Why did Roy Moore escape to Australia? Clues remain in the outback wilderness (Guardian U.S.)

Why did Roy Moore escape to Australia? Clues remain in the outback wilderness

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It’s easy to get lost on the vast expanse of land they call Telemon.

Nestled in the foothills of Australia’s central Queensland highlands some 560 miles north-west of the state capital, Brisbane, the sprawling cattle station larger than Manhattan is a maze of wandering dirt roads Google Maps has never heard of.

It’s greener than you might imagine the Australian outback to be – a terrain of bottle trees and scrub, and horizons so vast they are vaguely anxiety-inducing. And everywhere cattle, staring back incuriously.

Drive for long enough though and eventually you’ll find the house. An abandoned single-storey timber thing with a veranda out the back, empty but for a few dusty beer bottles and rolled-up sleeping bags. A small handmade wicker crucifix is still tucked into an architrave in the dilapidated cottage next door. A 7ft-high (2m) cross leans haphazardly. Magpies swoop visitors and jacaranda trees bloom extravagantly in the overgrown yard.

It’s not a place that people visit very often, but maybe that’s the point.

Thirty-three years ago Telemon was home for Roy Moore – the one-time chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, defiant courtroom displayer of the Ten Commandments, current US Senate candidate and accused abuser of numerous women and underage girls in a period spanning from the late 1970s to 1991.


US Senate candidate Roy Moore has faced a litany of sex assault allegations going back to the 70s. Photograph: Brynn Anderson/AP

In 1984 Moore spent the better part of a year in the Queensland outback, where he lived and worked with the Rolfe family, the hard-working, deeply religious former owners of Telemon. But how he ended up there and what drove an ambitious 37-year-old assistant district attorney to this remote outpost has mostly remained a mystery.

The Guardian spent a week in central Queensland, seeking out those who knew Moore to find out what he was doing so far from home. What emerged was a portrait of a man overcoming his own personal demons, but one who never left the impression on those he met that he was “anything but a gentleman”.

“Roy was struggling at that stage, although he never talked to me about it,” Doug Rolfe said. “We were considerably younger than Roy, so he confided in my father rather than in us … I just kind of understood he had difficulties.”

A typical American

In 1982 Moore, then the assistant district attorney in Gadsden, Alabama, made an unsuccessful bid to become a county circuit judge in Etowah county after a falling out with the local judiciary. According to his biography, the loss left him broke, bitter and directionless, and he decided to travel to Australia for a stint of “R & R”.

Moore travelled initially to Brisbane and then to the coastal town of Ayr, where he briefly worked on sugar cane farms, before heading west to the town of Emerald to fulfil his “real desire … to work in the Australian outback”.

Today, Emerald is one of those largish country towns where pastries and tractor parts are sold on the same block and where it might just about be possible to go a day without seeing someone with whom you went to high school. But in 1984 it was all dusty roads and farmers driving trucks.

It was here that Moore met Colin Rolfe, a cattle farmer and poet who was training to become a deacon in the Anglican church.

“Dad went into a cafe in Emerald and one way or another they got talking,” said Doug Rolfe, one of Colin’s sons. “They got along on a religious, Christian basis. Dad never said much about what they talked about, but they certainly struck a chord, because they seemed to be reasonably close.”

The Rolfe family – Colin, his wife Cleone and their six children – were known for having foreign visitors living and working on the station and Colin invited Moore to come and stay on the property.

“It was pretty normal for us,” Colin’s daughter Isla Turner said. “People would come to spend a few nights and end up staying a few months.”

Telemon, which in 1984 was more than double its current size, is about 75 miles (120km) south of Emerald, past the small town of Springsure, population 1,100.


A small crucifix is tucked above the door in the house in Telemon where Roy Moore lived in 1984. Photograph: Michael McGowan for the Guardian

From there, Telemon is about a further 18 miles (30km) south-west on what’s known locally as the Tambo Road, an infrequently surfaced, undulating stretch linking Springsure with the gargantuan cattle stations that dot this part of Australia. While there, Moore lived with the family and worked on the property, mustering cattle, fixing fences and building stockyards.

“I don’t think he’d ever done that sort of manual labour in his life, but he took to it like a duck to water,” Turner said.

Colin Rolfe was diagnosed with cancer not long after Moore arrived and died on Christmas Eve in 1984. But in interviews with four of the six Rolfe children, as well as others who met him while he was staying in Queensland, all expressed shock at the allegations made against Moore.

“Nothing like that ever came up,” John Rolfe, Colin’s eldest son, said. “He seemed very straightforward, very much how you’d expect a young American. I’m quite surprised. It’s not what we saw at all in his time with us … We thought very highly of him.”

One woman, who was 16 years old when Moore lived with the Rolfes and came in close contact with him, said she never felt uncomfortable around him.

“There was nothing of that kind on my part. I certainly didn’t feel uneasy with him,” the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Guardian.

“There was never anything remotely like that [and] I was in my teenage years, which I guess would have been the prime time if he was going to do something. Usually you have your antenna out for that sort of thing and nothing untoward came about. I remember he was gregarious, very bubbly and loud … a typical American.”

Some kind of personal crisis

About 56km (35 miles) west of Springsure on the Tambo Road, the Tresswell State School is attended by the children of cattle farmers. At the back of the school is a tennis court where the Rolfes played on the weekend.

“I do remember Roy sucked at tennis,” Doug Rolfe said.

Pat Klose, who was the teacher and principal at Treswell in 1984 and was friends with the Rolfe family, said he never had any cause to suspect Moore was anything but “a good bloke”.

“There certainly weren’t any alarm bells or anything … He just seemed like a very pleasant bloke, that’s all I can recall,” Klose said. “But maybe he was trying to get away from something, I guess you can never know.”

All of the Rolfes remember that Moore was dealing with some kind of personal crisis. In his biography, Moore says losing the circuit court contest was a “bitter political defeat” that had “broken [his] spirit” and left him with “nowhere to turn”. He decided to travel to Australia because he’d been unable to visit the country after his tour of Vietnam.

“I don’t know the [entire] story before us … what it was in his history that he’d had struggles with,” Doug Rolfe said.

The Rolfes believed Moore’s “struggles” related to his thwarted ambition, but the allegations that have surfaced against Moore recently paint a more disturbing picture about what his “struggles” may have been.


The huge cattle station in outback Queensland is where Roy Moore spent a year in 1984. Photograph: Michael McGowan for the Guardian

Leigh Corfman was 14 in 1979 when, she alleges, Moore, then 32, took her to his house, removed most of her clothes, groped her and put her hand on his genitals. Another woman, Beverly Young Nelson, alleges that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16.

Nelson said Moore physically attacked her in a car, grabbing her breasts and trying to force her head down on to his crotch.

“I thought he was going to rape me,” Nelson said at a press conference in November.

A number of other women have come forward to say that Moore romantically pursued them when they were teenagers and he was an assistant district attorney aged in his 30s.

There have been other reports of Moore pursuing at least three other teenagers when he was in his 30s and the New Yorker magazine reported that Moore was banned from a mall in Alabama because he repeatedly badgered teenage girls. Moore denies the allegations and has accused all of the women of lying.

But in Australia, the Guardian did not find any reports of improper behaviour.

“In a small town like this, those sorts of things don’t stay secret and they aren’t forgotten,” said Desley Abdy, the owner of the local convenience store.


Desley Abdy (left) owns Springsure Convenience and remembers Roy Moore. Photograph: Michael McGowan for the Guardian

In any case, the deeply religious Moore found himself in one of Australia’s most religious pockets.

Springsure was once known as “the Holy City”, where about 85% of residents identify with some form of Christianity. A giant image of the Virgin Mary clutching the baby Jesus literally looms over the town, appearing inside a niche in the escarpment of Mount Zamia, known colloquially as the Virgin Rock, beside which the town is nestled.

In his biography, Moore says his meeting with Colin Rolfe came “as if by the hand of providence”, calling the family “wonderful hosts and devout Christians who read the Bible to one another before bedtime”.

Ian Rolfe, Colin’s younger brother, remembers him as a man with “a deep religious belief”.

Ian, who still lives on another property further along the Tambo, told the Guardian his brother was “a gentle man” with “a beautiful singing voice”.

“He really was taken too soon,” Ian said. “He genuinely thought the cancer wouldn’t kill him, he thought the Lord would save him, but I guess the Lord had other plans for him.”

But even the Rolfe children say Moore’s conservatism stood out to them.

“I think he was even more staunch as a Christian than my father was, but it wasn’t anything unusual for us,” Doug Rolfe said. “I was a very devout Christian for a period of time in my life as well … He wouldn’t carry on like a hallelujah Christian or anything; he was just very set in his ideas about moral standards and so forth.”


Ian Rolfe remembers Roy Moore when the American worked for his brother Colin. Photograph: Michael McGowan for the Guardian

Asked about the allegations against Moore, they each had different reactions.

Turner said it “wasn’t possible”, and suggested the accusations against him were “political”.

“Why has it taken this long for it all to surface?” she said.

But Doug Rolfe was more equivocal.

“It’s interesting. Roy is a person who’s a little bit set in his beliefs and doesn’t like to change [so] when he has an idea about something, it’s black and white and he doesn’t see it in grey,” he said.

“I couldn’t say whether the allegations may be correct or not … I find it very surprising, because his treatment of us and the family and the women who were with us was very morally correct.

“It is always possible. People have a second side outside of moral company.”

General

via Guardian U.S. http://bit.ly/2szDb9W

December 3, 2017 at 04:21AM