” Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott said.
“We acknowledge that there was a dark and violent period in our state’s history when people were dismissive of suspected hate crimes and NSW Police have been working tirelessly to ensure every possible resource available is utilised when reviewing and reinvestigating these cases.”
“It is my hope that the NSW Government’s $1 million reward will encourage any member of the public that may have information about Raymond’s murder – not matter how big or small – will come forward,” added Minister Elliot.
The police said that since the re-investigation commenced in 2019, investigation team have interviewed some of the key witnesses in the cases and pursued new lines of inquiry.
“A reinvestigation into the murder of Raymond has commenced, with officers now re-examining all available physical and forensic evidence and re-interviewing key witnesses,” said Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty.
The police said that of particular interest to them are any other gay men or trans persons who may have been attacked or witnessed similar attacks at the park before or after Raymond’s death.
“Detectives are particularly interested in speaking with anyone who may have been a victim of an assault or who may have witnessed assaults at Alison Park, Randwick, in the years prior to and after Raymond’s death,” said Doherty.
Sydney’s Gay Hate Crime Wave
As reported by the community over the years and confirmed by the reports of Strike Force Parrabel and the recent Parliamentary committee, many attacks on gay men and trans persons occurred across Sydney between the 1970s and 1990s.
Around 88 suspected deaths of men who were victims of hate crimes occurred between 1970 and 2010 in NSW, including the 23 unsolved cases. Gay men were attacked in parks or pushed from the clif tops on Sydney’s coast to the sharp rocks below.
The Parliamentary committee found that “the NSW Police Force failed in its responsibility to properly investigate cases of historical gay and transgender hate crime and this has undermined the confidence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGTBIQ) communities in the NSW Police Force and the criminal justice system more broadly.”
The NSW Police thad solved one of the unsolved cases when they arrested a man for the murder of Scott Johnson, whose body was found on December 10, 1988 at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head.
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