Forgotten in life, a victim shames a city: The violent murder of a homeless man triggers Melbourne's remorse

Passers-by take 'selfies' at the scene where Wayne 'Mousey' Perry was stabbed to death

Wayne "Mousey" Perry lived and died in Enterprize Park, just across the Yarra River from Melbourne's Crown Casino and pricey waterside restaurants. While his life aroused scant interest, his death has exposed an underside of the world's "most liveable" city, famed for its devotion to sport and an annual comedy festival.

Wayne Perry, 42, was sleeping rough in the park, named after the ship which brought the first white settlers to Melbourne in 1835, where last weekend he was stabbed to death. His murder made headlines all week, forcing Melburnians to confront the wretched lives of the city's homeless – its "forgotten people", as the Salvation Army's Major Brendan Nottle calls them.

The killing horrified a city named the world's most liveable for the past three years by The Economist Intelligence Unit. But horror turned to disgust when passers-by began taking "selfies" at the scene, with a pool of blood and Mr Perry's meagre possessions – including a broken pair of spectacles – in the background.

On Friday, Major Nottle held a funeral service for a man he first met in 1987, when Mr Perry was a 15-year-old with a shaved head and a swagger, already living on the streets. Easton Woodhead, 19, has been charged with the murder.

A talented artist and rower, Woodhead attended Melbourne Grammar, a prestigious private school whose alumni include the comedian Barry Humphries, creator of Dame Edna Everage. Woodhead's background is very different from that of his alleged victim, whose mother abandoned him when he was 14.

Yet Mr Perry was "generous and caring", according to Major Nottle, even if he "occasionally did things that were out of line in order to survive". He would help others who slept rough, inviting them to share his spot under a railway bridge".

He added: "Mousey had built some really strong connections with housing workers and we were doing everything we could to encourage him off the streets, but unfortunately that didn't transpire before his death. So we've lost him."

Mr Perry told outreach workers at a Salvation Army hostel that he wanted to tackle his drug problems before leaving the streets.

According to a survey last year, more than three-quarters of Melbourne's homeless have suffered physical violence. One agency working in the field, Youth Projects, said street people are regularly assaulted by gangs of drunken men who throw their belongings in the river.

Major Nottle cites a "really disturbing juxtaposition" of the homelessness camps with "these incredible symbols of power and influence and wealth" in the city. At Enterprize Park, he said, "you've got trains going overhead and people driving past, going in and out of expensive restaurants, right next to where some of the city's most vulnerable people are sleeping … yet they are largely invisible".

At Mr Perry's funeral, he said: "There was a lot of grieving in the chapel, but it actually felt like Melbourne was grieving, because it touched the city's conscience."

Mr Woodhead's lawyers are concerned about his mental health, they told Melbourne Magistrates' Court last week.

Mr Perry was a father of three – and, unknown to him, a grandfather. Among the hundreds of mourners at his funeral were relatives who had searched fruitlessly for him, and neighbours from Enterprize Park.

Mr Perry was also a statistic – one of nearly 30,000 homeless who sought assistance in Melbourne during the 2012-13 financial year. Nearly 7,000 of those were turned away because of a shortage of staff or accommodation, caused by cuts.

According to homelessness agencies, support services are under-resourced. Three days before he died, Mr Perry was interviewed by The Age for an article about homelessness – he told the reporter "you have to sleep with one eye open because you don't know who's going to bash you or stab you or rob you".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine