Written by Kathy Clubb
27th June 2024

 

The 2001 murder of a bodyguard stationed outside a Melbourne abortuary is an event that has been exploited by the forces of death for the past twenty years. It has been used as a means of limiting the work of pro-lifers and was even instrumental in the success of passing exclusion-zone legislation. The fact that the attack has always been condemned by the pro-life community has proven no deterrent for those who use it to promote the idea that pro-lifers are dangerous. Yet it isn’t difficult to find out the truth, if one is willing to do so.

Richard Grant, a veteran among Melbourne’s pro-lifers, has given FLI a firsthand account of the events surrounding the bodyguard’s murder. Richard has peacefully defended the cause of life for decades, most notably through his work with the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. Richard was one of the regulars outside the East Melbourne abortion business at the time of the fateful attack in 2001.

The story begins outside the Fertility Control Clinic, a gloomy abortion business on Wellington Parade in East Melbourne. This abortion mill has been the focus of sustained witness by the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants for over twenty years and is the site of more than a dozen 40 Days for Life campaigns. It was started in 1972 by Bert Wainer, an abortion rights campaigner, even though abortion was still illegal at that time. Doctors often exploited a legal loophole which allowed abortion if a doctor deemed it less harmful to a mother than the continuation of her pregnancy.

At the time of the attack, the Fertility Control Clinic was run by abortionist Louis Rutman. The building, an ageing converted house, still stands today, hemmed in by shiny office buildings on both sides.  It is positioned back from the road, fronted by an unkempt garden with a solid brick fence. Before the advent of exclusion zones, security guards were employed there to usher women into the building before they had the chance to reconsider aborting their child. That often happened if the Helpers were present to remind women of their child’s humanity and to offer them an alternative to abortion.

Peter Knight, the man who went on to commit the heinous murder, was known to the Helpers but not part of their group. No-one knew much about him, but he seemed to have been involved in protests outside abortion clinics in New South Wales as well as in Victoria. Richard says there had been something unusual about him which had led the Helpers to ensure he didn’t attend their meetings, and he described Knight in this way: “He was highly intelligent but very intense. When he spoke to you, he stood very close, right in your face, almost touching you.”

Richard says his group had no idea that Knight was planning to invade the clinic. The Helpers had never invited Knight to be part of their group, and in fact, he had written a letter expressing his disappointment with them, accusing the group of being “only 1% pro-life.” This letter, later handed in to the Police, is hard evidence that Knight did not consider himself part of the Helpers.

On the day in question in July 2001, a group including Richard Grant prayed outside the abortion facility as was their habit before the introduction of the so-called “safe-access zones”  which were specifically designed to keep them away from the site. They left at 10am, according to their usual custom: all the women scheduled for abortions that day had already entered the building by that time. The Helpers were on good terms with the guard, despite their differing opinions about abortion, and they bade him goodbye as they left. They had even offered to help the forty-four year old father of two to find a different job.

Later that day, the 48-year-old Peter James Knight appeared outside the fence at the Fertility Control Clinic. He was apparently prepared to enter the building and wreak havoc inside, having brought with him gags and kerosene. Knight confronted the security guard, Steven Rogers, then fatally shot him.

Just after Richard arrived home, he received a call from someone at the Melbourne Right To Life association. They asked if Richard had been there when “it” happened. He answered in the negative, then turned on the news to find out what “it” was. He was devastated to discover that Steven Rogers had been murdered by someone claiming to be pro life.

Richard and the rest of the Helpers were even more shocked when video footage showed that they knew the identity of the shooter: Peter Knight. Richard went immediately to the St Kilda police station to tell them that he thought he knew the offender. The police later admitted that this information had been crucial in helping them to find Knight.

After the police had arrested Knight, Richard and another Helper were called to the St Kilda police station to identify him. The video footage left Richard in no doubt: this was definitely the man who had joined them, albeit infrequently, outside the abortion mill.

His positive identification of the assailant led to Richard being summonsed to appear at Knight’s Supreme Court murder trial. Richard testified, identifying Peter Knight, and also took the opportunity to remind the court that countless babies had been killed at the premises outside of which the security guard was tragically shot. Richard recalls that the story was front page news and that footage of him leaving the court was on the television.

Surprisingly, the day after the shooting, the abortion providers were back at work. This led Richard to wonder whether their employee’s death had made any impact at all on the abortionists and their staff. It is hardly cynical to suggest that when one has the capacity to routinely kill babies, the murder of an adult may not exact a significant emotional toll.

Knight was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 23 years.

His actions have always been roundly condemned by the Helpers and other pro-life groups, but that hasn’t stopped abortion activists from insisting that all pro-life people have similarly murderous intentions. This is nothing new: lying is part and parcel of pro-abortion rhetoric!

If there is any doubt about this kind of disinformation, Dr Brian Clowes has documented the number of violent acts committed by pro-lifers in the US, compared with those committed against pro-lifers. His results are stunning: “ …over 300 murders and 152 attempted murders in the name of the pro-abortion cause since Roe v. Wade.  551 women have died from botched abortions, and over 1,000 have been the victims of various sex crimes. In contrast, the pro-life movement has seen 8 murders since Roe v. Wade.”

It is unfortunate that myths surrounding the intentions of the pro-life community are firmly entrenched in our society, jealously guarded by abortion ideologues who want to protect their sacred cow. It is even possible to find pro-life Catholics who have been brainwashed into believing such myths. Yet, it would be a step in the right direction if the true story of Peter Knight was able to be told. Truly pro-life people abhor violence, even against their ideological opponents: they leave the judging to God, always mindful of the possibility of a heartfelt conversion to the cause for Life.

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