Up Front by Emma Hart


A Kink in the Pants

I don't normally comment on criminal trials. Unless you're actually there it's very hard to get a solid picture of what's going on. And I wouldn't want to accidentally put Public Address in contempt of court or on the receiving end of a libel suit. In the spirit of not getting Russell a lawsuit as a convalesence present, I'm not saying that Chris Comeskey is a massive jerk. I just didn't call him something else a little more NSFW on Twitter, too.

The guy's just doing his job, right? That job was defending Nai Yin Xue, and he had to do it in trying circumstances, where the public were convinced of his client's guilt before any evidence had been presented.

I understand that, and yet I remember the good old days, when you had to either be gay or a prostitute for your sex life to excuse your murder. Almost the entire defence case centred not on the defendant, but on the victim. An An Liu was found wearing only gloves and a tie around her neck and over her eyes. Therefore, she must have been into kinky sex. Therefore, a couple of other men killed her by accident, put her body in the boot of her husband's car, covered it with her husband's dressing gown, and drove the car back to her husband's house.

It's terrible to cast aspersions on the character of a murder victim, but sometimes it's just necessary. After all, as Comeskey said;

Gloves, nakedness, and the tie tied on like that?... It's the only thing it points to, isn't it?

She was trussed up in a very very unusual way, she was naked, she had gloves on, there was DNA, not only on her underpants and also on her tie.
"That has got to be a huge huge coincidence

See, she had gloves on, that proves she was into erotic asphyxiation. And if she was into that kind of thing, not like a normal person, then she was taking risks, wasn't she? Kinky sex is dangerous, it's just asking to be murdered.

Comeskey argued that An An was a secretive woman who had been awakened sexually. She was enrolled on an internet dating site and there was the wolf remark.
"If that doesn't suggest a young woman of 30 embarking of experimentation and variance, what else does?"

Variance. Nice women don't do that kind of thing. They don't like kinky sex, they aren't 'as sexually furious as a wolf', and they don't have microscopic amounts of male DNA on their clothing. An An Liu was devious, she was a liar, she was sexually voracious and kinky. She was not the sort of woman an all-female jury should be sympathising with.

None of that indicates that it wasn't her husband that killed her – a man who pursued her to Wellington with an axe, and had a previous conviction for assaulting her. Even if you accept Comeskey's remarkable construction of An An Liu's character, it makes Nai Yin Xue more likely to have killed her, not less, surely.

Comeskey didn't originate this line of defence, of course. The case was described as another Peter Plumley Walker, but it wasn't. If anything, it was another Jane Longhurst. Graham Coutts' defence for having murdered Jane Longhurst was that he killed her by accident during an erotic asphyxiation session, to which she consented. She might not have consented to being strangled to death (or having her body kept in a shed for two weeks and regularly visited), but hells, you cross the line from normal, those are the risks you take.

Auto-erotic asphyxiation is dangerous. It's estimated to cause between 250 and 1000 deaths in the U.S. every year. It's so desperately kinky it kills rock stars and British Conservative MPs. But that's auto-erotic asphyxiation – strangling yourself for sexual gratification. Despite the phrase being frequently used in reporting of the case and by Comeskey himself, that's not what he's suggesting. Where there's a partner involved, the death rate from erotic asphyxiation is much lower. Despite its being considered weird and deviant, the effect of asphyxia on sexual arousal is so pronounced it was used as a treatment for impotence.

The An An Liu case wasn't a Jane Longhurst either, though. In that case and the Plumley Walker case, there was no doubt as to who had strangled the victim. The case simply centred on why, and to what extent it was deliberate or careless. In this case, there is no evidence at all to suggest that An An Liu practised erotic asphyxiation. It is an entirely hypothetical construction of Comeskey's.

It's hard to imagine, given the paucity of the defence case, that Nai Yin Xue could appeal successfully. It's easy to imagine, from the post-verdict attitude of both himself and his lawyer, that he might appeal unsuccessfully, and we could have yet another round of victim-blaming and vanilla privilege appeals. In which case, I'll have a much harder time not calling Comeskey a jerk. Or perhaps I should just start a rumour that he likes weird sex.

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