In 2003, Mrs. Dianne Brimble (photo below) was smiling and waiving when she boarded P & O’s Pacific Sun cruise ship with her daughter for a vacation of a lifetime. Less than 24 hours later, she lay dead on the cabin floor of fellow passenger Mark Wilhelm who had given her the drug GHB. When he was finished with her and Mrs. Brimble lay unconscious, Wilhelm walked naked into another cabin of women – wearing only a life vest. As Mrs. Brimble lay dying, he did nothing to summons medical help – instead he tried to convince other women to take the drug.
The criminal inquest into Mrs. Brimble’s death revealed a cruise ship out of control, filled with lots of drunken passengers and date rape drugs and little law & order. Watch the video entitled "Ship of Shame" which we posted in a prior article about the P & O cruise ship. The press covered the testimony of Wilhelm and his seven traveling companions, some of whom characterized Mrs. Brimble in sub-human terms, as an ugly dog with bad breath. One of Wilhelm’s cruise buddies even entertained the thought of throwing Mrs. Brimble’s dead body overboard.
But the seven year legal saga following Mrs. Brimble’s death ended last week as all cruise crime cases do – with the accused defendant serving no jail time.
The prosecution dropped the manslaughter charges against Wilhelm and, in exchange for the deal, he pleaded guilty to the criminal offense of giving Mrs. Brimble the drug GHB which led to her death.
When the judge presiding over the case, Justice Howie, dismissed the manslaughter charges against Wilhelm he did not direct any comments to Wilhelm. Instead, he chastised the media, accusing the press of adding to a circus like environment filled with what the judge called "prejudice" and "hysteria.” The judge went even further – saying that "little regard had been paid to defendant Wilhelm’s rights by the publication of a series of photographs depicting his ‘unsavory’ behavior on the night Ms Brimble died," as reported by Australia’s Sun Herald. He criticized the media for subjecting the defendant to "rumors, misinformation, supposition and conjecture."
And so it should come as no surprise that at the sentencing hearing last week, Justice Howie decided to let Wilhelm walk free – even though he possessed an illegal drug and supplied it to Mrs. Brimble and she died because of the illegal drug. No jail time. No probation. Not even a stern lecture. Instead, the judge expressed sympathy and concern for Wilhelm, given what the judge described as "years of public humiliation." The judge again depicted Wilhelm as the victim, who somehow had been punished enough by the media’s depiction of him.
"Justice" Howie gave Wilhelm a "get out off jail free" card. And Wilhelm walked free from the courthouse.
And in so doing, the "Justice" system failed another victim of a crime on a cruise ship.
Results like this leave everyone questioning the legal system, particularly when criminal trials are presided over by judges with misplaced sympathies for the defendant’s hurt feelings and little regard for the dead or the suffering of their families.
In an article in Australia’s Punch entitled "The Evil Men Do And The Courts That Ignore It," David Penberty discussed "the plodding nature of justice and the persnickety application of the law – all these things may conspire to ensure that no-one faces any genuine punishment over that fact that a woman was left for dead in a drugged stupor on the cold linoleum floor of a cheap cruise ship."
We have discussed the lack of justice on cruise ships in prior articles. Criminals on cruise ships walk free and the victims are treated like criminals. Consider reading Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It! and If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal.
Mrs. Brimble’s case presents a particularly bitter pill to swallow given "Justice" Howie’s decision not only to let Wilhelm walk free but to lecture the media for its coverage of the inquest and criminal trials.
The injustice of the Brimble’s case and Justice Howie’s misguided attack on the media pose the question – what is the role of the media in covering cruise crime cases?
Should the lesson of the Dianne Brimble case be that the press was somehow culpable for portraying defendant Wilhelm in an inaccurate light? Should news reporters refrain from publishing embarrassing information or photographs which may cause "humiliation" to a criminal defendant?
Or is the lesson to be learned that the criminal justice system is no "justice" system at all when crimes are committed on cruise ships? And that it is only the media and probing reporters that bring the true facts to light?
Mr. Wilhelm should be humiliated by his conduct. He is at least alive. He took his life vest off, put some clothes on, and went home. He has the rest of his life to enjoy. But Mrs. Brimble is dead and buried. Her family has nothing but their grief, for the rest of their lives.
It is the obligation of the press in free societies to publish the facts of a crime and all of the attendant circumstances no matter how "embarrassing." Especially when criminals on cruise ships are never convicted and the only true facts will be investigated and revealed by the media.
Dianne Brimble thepunch.com.au
Wilhelm in life vest Sydney Morning Herald
Wilhelm walking free AAP – Tracey Nearmy via 9 News