Here are two names, both child killers, which I would like you to know: Allyson McConnell and Arthur Freeman. Scrutiny of both cases exemplifies the tragic gender disparity in criminal responsibility, or lack thereof, for parents who kill their children.

Arthur Freeman is currently serving a life term for murdering his daughter Darcey. The earliest he can seek parole is in another two and a half decades. The nature of Darcey’s death, being thrown off Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge on what should have been her first day of school, was without a doubt heinous.

What drove me to write this piece was the continued prominence of the Darcey Freeman death in media circles even at the beginning of this year. Without begrudging such attention for a clear and barbaric crime, if the genders were reversed, a thimble’s worth of focus would still be on the case.

The legal system sees Arthur Freeman as evil. Allyson McConnell was just “ill.”

Now here’s the other half. Allyson McConnell, who killed her two-and-a-half-year old and ten-month-old sons after searching online for drowning and strangulation methods, is now dead. She committed suicide in Gosford, a city just north of Sydney, in September 2013. Histrionic acts were an indelible part of her personality; she had attempted suicide in 2010, the same day she had drowned her boys in the family bathtub. This melodramatic (but reprehensible) streak is highlighted by the child killings taking place after McConnell’s husband Curtis sought a divorce.

Gender-Based Lunacy

Far from the effective life imprisonment of Freeman, McConnell served just ten months in a psychiatric hospital in Alberta, Canada, where she previously lived with her family of four. She was convicted of the mere crime of manslaughter, serious enough in and of itself, but a comedy when one considers the contextual, opportunistic circumstances of a marital court case and the clear research McConnell undertook in the weeks leading up to what I will sensibly call the murders.

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She’s fine and dandy until her man leaves her.

Central to the farce that absolved McConnell of almost all responsibility was the fact she had once been impregnated by her father (or at least a proposition accepted by the court as factual). She had exhibited a history of suicidal behavior in her teens, behavior which was obviously assumed, without substantiation, as a form of causation for her sons’ deaths nearly two decades later.

It is the infanticide equivalent of assuming Roman Polanski allegedly raped (and is therefore excused for raping) a thirteen-year-old girl, statutorily and through the provision of drugs, because his family died in the Holocaust. Untenable, unworkable and just plain preposterous.

Importantly, McConnell had managed to uproot herself from her native Australia at a young age, find gainful, respectable employment in Canada’s ski resort industry (where she had met her Canadian husband), marry, and give birth to two children. When combined with the judge’s ruling that there was “reasonable doubt that she had the specific intent to kill her children” (i.e. murder could not be established), I start to ponder whether we are considering a serious 21st century legal decision or a courtroom science fiction novel written by L. Ron Hubbard.

Disastrous Double Standards

Going back to our first story, Freeman had experienced both the long-term deterioration of his marriage and a reduction in his access to his children the day before he killed Darcey. McConnell, on the other hand, was left by her husband and the two were in the process of fighting out a custody battle, despite still living in the same home. She was not even close to losing access to her children in the same way as Freeman had lost time with his. All that had happened so far was that a judge, very reasonably, forbid McConnell from leaving the country with the boys.

Moreover, McConnell was searching online for terms like “How long does it take to drown?” three weeks before she murdered her children. She also left her wedding ring close by the bodies of the drowned toddler and infant, an incontrovertible “fuck you, I won” message to her husband for leaving her.

Across the world and a year earlier, Arthur Freeman had called his ex-partner just before killing Darcey, saying she would never see her children again. Without condoning Freeman’s awful homicide, for which he is deservedly serving serious time, if either of these two examples was a crime of passion or rage (and I actually think both aren’t), it is the murder of Darcey Freeman.

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Curtis McConnell already had two tragedies when his sons were killed. A third came when his ex-wife got away with murder.

An average man, who sees considerably less of his kids after divorce than his ex-wife, has infinitely more to fear from custody cases than a woman does. We should not, however, justify any man killing his child after visitation or custody rights were restricted. But we should also realize that a woman who murders her offspring without even losing access to her children is part of an even greater breed of evil.

Another Attempted Murder-Suicide

If the comparisons between Freeman and McConnell were not enough, here’s another one. Robert Farquharson was convicted twice for three murders, having driven his four-wheel drive into a dam and killing his young sons on Australian Father’s Day 2005. He first received, unsurprisingly, three life sentences without parole for the deaths (reduced to a 33 year minimum term after a retrial).

What is illuminating about Farquharson is that he suffered extensive bouts of depression, enlisting the assistance of both a psychologist and psychiatrist to deal with his marital separation. He had been prescribed multiple antidepressants over a long period.

The lack of a causal link or mitigation between Allyson McConnell’s alleged mental illness and her murders may also be replicated in the Farquharson case. Yet Robert Farquharson had a much more cogent argument for mental illness as it related to the deaths of his sons, having experienced episodes of mental illness far more copiously documented by medical professionals and of a more contemporary nature.

More broadly, if mental illness is blindly accepted as a defense so unconvincingly in the McConnell case, why isn’t it being accepted far more generously for others convicted of homicide, who are by and large male?

Even in the 1990s, the US Department of Justice and its offshoots were keenly aware that experiences of childhood abuse amongst prisoners were the norm. In 1998, the National Institute of Justice relayed that in one (male) New York prison “68 percent of the sample reported some form of childhood victimization and 23 percent reported experiencing multiple forms of abuse and neglect, including physical and sexual abuse.” I could sink the point further by supplying another fifty studies and reports, but that is completely unnecessary, as I’m sure you understand it.

After Allyson McConnell killed herself, skilled scumbag Thomas Lukaszuk, at that time Deputy Premier of Alberta, remarked: “Mental illness makes victims of all. Sad end to what already was a tragedy.”

No, Thomas, the real tragedy, aside from the death of two boys and the pain of their grieving father and wider family, was that Allyson McConnell escaped justice simply because she is a female.

Read More: Fat Single Mothers Are Child Abusers