REPORT: Two of them were warned, after they put Ratsak in her handbag, to stop their relentless bullying or they’d have ”blood on their hands”.
But the warning came too late to save Brodie Panlock.
At just 19, she took her life after months of degrading treatment at the hands of work colleagues at Hawthorn’s trendy Cafe Vamp.
In a Melbourne court yesterday, the four men responsible for her humiliation – some less culpable than others – appeared with those hands sweating.
Brodie’s parents, Damien and Rae Panlock, sat behind Marc Da Cruz, 43, Nicholas Smallwood, 26, Rhys MacAlpine, 28, and Gabriel Toomey, 23, in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
They and Da Cruz’s company pleaded guilty to workplace charges.
At an inquest into Brodie’s death the Panlocks had listened in disbelief as they learnt what their daughter had suffered.
Yesterday they endured – until Mrs Panlock could stand it no longer and left the court – the prosecution’s litany of the criminal conduct at the cafe between 2005 and 2006.
Because of it, Brodie’s father has lost faith in human nature, and his wife struggles at Brodie’s gravesite to make sense of the torment her daughter endured.
Garry Livermore, for WorkSafe Victoria, said Brodie, friendly and bubbly but emotionally vulnerable, was subjected to a ”range of repeated direct and indirect physical and non-physical bullying” by Smallwood, the head waiter; MacAlpine, a waiter; and, to a lesser degree, Toomey, the chef.
Mr Livermore said Da Cruz, sole owner of the business, was aware of some aspects of the bullying, was present on occasions and allowed it to continue and sometimes condoned it.
After Smallwood and Brodie began an intermittent sexual relationship, in which he did not reciprocate her infatuation, he taunted and ridiculed her.
Smallwood and MacAlpine, said one witness, ”messed with Brodie’s head a lot”, and called her fat, stupid, ugly, whore and acne.
After her first suicide attempt, in which she tried to poison herself, Smallwood taunted her that ”you can’t even kill yourself properly”. He and MacAlpine mocked her when she found the Ratsak in her bag, and then poured fish sauce over her.
Toomey told Brodie to eat more Ratsak, poured beer over her and made offensive remarks.
In September 2006, after an employee had told Smallwood and MacAlpine that if they didn’t stop, ”you’re going to have blood on your hands”, Brodie jumped from a car park and died three days later.
Da Cruz yesterday gave evidence that he felt ”nothing but sorrow” for the Panlocks. He said he was now ”not the same father and husband I was before” and hated being at Cafe Vamp, which he is selling, and is leaving Victoria. Barrister Guy Gilbert spoke for Smallwood, who did not ”appreciate the gravity of what he was doing”, and who feels ”desperate regret” for his behaviour.
Mr Gilbert told magistrate Peter Lauritsen that Smallwood ”certainly does not seek to display any callous indifference to what occurred”.
Shane Gardner, for MacAlpine, said his client, who also expressed his deep regret, had been bullied as a teenager and now had a ”fragile” mental state.
Toomey’s barrister, John Carmody, said his client had shown remorse for his conduct, which was part of the immature culture at Cafe Vamp. They will be sentenced on Monday.
For help or information visit beyond blue.org.au, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.