Waiting for Elijah by Kate Wild
Just before 2pm on 2 June 2009, in the NSW country town of Armidale, Senior Constable Andrew Rich fatally shot 24-year-old Elijah Holcombe. Elijah had been experiencing increasing periods of paranoid delusion leading up to this incident and was especially fearful of police. Rich says he had no other choice but to shoot Elijah, that Elijah was armed with a knife and screaming as he moved towards Rich. However, some of the eyewitness accounts and information from Elijah’s family tell a different story and raise questions as to whether the incident needed to end so tragically.
Waiting for Elijah by journalist Kate Wild is a detailed investigation into the incident and the long, drawn-out legal processes that followed, paralleled with the story of the birth of her daughter and her own struggles with depression and anxiety. The book covers many issues: our expectations of police, the differences between civil and criminal cases, the reliability of eyewitnesses, the stigma still surrounding mental health and the inadequate resources of our mental health system. The author is determined not to shy away from these issues; she persists throughout, seeking answers and further understanding.
Wild’s writing is an effective mix of journalistic professionalism and human, spontaneous reaction. We feel her disbelief and frustration, especially at the obstacles placed in the way of getting to one side of the story. Most importantly, Wild uses the case to look at mental health more broadly, providing us with a sense of hope. She concludes that although there is a long way to go, there may be signs of progress in attitudes, awareness and education since that fateful day in 2009.
Comparisons have already been made between Wild’s writing and Helen Garner’s. Although I think they have different voices, I would definitely recommend this book for fans of Helen Garner and books along that vein.