Murder Apologist Bingo - A Game for Disabled People

Murder apologist bingo - for the version with comments, go to

She could be any woman, that woman.  Middle aged, with an unremarkable face.   Like me, she’s the parent of several disabled children. 

She doesn’t look like the type of women who would murder her children. 

The newspapers clearly thought the same.  She’s an ordinary mother accused of an extraordinary crime.   

‘Australian mum is arrested over the death of her two children’, one article reads.  

‘Mum accused of killing children with poison’, says another.

Queensland mother Maree Mavis Crabtree has been accused of poisoning her two disabled children, Erin and Jonathon, aged 18 and 26.  They are described as severely disabled.  An arrest has been made.  There is no further information available.

The comments on social media flow thick and fast. 

‘I don’t think anyone can make judgment here,’ says one woman, who describes herself as ‘working with special needs children’.   

…there is always 2 sides to every story. How many would willingly have walked in this woman's or no help. Do we know if she asked for help?..I have a feeling this woman will have lived with heartbreak before and after her children died. No judgements please.’  There are 119 likes. 

‘… maybe looking after two severely disabled pushed her limits too much, says another woman.  
  ‘There not a lot of help out there. Maybe she felt it was better for them depending on their quality of life. We don’t know and haven’t been in her shoes.’

There are those who say outright that it’s an act of love to murder their disabled child or that their lives just weren’t worth living.   

‘No greater love has anyone than to lie down their life,’ says a pleasant faced woman who looks like a grandmother.

‘I can only imagine the pain of having to make that decision for her children .it was out of love she took their lives .my empathy is with the mother.’

‘You mean the diseased, cabbaged, bed bound ADULTS!  Yes, I have sympathy towards them, sympathy that our society allows people like that to live when we are quite happy to euthanise animals for the slightest disability or disease!’ reads another post by a former paramedic.  He’s now a toxicologist, working at James Cook University.  

He’s on their human research board of ethics. 

The narrative is firmly centred around a saintly, suffering carer, pushed to the brink by a lack of support or a desire to inflict a merciful end on her suffering children.  

That narrative carries a disturbing, underlying reality – it’s considered okay to murder disabled people. 

As a disabled woman, I find those comments incredibly distressing to read.  They are saying that it is okay for people to murder people like me, even if they are the person who should love us most.  

It's why we have invented games like Murder Apologist Bingo, a game where we collect the swiftly appearing comments that rationalise the murders of people like us.  A sense of black humour is often the only way we cope.  

In five hours, there are over 200 comments. 

It’s only a few hours later that the narrative changes. A press conference is held and it’s revealed that the woman has been charged with claiming more than half a million dollars’ worth of insurance for murdering her two children.  

Police say that she was motivated by money.  She tried to make two more unsuccessful insurance claims for another $363,000 and allegedly tortured a third disabled child.  She’s also been charged with an armed holdup and coercing her son, who had an acquired brain injury as the result of a car accident, to take part.  

Suddenly the story changes.  

The ‘Australian mum’ is no more.  Instead, the same headline screams, ‘Alleged killer charged with murder and torture’.  One by one, the comments on social media begin quietly disappearing.  

The most horrific part of this story is that it is not new.  Every filicide – and there are many – plays out in the same predictable manner.  

Media outlets report that a mother – often painted as ‘devoted’ or ‘caring’ has murdered her disabled child.  

Murder apologists flood social media with countless cries of ‘Don’t judge’, ‘you don’t know what she went through’ and ‘you haven’t walked in her shoes’.  People start discussing euthanasia and telling us that we’re a burden, that they are mercy killings. 

Disabled people rush in to defend the value of our own lives.  

This kind of news is not news to us.  

We are used to reading case after case of filicide against disabled children and adults.  Kyla Puhle.  ‘Ebony’ Ward.  Jason Dawes.  Peter Eitzen.  Scores more who cannot be named.  We faithfully collect their names on a database.  

They are usually carried out by mothers.  They are predominantly carried out against autistic children and they often involve torture.  And the mothers usually walk free – in one case, into a paid interview with Ray Martin. 

They are just the Australian cases.  In the US and UK, there are thousands more.  In December, a thirty nine year old Russian woman was charged with poisoning her two disabled children with rat poison and attempted to murder a third child.  Psychiatrists found that she was ‘completely normal’ and aware of her crimes, a courtroom heard. 

I have no doubt that Maree Crabtree, if found guilty, will avoid being punished to the full extent of the law.  She’ll get a harsher sentence, no doubt, than parents who aren’t motivated by financial gain – but the fact that her children were disabled will be regarded favourably at her trial.  

Truth be told, I am less disturbed by the awful fact that a woman has murdered her children than I am by the narrative that we’re better off dead and that our murders should be excused.  

When Eliza and Martin Lutz were murdered by their father, there was the same response on social media – the children must have died because they were disabled.  Instead, the story emerged that Mrs Lutz, who was also murdered, was going to return to her native country with the children.  It was a straightforward domestic tragedy, distorted by the perception of disability. 

Those narratives inform the way we are treated, not just when we die as a result of murder but every day.  If you don’t regard us as having a life that’s worth living, what will that mean when you treat us in hospitals or draft euthanasia laws?  Would you have a relationship with us, or give us a job?  Will you miss us when we die, or will you consider our deaths a merciful release?

One thing is sure.  Jonathon and Erin deserved a hell of a lot more from both their mother and the Australian public.   

And so do we.

Jonathon Crabtree and (inset) his sister Erin.  Say their names.  Remember them. 


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