You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Shock, grief, trauma: Psychologist gives insight into father's statement

WAtoday logo WAtoday 16/05/2018 Phil Hickey

Video provided by Nine News

A leading WA psychologist says the extraordinary statement made by Aaron Cockman, the father of four children slain in their beds near Margaret River last Friday, pointed to a perfect storm of shock, grief and trauma.

On Sunday Mr Cockman gave a stirringly candid interview to reporters outside the Margaret River police station, during which he said he believed the children’s grandfather Peter Miles, who allegedly pulled the trigger on the family, "did not snap" but had been "thinking this through for a long time".

At times Mr Cockman talked about Mr Miles in positive terms and described him as a “best friend” to him in the past.

“I still love who he was,” Mr Cockman said.

Dr James McCue, a lecturer in psychology and criminology at Edith Cowan University, said some of the comments made by Mr Cockman were an indication the father was suffering a range of emotions.

'We all grieve differently'

Dr McCue pointed out that while he has never met Mr Cockman, the statements showed he was experiencing a degree of shock and trauma.

“He is obviously a man who is grieving and I think it is not just grief but it is also a traumatic loss,” Dr McCue told WAtoday.

“To lose all of your kids ... all in one instance, in one moment, that is very difficult for any individual to actually grasp or comprehend or get their head around.

“So I think there is a lot of grief there and I think there is potentially trauma there as well."

Peter Miles (second from left), his wife, Cynda (back right), their daughter Katrina (left), and her four children, Taye, Rylan, Ayre, and Kadyn. © Supplied Peter Miles (second from left), his wife, Cynda (back right), their daughter Katrina (left), and her four children, Taye, Rylan, Ayre, and Kadyn.

Dr McCue, who is also a clinical psychologist and a forensic psychologist, said if Mr Cockman appeared to be "rambling" during parts of his press conference it was most likely due to shock.

“Shock isn’t something that wears off quickly,” he said.

“Depending on the circumstances, shock can last anywhere between a few hours through to days or even longer than that.

“Shock is defined as people experiencing almost a disconnection or a sense of what we call 'derealisation' from what’s going on around them.

“It’s almost as if they don’t feel as connected to their world, almost as if things are playing out like a movie in front of them.

“And that is that suddenness, that actually our mind hasn’t caught up with the seriousness or the gravity of what has actually happened.

"And part of the way that we try to overcome shock is we try to piece together what has actually happened. I think you can see that in his statement aswell."

Katrina Miles with her children. © Facebook Katrina Miles with her children.

Dr McCue said it was important for people to realise people grieved and reacted to traumatic events in different ways.

"It was quite brave in terms of him (Mr Cockman) speaking up. There was obviously a message he wanted to get through," Dr McCue said.

"I think we have very stereotyped views of how people should grieve and what grief should look like.

"What we do, is we then overlay those stereotypes onto someone's unique experience and what we are seeing here is they are not actually matching.

"But that doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't experience a great depth of loss or sadness.

"It is his experience and it is his right to experience it however he wants to and he doesn't necessarily have to conform to what society expects.

"We are not the exact same person as him and we do need to be careful about how we judge someone else's reaction to a situation."

Aaron Cockman spoke to media on Sunday. © James Brickwood. Aaron Cockman spoke to media on Sunday.

Aaron Cockman 'insisted' on statement

The bodies of Peter Miles and his wife Cynda, his daughter Katrina, and his four grandchildren Taye, Rylan, Ayre and Kayden Cockman were found on a 30-acre property in Osmington on Friday.

The property is owned by Cynda Miles and her husband Peter. © Facebook The property is owned by Cynda Miles and her husband Peter.

His decision to address the media so openly was a shock to police, who said he "insisted" on making the statement and waiting until all media crews in Margaret River had arrived before he spoke.

Asked if he had felt victimised by the Margaret River community, which had been swift to point the finger at him in the days following the incident, Mr Cockman said people "can say what they want".

"I've lost everything in my life ... People's opinions, whatever," he said.

In the emotional address, Mr Cockman commented on his father-in-law's alleged actions.

"All these kids died peacefully in their beds. The [police officer] that went through, he said they looked all peaceful. How the hell Peter did that I still can't figure out, but if someone did it ... he did a good job, he did a really good job.

He also said that it made a difference to him knowing who killed his children.

"I wouldn’t want some random guy off the street doing what happened," he said.

"If someone was going to do it, I trust he did it right and he did it right.

"To me, it might sound weird, but the kids went to sleep and now they are nothing.

"But to them they are already in a new system. We are just lagging a bit behind here, they are already there. By the time we get there it will all be the same, it is like a time-period difference."

Mr Cockman also spoke about finding comfort in knowing all of his children had died together.

"Another thing I thought, too, is that it would be hard when you lose one kid because instantly their face appears in your head and their personality whereas every time I’m thinking about it, I am thinking about this group of people and it is not just a face that pops into my head," he said.

"It is a group of people. I think in a sense it is easier to look at it that way but it is only two days so it is only early.

"But mentally I know when I want to say something and I say it and I never regret what I say for some reason, that’s just the way I am."

A fundraising campaign for the funerals of the seven members of the Miles family has begun, as shocked friends pay tribute to the two women killed, Katrina and her mother Cynda.

The GoFundMe page is aiming to raise $40,000 for the family to help with preparations for the funerals of Katrina and her children, Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Ayre, 10 and Kayden, 8, who were well known within Margaret River's home-schooling community.

  • with Lucy Cormack

More from Watoday

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon