In 2009, in the NSW country town of Armidale, a mentally ill young man is shot dead by a police officer. Senior Constable Andrew Rich claims he ‘had no choice’ other than to shoot 24-year-old Elijah Holcombe – Elijah had run at him roaring with a knife, he tells police.
Some witnesses to the shooting say otherwise, though, and this act of aggression doesn’t fit with the sweet, sensitive, but troubled young man that Elijah’s family and friends knew him to be.
So what happened in that Armidale laneway – and how could it have been avoided? Waiting for Elijah is the culmination of journalist Kate Wild’s six-year investigation – an investigation that not only seeks to answer these questions, but also poses some vitally important ones of its own: Why is it still taboo to talk about mental illness in our society? Is it fair to expect police to be first responders in mental health crises?
Written with clear-eyed compassion and a compelling narrative drive, Waiting for Elijah is an account of a tragedy that didn’t have to happen. It is also an intense forensic deconstruction of the extended legal proceedings that followed, and a heart-breaking portrait of a family’s grief.
Kate Wild is an investigative journalist whose work with distinguished teams at the ABC has been recognised with three Walkley Awards and a Logie. Her reports from Darwin, where she lived from 2010 to 2016, laid the groundwork for a Four Corners story on juvenile detention that promoted the calling of a Royal Commission. Like Elijah Holcombe, Kate grew up in country New South Wales; she now lives and works in Sydney. Waiting for Elijah is her first book.
Meet Kate in conversation with ABC Canberra Breakfast presenter Dan Bourchier.
Tickets: $12 (includes a complimentary glass of wine or soft drink)
Dan Bourchier is a cross-media reporter, presenter, and broadcaster, who has spent almost 20 years as a media professional. From a start in a small regional weekly newspaper in Tennant Creek, to breaking stories about the lives of Indigenous Australians, to covering international politics in Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Switzerland, to domestic politics in federal parliament, to hosting his own local radio program, while also anchoring a major television news bulletin.