Wife charged with murdering husband
Friday, October 3, 2008
THE Kialla woman accused of murdering her husband of three days, Glenrowan man Patrick Plumbe, assaulted him before his still-breathing body was put behind the wheel of his car and set alight, a court has heard.
Mr Plumbe’s charred body was found in his burnt-out utility on the night of April 28, 2005, in what was originally treated as a single vehicle accident - it appeared the 60-year-old had driven off Adams Road in the Warby Range and collided with a tree.
However, Mr Plumbe’s body was exhumed in June 2006 and his widow - and sole beneficiary of his $1m estate - Margaret Vandergulik, was charged with his murder.
As the Supreme Court trial began in Wangaratta yesterday, Crown prosecutor Peter Rose SC said Vandergulik had confessed to a former boyfriend that she and Mr Plumbe had argued on the night of his death, and that she had pushed him in selfdefence.
However, Mr Rose argued the assault occurred out of “an intention to kill, or cause serious injury”, in a bid to claim his fortune. He said she then had his body put into the utility, and it was driven into a tree to make it look like the deliberately lit blaze was the result of an accident.
Mr Rose told the jury evidence would be presented in the coming weeks that showed Mr Plumbe had suffered from blunt head trauma, consistent with being hit over the head.
He added that experts estimated Mr Plumbe’s speed on impact was 30kph, which was unlikely to cause a fire.
“The evidence points to the intervention of someone else in the death of the deceased,” he said.
“Patrick Plumbe didn’t drive himself into the tree.” Autopsy results have revealed Mr Plumbe was still breathing at the time of the fire - a fact Mr Rose said Vandergulik, a retired nurse, must have been aware of. The couple met in 2003 and were married at the Wangaratta Courthouse on April 26, 2005 - it was the third marriage for both parties, and came after Mr Plumbe had retired after 40 years of employment with Telstra. They signed amended wills, which made each the sole beneficiary of the other’s estate, the day after the wedding. The trial continues today before Justice Murray Kellam, with the jury scheduled to view the scene of the accident.
IN COURT: Wheelchair-bound Margaret Vandergulik, charged with the murder of her husband Patrick Plumbe, is pushed into court yesterday by a family member.