Exposed, The Case Of Keli Lane

Promotional image for ExposedThe ABC has aired the first episode of a three-part special investigating the disappearance of baby Tegan Lane in 1996. As you’d expect from the ABC, it’s well-presented and deeply researched. It’s satisfying viewing for people with an interest in the case.

But I’m not sure why it got made. Keli Lane, in prison for the murder of her daughter Tegan, called Caro Meldrum-Hanna and said she was innocent. There’s no new evidence. Enough time has passed that if Tegan is alive after all, she might hear about the show and come forward. Several recent true crime documentaries and podcasts have prompted people to come forward with new evidence they were scared or too young to reveal at the time, and I guess it’s possible here too.

But there’s not a lot of mystery around Tegan’s disappearance. Lane hid the pregnancy until she went into labour then rushed to hospital. After giving birth to Tegan, she stayed in hospital and had no visitors. Two days later she checked out with Tegan, who was never seen again. Later that afternoon, Lane was a guest at a friend’s wedding and never mentioned baby Tegan to anyone for years. When questioned about it during the adoption of another baby, she told conflicting stories about giving Tegan to the biological father.

There’s no question of the police doing anything less than a full investigation. DNA checks were made, birth records and school enrolments were examined. The cops followed every inaccurate lead that Lane gave them. Tegan has disappeared, and Lane is responsible.

The first episode of Exposed shows that Lane’s water polo coaches were negligent at best and complicit at worst in their treatment of Lane. And the pressure of elite sports is ridiculous and deserves more examination. But there are already laws and guidelines to protect the health of players – they should be better enforced but there’s no new lesson to be learned from this. Lane was not a child or even in her teens when she had Tegan – she was an adult with full capacity to make decisions, with money and an education.

Should every prisoner who claims to be innocent get a TV series about them? Amy McQuire, a journalist and presenter on the Curtain podcast, said on Twitter:

It seems like if the victim or perpetrator is a white female, plenty of media resources will be devoted to the case. I enjoyed Making A Murderer and Trace, and will probably listen to Teacher’s Pet soon since it has led to some new searches. But it disturbs me that these cases get attention while others are overlooked.

Meanwhile, Kevin Henry and Derek Bromley have actual evidence which proves their innocence. The families of the Bowraville children have new evidence showing they were all victims of a serial killer. But they can’t get new hearings to present the information. Their supporters don’t have friends in the media, so they have to fight alone for justice.

Kevin Henry was 21 when he was arrested for the murder of Linda from Rockhampton. Keli Lane was 21 when Tegan disappeared. Linda’s murder had a sloppy, half-arsed investigation by police; Tegan got a nation-wide search involving several federal and state organisations as well as the police. Kevin and Keli both maintain their innocence, but Kevin was forced to give a false confession while Keli was given years to produce proof of her lies. Both are still in jail. He is a young Aboriginal man, and she is a young white woman. He was treated as a criminal immediately and denied due process, while she got not only due process but every benefit of the doubt.

And now Keli Lane gets to tell her story again, even though there doesn’t seem to be anything to learn from it on a community or evidence level, and justice is already being served. Maybe the next episodes will change my mind… but this doesn’t seem fair to me.

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