In 2009, in the NSW country town of Armidale, a mentally ill young man is shot dead by a police officer. Senior Constable Andrew Rich claims he ‘had no choice’ other than to shoot 24-year-old Elijah Holcombe — Elijah had run at him roaring with a knife, he tells police.
A police investigation can seem like an interminably slow process and on no one does the passage of that time weigh more heavily than on those mourning the loss of a loved one. It’s a process not guaranteed a satisfactory result after years of waiting, and in the meantime, lives must be picked up with again and continued on with as best they can be.
Elijah Holcombe was a young married man in his mid-twenties who was blessed with both a loving family and friends who adored him. His life and future from the outside may have looked bright however Elijah was troubled by mental health issues. The world did not always present to Elijah as a safe and easily navigated place.
The series of happenings that put Elijah in the path of a policeman’s bullet are forensically examined here with great care in a book that spans the years and years of yes, waiting. Considering how long the process took to come to conclusion, the writing of this novel was very much a lived experience for debut author Kate Wild. This is not a clinical reporting of events as the author is very much part of the narrative.
WAITING FOR ELIJAH came across my radar after catching a podcast interview with author Kate Wild. This book of non-fiction is difficult to pigeonhole neatly. What it does so well is to detail all the repeated mis-steps, heartache, secondary trauma and frustrations that needed to be dealt with after the death of Elijah. WAITING FOR ELIJAH is a respectful and meticulously put together account of the enormity of a single loss. Not the first loss to have occurred in such a way, and no doubt will not be the last to occur in this way either. How a family and a community navigates what seems so tragic and senseless is the focus of Wild’s moving work, with all of what that practically entails when mental illness dictates a person’s response, as does the learned behaviours of a person’s profession.