Slain Australian tourist’s friends relieved by assailants’ conviction

August 4th, 2008 - 4:00 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, Aug 4 (IANS) The close-knit community of Australia’s Byron Bay town, which had been shocked by the brutal rape and murder of Dawn Emelie Griggs in India four years ago, has found some relief in the news that her assailants have been convicted. “Justice has now been done and we hope the Indian government will ensure the safety of travellers and people like Dawn, who were doing good work in India. Dawn was a very warm and generous person and her loss has been very sad for the community,” Byron Bay Shire Council’s Mayor Jan Barham, who had personally known Dawn, told IANS.

Like thousands of foreigners arriving in India in search of spiritual knowledge and experience, the 59-year-old teacher, writer and learning consultant had arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport of New Delhi from Hong Kong in March 2004 to conduct a meditation course.

She had arranged for a prepaid taxi to drive her from the airport to a suburban ashram. Instead, she was taken to a deserted field near the airport, raped and murdered by the drivers.

An autopsy found Griggs had been gagged, strangled and stabbed. Further medical evidence revealed she was also raped.

A money clip containing A$8,000 cash, her belongings, including a copy of her first book “Spirit of Learning”, were found near her body in the field.

The taxi drivers, Jyotish Prasad, 28, and Ashish Kumar, 30, were convicted by a New Delhi court of raping, robbing and murdering the Australian tourist last weekend.

While Byron Bay Writers Festival director Jeni Caffin has no interest in what happens to Griggs’ killers, she dearly misses her friend.

“We had a sudden friendship, cemented by the fact that I was working on the Spirit of Learning conference Dawn convened in September 2004. I rarely saw Dawn standing still: punctuality was not her strong point and she was always on the verge of leaving or arriving somewhere,” Caffin told IANS.

“She was a blur of blonde hair streaming, scarf flying and bag spilling. The only person I ever saw capable of holding three telephone conversations at once. Loved champagne, laughter and song. A true and pure spirit. I miss her still.”

According to media reports, Griggs was the founder of an organisation called Accelerative Learning Association, based in Byron Bay, 760 km north of Sydney and 140 south of Brisbane.

She had years of experience teaching adult migrants and young students in various institutions within Australia, France and China. She was the initiator of the idea of Spirit of Learning in Australia.

While the court verdict may have given Griggs’ family and friends a degree of relief, “it wouldn’t have been what Dawn wanted. She was a magnanimous person and she had a universal compassion for humanity. She would have looked for an excuse for their behaviour … she would have felt sorry for them. The tragedy is that she was going to India to do good,” her friend Caroline Lloyd was quoted as saying in the local media.

She was a frequent participant in international conferences. She once wrote: “I believe that we can learn much by looking at a variety of cultures worldwide, more specifically at some traditional, indigenous cultures and their ‘experimental’ ways of learning.”

As many as 121,800 Australians travelled to India in 2007, a sharp increase from 50,000 visiting in 2003, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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