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Robert Farmer gets 20 years for Lauren Huxley attack
The man who brutally bashed Sydney teenager Lauren Huxley has been jailed for at least 20 years.
Robert Black Farmer, 39, was found guilty last month in the NSW Supreme Court of attempting to murder Ms Huxley at her Northmead home in November 2005.
Then 18, the marketing student was bashed with a pair of metal fibrocutters and left for dead in a pool of petrol before Farmer set the house alight.
Ms Huxley suffered permanent brain damage and required extensive surgery as a result of the attack, including a facial reconstruction and repairs to her shattered skull.
Ms Huxley had not attended any of the previous hearings but was in court to hear today's sentencing.
She sat with her hands covering her eyes for much of the sentencing, but had her head up and watched calmly as Farmer stood to learn his fate. She said she had summoned the courage to face him for closure
Justice Peter Hall sentenced Farmer to a maximum of 24 years and six months in jail, just six months shy of the maximum available penalty.
Justice Hall said the attack had a devastating impact on a young woman who was on the threshold of her adult life.
A jury took just three hours to find Farmer guilty of attempted murder and arson last month after six weeks of DNA and circumstantial evidence linking him to the crime.
Farmer betrayed no emotion as he was jailed for a maximum 24 and a half years, with Justice Hall describing his crime as one of "almost unimaginable ferocity and callousness".
Ms Huxley's mother, Christine muttered, "have fun" as he was led away, while cries of "scumbag" issued from the public gallery.
Outside court, Ms Huxley was at a loss for words.
"It was hard, but I'm happy," she told reporters.
Now 21, Ms Huxley has had to relearn basic skills such as feeding and dressing herself and her specialist told the court she would never fully recover.
She has no memory of the attack.
Farmer's lawyer Ben Archbold said outside court that his client intended to immediately lodge an appeal against his conviction
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Life of crime that led to Lauren's horror
Pic - Robert Black Farmer
His life story is nothing but an empty string of crimes culminating with the sickening bashing of
Lauren Huxley - and today, his expressionless face can be finally revealed.
The Daily Telegraph can today reveal Robert Black Farmer began breaking the law shortly
after he left school at 15. Over the next 10 years the man who wanted to be a carpenter
embarked instead upon a path of afflicting misery on others.
By the time he was 25, he had notched up 26 convictions for offences including armed robbery, theft and assault.
At that age he was convicted and sentenced for an armed robbery that left a man with a severe eye injury after he was struck by a stray bullet. Farmer and an accomplice had stolen six cars and more than $28,000 in the robbery.
During his 1994 sentencing, District Court Judge John Neild ruled that Farmer's "criminal record does not entitle him to any leniency".
"There is nothing in the prisoner's upbringing or background which played any part in his commission of these offences," Judge Neild said.
"His criminal record does not entitle him to any leniency. He has moved from petty crime into serious crime."
He was jailed for five years and served another five on parole.
But worse was to come with his life of crime continuing uninterrupted after his release from jail.
He would use a string of aliases including Robert Jason Farmer, Rocco De-Nisco, Michael Talbot, Shaylen Mazzitelli and Robert Cruz - sometimes spelt with an 'e' on the end. While on parole he fled to the US on a fake passport and had other convictions for drink driving whilst disqualified and stealing property as a clerk or servant.
In 2004, he was sent back to prison - handed an 18-month sentence for possessing an unregistered firearm and ammunition.
Three years later, he would again be convicted of an offence - this time of stealing 1000 litres of petrol from a Shell Service station in Northmead.
He failed to appear for his court case and was convicted in absentia.
Farmer was fined $2000 and ordered to pay court costs and compensation to the service stations owners. While while carrying out his crimes, Farmer resumed his on-again, off-again relationship with Catharine Beverley.
Ms Beverley gave crucial evidence at the trial about her boyfriend's bizarre behaviour the night Ms Huxley was attacked, which probably helped convict him.
With Farmer on the run, police searched her home seizing documents and items for clues, and Ms Beverley was recorded begging police for understanding. "I spent three years with this guy, OK?" she said.
"He was, f . . . . .g, the love of my life. We'd planned a long time ago to live together, OK, we planned the rest of our lives together.
"That's what my memories of him are, there, so for them to be taken away from me, that means a lot to me all right?"
Ms Beverley also tried to tell police her boyfriend could not possibly be responsible for the attack on Ms Huxley.
"If you can understand the type of person that Rob is, you would just think this is ridiculous, because it's absolutely ridiculous - I feel very strongly about that," she told police.
Little of that loyalty was detectable in the Supreme Court last month, aside for one loaded look in Farmer's direction as she left the witness box - perhaps seeing that life with him vanish for the last time.
Or maybe she struggled to recognise the man with whom she had believed the future held so much promise.
When he was arrested, Farmer weighed an estimated 120kg and, as The Daily Telegraph's pictures show, was strong and broad. But in court, he resembled a studious accountant, with small frameless glasses, always a dark suit and tie.
The wife of his old school friend Yuri Narajo epitomised how far Farmer's offending behaviour had come.
Nicole Naranjo couldn't believe it, it was "too major an offence", she told police. "I just knew that Robert had done some stupid things before. But I didn't think he could be involved in something on such a level as almost killing someone," she said.
The Daily Telegraph (16-5-2008)
Vicious Attack Baffles Police
After spending an unremarkable day studying at TAFE,
Lauren Huxley caught the bus home.
Two hours later the pretty teenager was discovered by
firefighters beaten, bound, doused in petrol and unconscious
inside her parents' burning home.
The 18-year-old has not regained consciousness since
Wednesday's vicious attack.
What happened after Lauren stepping off the bus near her
Northmead home in Sydney's north-west at 2.07pm and before
firefighters arrived at her home has mystified police.
But they believe her assailant must have suffered burns.
It is not known if Lauren had been followed from Baulkham
Hills TAFE, where she was studying marketing.
Yesterday her parents and sister Simone appealed to anyone
who saw Lauren on that day to come forward to help police.
"The last time I saw Lauren was at 9am Wednesday when I
dropped her off at TAFE ... she often took the bus [home] because
she didn't have a car," her mother Christine said yesterday.
"We have no idea who did this and even less idea why anyone would
do this. She's the most beautiful girl, so innocent, she's not in
the least confrontational."
Police released pictures of Lauren and CCTV footage of her on the
bus hoping to jog a memory.
Superintendent Geoff Beresford said CCTV footage showed Lauren
getting on a bus at Baulkham Hills TAFE at 1.55pm and getting off
at a stop near her house at 2.07pm.
She was found at 4.30pm by firefighters, with her hands bound, on
the floor of the family garage. She had suffered a savage beating
to the head and been doused with petrol but suffered no burns.
Lauren is now lying unconscious in a critical condition in the intensive
care unit of Westmead hospital.
Police see the attack as attempted murder.
"At this stage we do not have any suspects," Supt Beresford said.
"However, we are quite confident that whoever attacked her has suffered
burns and we are appealing to anyone who may know of someone who has
suffered burning as of Wednesday afternoon."
He urged anyone who knew of a friend or relative "who has presented to a
doctor, medical centre or hospital" with burns to contact police.
Mrs Huxley said her daughter would celebrate her 19th birthday on Christmas Eve.
"We are at a complete loss as to why anyone would hurt her," she said,
holding back tears.
Supt Beresford declined to say whether Lauren had a boyfriend, but said
all of her friends had been spoken to and were co-operating. Police would
not comment on whether Lauren had been sexually assaulted.
Yesterday they still had the house in Moxhams Rd taped off and forensic
police were working in the garage.
The garage where Lauren was found bound and beaten was not connected to
the main house and was not damaged in the fire.
Next-door neighbour Joyce Hayward has lived next to the Huxleys for 24
years and said Lauren was a lovely girl.
"She was a beautiful young girl, they're a lovely
family," Mrs Hayward, 77, said.
"She's very popular and very polite - she and her
sister always stop and say hello."
Mrs Hayward said Moxhams Rd was not known for crime.
"It's a bit scary, I always thought this was a reasonably
decent type of neighbourhood."
Anyone with information on the attack
is asked to call Parramatta police or Crime Stoppers(1800333000).
Daily Telegraph (12-11-2005)
Family Looks For Answers
The sister of Lauren Huxley, who was bashed, bound and doused
with petrol in her parents' burning home, begged last night for
the public's help to catch the person who left her "innocent best
friend" fighting for life.
The family of the 18-year-old marketing student have been sleeping
at her hospital to keep a 24-hour vigil.
They spoke yesterday of their disbelief over the apparently motiveless crime.
Meanwhile, police stepped up their investigation, going door-to-door
Lauren has been in a coma in Sydney's Westmead hospital since Wednesday.
Doctors say it will become clear in the coming week whether she has suffered
permanent brain injuries.
Her sister Simone last night said: "Lauren's my best friend. I always had her
under my wing. I was the rebel and she was always the innocent one.
"We were constantly doing naughty things when we were little, but I was
always the instigator.
"Almost every night she came into my room and sat on the bed and we'd talk
about friends, boys and watch TV.
"She loves Home and Away and Australian Princess, won't leave the house
if they're still on.
"Her friends and I are making sure we tape every one of them so she can
watch them when she's getting better."
In hospital, doctors have shaved Lauren's head to better assess her injuries.
"Lauren's been growing her hair for nine years," Simone said. "She'll
be devastated about that. She loves her hair, but her friends are
starting to raise money to help pay for the wigs she'll need. I'm a hairdresser
and I'll do whatever she wants - hair extensions, fancy wigs - so she'll feel
good about herself.
"We go out a lot together, to the races and other events with friends.
Everything Lauren did she did perfectly, and tried her hardest at everything.
"The day this happened, I got up at 6am to go for a walk, which was unlike me.
"When I got home Lauren said: 'What on earth are you doing up?'
"When I told her, she just said, 'You're crazy!'
"She had been up all night practising her speech for her presentation
that day. She'd even bought new clothes for it.
"It obviously paid off - she got 98 per cent."
Police spent the weekend searching the family's Northmead home for clues.
Lauren, who is studying marketing and planning to take up a place at
university, was found unconscious in the garage.
Two fires were found to have been set in the home, but police do not
know a motive.
Lauren was discovered in the garage by firefighters who had been called
by neighbours at about 4.30pm.
She had been doused with petrol but was not burned.
Her head injuries appear to have been caused by a cudgel or blunt instrument.
She is in a critical condition in the intensive care unit of Westmead Hospital.
Her mother Christine said: "The nursing staff have been brilliant.
One nurse told me she was treating Lauren as if she was her own daughter."
Yesterday, the NSW sex crimes unit joined the team of 10 detectives
already investigating the attack attached to Strikeforce Borang.
The Daily Telegraph (14-11-2005)
Teen Unconscious And Critical For Six Days
Sydney teenager Lauren Huxley remains unconscious
and in a critical condition, six days after being
attacked and doused in petrol in her home.
The 18-year-old is in Westmead Hospital with serious
head and other injuries after firemen found her in the
garage of the burning home at Northmead on Wednesday.
She had been beaten unconscious, tied up and soaked in
petrol before her attacker set the house on fire and fled.
A hospital spokeswoman said today Ms Huxley remained in a
critical but stable condition as police investigated whether
there was any sexual motive to the crime.
Parramatta police superintendent Geoff Beresford yesterday
said the sex crime unit had been called in but police simply
didn't know whether Ms Huxley had been sexually assaulted.
"There has been no speculation by police, or information from
police, that she was sexually assaulted at all - we don't know,"Supt Bereseford said.
"We need to confirm that through forensic results and if
we're ever able to speak to Lauren, that is the only way
we can confirm that."
"This is a joint investigation with Parramatta police, the
sex crimes unit and the homicide squad. This is a case where
we're putting every possible resource into it."
Superintendent Helen Begg, of the sex crimes unit, said it was
an horrific attack that had shocked not only Sydney, but the whole nation.
"Lauren is a very attractive girl, they're a very normal
family and I think each and every one of us can feel for
the family," she said.
Supt Beresford said the public had supplied plenty of new
information since police appealed for witnesses to the
horrific attack on Friday.
But he called for anyone who saw the Huxleys' Moxhams
Rd house ablaze between 2.10pm and 4.30pm on Wednesday
to speak to police, especially several people who are
believed to have stopped to help put the fire out.
If you have information about what happened to Lauren,
please call Parramatta police or Crime Stoppers.
News Interactive (15-11-2005)
Suspect Lives Near Victim
The man accused of bashing Lauren Huxley before
dousing her in petrol and setting her house alight,
leaving her for dead, lives just four streets from her
Her family maintains that they do not know Robert Black
Farmer, who appeared briefly in Campbelltown Court yesterday.
The possibility of a connection between Farmer and Ms
Huxley has yet to emerge.
The Huxley family's home is on Moxhams Rd in Northmead
while Farmer lives nearby at Windermere Ave.
No real picture of the police case against Farmer, a
carpenter by trade, was revealed in court because he
did not apply for bail. However, one charge he faces
indicates police believe Farmer assaulted the 18-year-old
marketing student with the aim of raping her.
There was also an indication investigators in Strike Force
Borang had prepared a detailed dossier on Farmer.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Jennifer Chenhall asked for a six-week
adjournment because "there is a large amount of forensic evidence
as well as a large amount of statements".
Farmer was arrested just six days before his 37th birthday when
officers from the elite State Protection Group raided a property
on Radnor Rd, Bargo, southwest of Sydney, about 7.30pm on Thursday.
He faces five charges, with the most serious being causing
grievous bodily harm with intent to murder and damaging a
building by explosives with intent to murder.
Ms Huxley has been in Westmead hospital since the November
9 attack and has only this week started to breathe without
the help of a machine.
Police have alleged the attack occurred between 2.07pm and 4.39pm.
Wearing a grey T-shirt and white knee-length shorts with no
shoes, Farmer's face betrayed no emotion during the short
court appearance which lasted less than five minutes.
His gaze switched between magistrate Michael Stoddart and the
floor of the dock as he leaned forward, resting his arms on his legs.
There was a debate at the start of proceedings as to whether
Farmer had to appear personally. However, after deciding the
accused was neither ill nor a security risk, Mr Stoddart
ordered he be brought up from the cells.
Farmer was refused bail and will reappear in Parramatta Local
Court, by video link, on January 19.
Daily Telegraph (3-12-2005)
Teen Attack Suspect In Court
A 36-year-old man was due to face court charged over the
attack of Sydney teenager Lauren Huxley.
Ms Huxley, 18, has been in Westmead Hospital since she was
left to die in her burning Northmead house on November 9 after
being beaten and doused with petrol.
Her unconscious body was found in the garage. The man was
charged with five offences including causing grievous bodily
harm to a person with intent to murder and inflicting actual
bodily harm with intent to have sexual intercourse with the victim.
Police said he is expected to face Campbelltown Local Court
After an intense three-week investigation detectives last night
raided a property in Bargo, where they handcuffed the man and
took him to Campbelltown for questioning.
Police said the man was from Northmead, the same suburb as the
The officers were accompanied by heavily armed police from the
State Protection Group, who entered the home about 7.30pm, before
taking the man into custody.
Police had made a special pledge to catch Ms Huxley's attacker.
"The case has distressed some of our hardest detectives," New
South Wales Police Commissioner Ken Moroney said.
"Police should be commended on the job done so far in this
investigation. This arrest provides some relief for Lauren's
family but we're all still praying for her recovery."
Ms Huxley, who was rescued by the fire brigade opened her
eyes for the first time this week.
She has been on life support but this week was breathing
Detectives from Strike Force Borang were expected to
return to the Northmead home where the attack took
place and walk the suspect through the house and garage.
Police said the family did not know the man.
It is still unclear whether Ms Huxley knew her attacker.
The Daily Telegraph (2-12-2005)
NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney has described the
robbery at the new family home of bashing
vicitm Lauren Huxley as "one of the greatest acts of bastardry"
he had seen.
Theives stole items of sentimental
value to the family, including Lauren's
unopened Christmas presents.
Adelaide Advertiser (5-1-2006)
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