Shorter Reviews

Some Shorter Reviews of Every Parent’s Nightmare

– by Jeff Maynard, News Ltd

‘Australian Jock Palfreeman was travelling in Europe. After an evening drinking with friends in Sofia, Bulgaria, he saw a brawl. Seeing a man being beaten, Palfreeman went to his aid and ended up in a police van. He is now serving 20 years for murder. Hawkins, an ABC journalist, investigates a story of missing witnesses, lost CCTV footage, corruption and a flawed legal system. It is a well-written story and a warning to travellers.

Verdict: Chilling’

-by Fiona Capp, Fairfax Media Publications

‘A drunken football crowd attack an outsider. Outraged, a young onlooker rushes into the fray. The crowd turns on him, throwing pieces of concrete. The young man pulls out a knife to ward of his attackers coming at him from all sides. In the confusion, one of the football crowd is fatally stabbed.

It could happen anywhere in the world. In this case it happened in Bulgaria and the young man with the knife was Australian Jock Palfreeman. He is now in jail in Bulgaria serving a 20-year sentence for murder.

Belinda Hawkins’ account captures the confusing reality as it unfolded. When Palfreeman was picked up by the police, he had no idea that anyone had died and believed he would soon be released. While Hawkins presents multiple viewpoints, the primary perspective is that of Simon Palfreeman, Jock’s father. The culpable party in the whole story turns out to be the deeply flawed Bulgarian justice system.’

 -by Corrie Perkin, The Weekly Review

‘Belinda Hawkins’ many years as a journalist on the ABC’s outstanding Australian Story documentary program have honed her skills for digging and discovering the extraordinary, often terrible, things that can happen to ordinary people. Jock Palfreeman’s nightmare of being jailed for life in a Bulgarian prison for a crime his lawyers and family argue he did not commit is the kind of freakish, wrong-place-wrong-time scenario all parents of adventurous travel-loving children fear. Well-crafted and highly readable, Hawkins’ story is one of the year’s local non-fiction highlights.’

-by Sharnee Rawson, Readings

  ‘…. Written by Australian Story reporter and Walkley Award-winning journalist Belinda Hawkins, the book meticulously chronicles Palfreeman’s journey, following an altercation with a group of football fans on a cold, dark street in the city of Sofia. Put simply, Hawkins’s novel is the story of what can happen in a foreign country, where both the language and legal system is a world away from what we know.

It’s hard not to feel a sense of injustice at the situation Palfreeman finds himself in. Crucial witnesses are missed, key evidence is overlooked and previous statements are deemed inadmissible throughout the court proceedings. Conflicting interests – personal, political and business-related – of key players are also exposed, including those of the victim’s parents . All the while, Hawkins makes clear the devastating impact on Palfreeman’s family as a father struggles to pull together every possible to resource to help his son.

One of the key themes of the book is the overwhelming impact media coverage can have on a case. Bulgarian reporters painted Palfreeman as a violent madman, an anarchist consumed with rage while similarly little kindness was shown by Australian papers back home. In contrast, Hawkins’ journalistic integrity shines through , highlighting gaps in the case without making assumptions and gently leading readers to draw their own conclusions.’

Every Parent’s Nightmare is a gripping read, and an important one.’


Clare Calvet, ABC Radio National, Book of the Week






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