NOT GUILTY

MUR­DER ON THE MUR­RAY TRIAL

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Vivi­enne Duck

A MOTHER has been found not guilty of both mur­der and at­tempted mur­der of her sons by way of men­tal ill­ness.

The De­niliquin woman, 28, was cleared of any le­gal wrong­do­ing by Jus­tice Richard But­ton in the Supreme Court in Wagga Wagga yes­ter­day.

The woman, who can­not be named for le­gal rea­sons, will be held by the Men­tal Health Tri­bunal at the Sil­ver­wa­ter de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity un­til “the tri­bunal is sat­is­fied she will not harm any­one in the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing her­self”.

Jus­tice But­ton said the spe­cial de­fence of men­tal ill­ness was es­tab­lished due to her “in­tense delu­sion” that she would be “raped and mur­dered by her ex­part­ner” and the only way out was to kill her two sons and her­self.

The court heard the woman had not been in con­tact with the ex-part­ner since 2016.

The judge-only trial de­scribed the woman’s life lead­ing up to the event as rid­dled with men­tal health, il­licit drugs and be­havioural is­sues which stem back to as early as age eight.

Two psy­chi­a­trists who gave ev­i­dence in the trial said the woman had “bor­der­line per­son­al­ity dis­or­der, long stand­ing sub­stance abuse dis­or­der and de­pres­sion dis­or­der”.

“The pro­foundly vi­o­lent act was caused by a dis­ease of the mind which led to a de­fect of rea­son where she didn't ap­pre­ci­ate what she was do­ing was morally wrong,” Jus­tice But­ton said.

Although Jus­tice But­ton said the phone call the woman made to her mother the day of the mur­der, where she said “you will never see us again”, could be seen as a “de­gree of pre­medi- tation”, he said her delu­sion had taken over.

“It was ut­ter ir­ra­tional­ity that her so­lu­tion to be­ing in mor­tal dan­ger was to kill her two sons and her­self,” he said.

“Be­ing drowned is a ter­ri­ble death.”

The judge took just three days of the judge-alone trial to come to the ver­dict, dur­ing which Jus­tice But­ton de­scribed the woman sit­ting in the dock “dis­tressed, seem­ingly dis­tracted, rock­ing back and forth and bizarrely plait­ing her hair”.

The court heard the woman picked her two sons up from school on March 1 be­fore telling her mother she was tak­ing them for a swim.

“Her mother re­ported them miss­ing about 2am on March 2 after they had not come home,” Jus­tice But­ton said.

He said the three then went to Bendigo although the pur­pose of that jour­ney was “un­clear to me”.

“At 11am the mother and her two boys took a taxi to Goornong where a shop owner said she ‘wasn't all there’.

“At 1.30pm they took a taxi back to Bendigo be­fore trav­el­ling to Moama with Robert Cooper and his sis­ter Ada Cooper.

“At 4pm they ar­rived at the semi-ru­ral prop­erty on the Mur­ray River where the ac­cused trag­i­cally con­vinced her­self they were in mor­tal dan­ger.”

When de­liv­er­ing his ver­dict Jus­tice But­ton said there was no ev­i­dence the woman had taken any drugs or al­co­hol but he did re­fer to the fact she “no longer cared” to take her pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion after her re­lease from jail.

“I ex­tend my con­do­lences to all who have suf­fered, and who will suf­fer into the fu­ture, in­clud­ing the ac­cused, who will come to see, if she has not al­ready, the enor­mity of what she has done,” Jus­tice But­ton said.

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