CALL US NOW: USA +1-800-445-2620
news my blog biography press multimedia gallery about karen contact
Peta Toppano
award nomination    professional showreel    contact agent

Karen Travers - Biography (Prisoner)

Schoolteacher, Karen Travers, was inducted into Wentworth in Prisoner's very first episode and although she was tried and convicted of the murder of her abusive husband, Wayne, the circumstances of her incarceration was anything but straightforward. Karen was a devout catholic, committed to her faith and committed to her marriage - but more than anything she wanted to consolidate that commitment with a child: Wayne's child. Wayne, however, was livid when he discovered that Karen was pregnant and ordered her to have an abortion.

Karen agonised over the choice and even consulted the church for guidance, but her commitment to her marriage proved stronger than her commitment to God and she went ahead with the abortion. But Karen was unable to negate her guilt at what she perceived to be taking a human life and she returned to her husband, numb with shock and racked with guilt. It was then she saw Wayne with another woman and it was then, overwhelmed by the guilt of aborting her unborn child, that she took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her husband to death.

Still numb and detached emotionally from what had happened Karen calmly reported what she had done to the police and was duly arrested, tried in a court of law and dispatched to Wentworth on a life sentence. Karen felt in her heart that she deserved to be punished and she purposefully withheld evidence of Wayne's abuse from the courts. Moreover, she felt that a life sentence was, in itself, not enough to adequately punish her for taking a life.

Consequently, Karen retreated behind an hard exterior and resolved to make her life inside as punitive an experience as it could possibly be. Three events occurred on her first day in prison that were to shape the course of her life forever: the revelation that her ex-fiancé, Greg Miller, was the Prison Doctor, the suicide of another prisoner, Sally Lee and her fateful encounter with the notorious Franky Doyle. Of the three, it was definitely the latter that had the greatest redemptive effect on Karen's life and set her firmly back on the road to emotional recovery.

Franky Doyle was a lesbian with aggressive tendencies and she took a liking to Karen the moment she set eyes on her and she actively pursued her. At first Karen was frightened of Franky's forceful nature, but as she slowly became hardened to prison life and her emotions became dictated by bitterness and repressed guilt, she began to stand up to Franky. But ultimately, as her experiences in the prison attuned her to the plight of the women inside, Karen began to recognise Franky for what she really was: a sensitive young woman hiding behind a façade of belligerence and cynicism. When Franky received a telegram informing her that her brother, Gary, had died in an accident and it was discovered that Franky was to all intents and purposes almost completely illiterate, it fell to Karen to tell her what had happened.

Franky was so distraught at the news of her brother's death, that she sneaked up onto the prison roof and stood precipitously at the very edge. Again it fell to Karen to try to get through to the troubled Franky. In one of the most powerfully portrayed scenes of the series, Karen forced Franky to take an introspective look at what her life had become and made her realise that by taking her own life she would, by definition, also be killing all her dreams and aspirations. Franky was touched by Karen's obvious concern for her welfare and stepped away from the edge - both literally and figuratively. It was the ultimate testament to Karen's ability to reach out and help another human being and her success in preventing Franky from taking her own life made her realise that she still had much to give, still had much to teach --- and still had much to learn.

Determined to help Franky conquer her demons, Karen decided to employ her teaching skills and help the troubled Franky to learn to read. In one of the most poignant and beautifully-acted scenes in the entire series, Karen and Franky bond - the two young women overcoming the boundaries of their different backgrounds to reach out to one another. But Franky read more into this meeting of minds than was actually there and in a sensitively portrayed scene, the troubled young woman kissed Karen who, momentarily disgusted, shattered the bonds of their newly-forged understanding by slapping her around the face. Franky felt as if her emotions had been used by Karen and made a successful bid to escape, leaving Karen feeling as if she had failed her. Franky is subsequently shot dead by the police and Karen's guilt, already monumental, escalates until she blames herself solely for her tragic demise. Ultimately, it fell to Greg to lead her down the path of redemption.

All the time they had been apart, Greg Miller had never stopped loving Karen. Her decision to break up with him and marry Wayne was one he had never truly accepted and when Karen later admitted to him that her husband had systematically beaten and humiliated her, he did everything in his power to make her appeal her sentence on the grounds of diminished responsibility. To this end, Greg sought out the services of hotshot lawyer, Steve Wilson, who agreed to represent Karen at her retrial. Although initially interested only in using Karen's trial to further his career, Steve soon became infatuated by the beautiful inmate and went out of his way to help her, even tracking down her mother, Mary Healy, to support Karen's claims that her husband had often beaten her. Although initially reluctant to testify in her daughter's favour, Mary eventually agreed to give evidence at Karen's retrial and was largely instrumental in having her sentence reduced from murder to manslaughter, with the time she had to spend in prison being reduced from a life sentence to just two years.

Karen served the remainder of her time inside trying to guide and help the women. Time had slowly healed the wounds of the past and she gradually made peace with her own conscience. And it was through teaching the other women that Karen was able to find the strength she needed to move on once and for all. Steve Wilson continued to be fascinated by the beautiful, yet tragic Karen and was partly instrumental, along with social worker Jean Vernon, in securing permission for her to study in a university on the outside. Steve also suggested to a wealthy client, socialite Clara Goddard, that Karen would be the ideal choice to run a Halfway House that she was determined to get off the ground. The latter proposal was temporarily shelved when Clara was subsequently jailed for embezzling over a quarter of a million dollars from various charities, but Karen saw the Halfway House as her ultimate path to salvation and never stopped pressing Steve Wilson and Jean Vernon to make the project a reality.

Karen finally settled down to prison life and slowly became a model prisoner, continuing to attend university lectures on the outside and proving that she could be trusted by refusing to discuss sensitive information she learnt on the outside, even keeping her silence over what child-killer, Bella Albrecht, was serving time for. This more responsible attitude eventually led to Karen's parole. But life on the outside proved to be more difficult than anything she could have anticipated. Initially living with a friend of her mother's, Marjorie Whitton, Karen soon found her exacting regime too restrictive and reminiscent of the rigorous routine of prison life, so opted instead to move in with fellow university student, Melinda Crosse. This, too, went sour for Karen and she moved out when it transpired that Melinda had had a secret abortion

Things began to pick up for Karen when smart and attractive young lawyer, Angela Jeffries, offered her a secretarial position and accommodation in her home. Heavily involved in the PRG and in trying to establish the much-heralded Halfway House, Angela Jeffries seemed the ideal solution to Karen's post-prison difficulties and she gratefully accepted both the job and the offer of accommodation that went with it. Karen read a lot more into Angela's offer than mere friendship and she gradually began to develop strong feelings for her - feelings which she at first mistook for love but, later, recognised to be nothing more than gratitude and friendship for a woman who had been there for her when she needed it the most.

Eventually, with the help of Angela Jeffries, the Halfway House was finally established and Karen was approved to run it. One of Karen's first successes in this brand new enterprise was in reuniting the newly paroled Doreen Anderson with her estranged mother, Alice Hemmings, who had terminal cancer. Although Alice subsequently passed away in hospital, Doreen was finally able to reconcile her feelings of abandonment and start to look to the future, something which Karen was only too willing to help her shape. It was around this time that one of Karen's Wentworth friends, Roslyn Coulson, escaped from prison and sought refuge at the Halfway House. Struggling between her loyalty to her friends and her obligation to the law, Karen searched her conscience and reluctantly agreed to shelter Ros for a single night. The next morning, having been provided with a fresh set of clothes, Ros left the Halfway House and Karen felt as if she had failed - if not in the way she had handled a potential problem, then in the manner she had compromised her conscience to solve it.

During her tenure at the Halfway House, Karen was partly instrumental in helping single mother, Pat O'Connell, secure her parole. With both her husband and eldest son, David, serving time in prison, it was vital that Pat be allowed out to care for her two youngest children, who were temporarily living with their ill grandmother. Karen passed the story onto a local journalist and the ensuing furore over Pat's case ensured her an early release from Wentworth. David subsequently escaped from prison and although the frantic mother of three tried desperately to persuade him to give himself up, it was ultimately a futile effort and she reluctantly decided to concentrate on tending to the needs of her two youngest. Karen, however, soon learnt that David was about to visit his mother again and realising that the police were keeping a close watch on Pat's residence, she determined to go around to her house and give her advanced warning of her son's plans. Greg managed to convince her of the futility of this idea, but was only able to prevent her from going ahead with the plan by going through with it himself.

But the plan went badly wrong and David narrowly escaped getting killed in a shootout with the police and Pat was arrested and sent back to Wentworth. The only good thing to come out of the whole incident, in fact, was Greg declaring his love to Karen. The two fell in love all over again and got engaged. But a cruel fate awaited them in the form of David O'Connell who, having seen Greg arrive at the time of the shootout, blamed him for his mother being sent back to jail and swore a brutal revenge on him. Keeping a silent vigil outside Greg's surgery, David waited his moment and shot a silhouetted figure that appeared behind the blinds. But, unbeknownst to him, he had shot Karen!

Lying unconscious in a hospital bed, Karen's condition worsened and permission had to be given for a life-saving operation to remove shards of glass and parts of a shattered bullet that was moving dangerously close to her heart. Thankfully, the operation proved a resounding success and Karen soon recovered consciousness and she and Greg make plans to get married and move to Queensland, which they subsequently did. Karen had come full circle, surviving the rigours and hardships of incarceration and battling through the restraints of her own religion and conscience to emerge stronger and - in many ways - more alive than ever before.

Written by Carl Clarke