Alpine Observer

Accused to stand trial over murder

Not guilty plea over Karen Chetcuti’s death

- By JAMIE KRONBORG

MICHAEL Cardamone is to stand trial in the Victorian Supreme Court for the murder early last year of his neighbour Karen Chetcuti.

Magistrate John Murphy on Thursday afternoon told a packed Wangaratta court that it was clear to him from evidence presented in a two-day committal hearing that a jury could convict Cardamone for the January 2016 murder of the 49-year-old mother of two, Rural City of Wangaratta employee and former Whorouly hotelier.

Those in the court – including Ms Chetcuti’s estranged husband, Tony, her sister Leny Verbunt and Wangaratta justice reform campaigner Carol Roadknight – heard shocking testimony about the prosecutio­n’s reconstruc­tion of the last days of Ms Chetcuti’s life.

It was alleged that Cardamone had driven to Ms Chetcuti’s Whorouly property, which adjoined the small farm where he lived, at about 9.20pm on January 12.

Victorian crown prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC told the court that sometime during the next 70 minutes – in a place which has not been identified – her assailant assaulted, incapacita­ted and tranquilis­ed Ms Chetcuti and bound her by the wrists and ankles using cable ties, duct tape and rope.

He at some time afterwards murdered his victim and devised what Mr Silbert described as an “elaborate charade” in an attempt to construct an “innocent disappeara­nce”.

The crown alleged that Cardamone in the early hours of January 14 had taken and destroyed Ms Chetcuti’s red Citroen sedan on Halls Road above Myrtleford by dousing it with petrol and setting it alight.

Ms Chetcuti’s remains – which the crown said showed distressin­g injuries – were found near Croppers Creek track west of Lake Buffalo on January 18.

But Melbourne barrister Patrick Tehan QC – for Cardamone – sought to call into question the strength of evidence against his client by subjecting police informant Sergeant Jason Wallace to a lengthy cross-examinatio­n of the testimony tendered by the crown.

He asked Sgt Wallace – who was a Detective Senior Constable with the Homicide Squad at the time of the alleged murder – if the police had any forensic evidence to link Cardamone with Ms Chetcuti’s disappeara­nce and death apart from what Mr Tehan tried to show was low-level, circumstan­tial DNA in interim reports.

Sgt Wallace said the investigat­ions into Ms Chetcuti’s death had revealed Cardamone’s fingerprin­ts on a carton of tomatoes in a refrigerat­or in Ms Chetcuti’s house.

The court had earlier been told that there had been no prior relationsh­ip between the two.

But Sgt Wallace said that forensic services were still testing some exhibits and “waiting on a lot” of DNA test results.

Whorouly farm worker Larn Douangphos­ay, who knew the accused, gave testimony that on one of the days following Ms Chetcuti’s disappeara­nce Cardamone had said to him that if the woman was missing had died her body would have been affected by high summer temperatur­es.

Yet Mr Tehan challenged Mr Douangphos­ay on his evidence, saying he had not recounted at the time in two police statements the conversati­on he professed in court to have with Cardamone.

Magistrate Murphy committed Cardamone – who was in the court dock dressed in a bottle- green windcheate­r and tracksuit pants – to appear in the Supreme Court in Melbourne tomorrow for a directions hearing leading to trial.

Cardamone entered a not guilty plea and was remanded in custody.

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