Riverine Herald

Murder on the Murray - mother not guilty says judge

By Vivienne Duck

* WARNING DISTRESSING CONTENT *

UPDATE 12.06PM:

THE Deniliquin woman had been found not guilty of attempted murder and murder of her sons in the Murray River last year.

The verdict was delivered by way of mental illness by Justice Richard Button in the Supreme Court at Wagga Wagga.

The woman will be held in mental health detention at Silverwater detention centre until such time as the Mental Health Tribunal deems the woman fit to be released into the community.

Members of her family were in court when the verdict was delivered.

More in tomorrow’s Riv.

UPDATE November 28, 1.50pm:

AFTER just two and a half days a Supreme Court judge has gone away to decide the fate of the Deniliquin woman accused of murdering her son in the Murray River in Moama last year.

Justice Richard Button adjourned just before 1pm on the third day of the trial in Wagga Wagga and will deliver his verdict after 11.30am tomorrow.

The woman, 28, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty by way of mental health to both murder and attempted murder of her two sons.

The strongest prosecution evidence was presented today when a video interview with the surviving son and police was played showing the nine-year-old boy laying bandaged in a hospital bed just four days after the murder of his brother.

The boy told police of the harrowing ordeal and how he "tried to run away" from his mother before she "dunked" his head under water.

The court heard the mother lured her two boys down to the river telling them they were going fishing.

The boy told police this was the first they had been on the Pericoota Rd property.

"She had her arm on my throat and I started hitting her because I didn't want to do go under the water," the boy told police.

"My mum then dunked my brother's head in the water and he couldn't breathe and then he died."

When asked the last time he saw his brother's body he said "it was just floating".

The youngest boy's body was found two days later 250m down stream.

The autopsy report conducted by Dr Jane Vuletic was tendered as evidence today which said "drowning was the presumed mechanism of death".

Justice Richard Button told the court the woman accepted what she did was "legally wrong" by telling the witness to take her to the police that night.

"The acceptance of legal wrongfulness is different from morally wrongfulness," he said.

Justice Button told the court he would deliver his verdict tomorrow morning.

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UPDATE 1.40pm:

AFTER just two and a half days a Supreme Court judge has gone away to decide the fate of the Deniliquin woman accused of murdering her son in the Murray River in Moama last year.

Justice Richard Button adjourned just before 1pm on the third day of the trial in Wagga Wagga and will present his verdict after 11.30am tomorrow.

The woman, 28, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty by way of mental health to both murder and attempted murder of her two sons.

The strongest prosecution evidence was presented today when a video interview with the surviving son and police was played showing the nine-year-old boy laying bandaged in a hospital bed just four days after the murder of his brother.

The boy told police of the harrowing ordeal and how he "tried to run away" from his mother before she "dunked" his head under water.

The court heard the mother lured her two boys down to the river telling them they were going fishing.

The boy told police this was the first time they had been on the Pericoota Rd property.

"She had her arm on my throat and I started hitting her because I didn't want to do go under the water," the boy told police.

"My mum then dunked my brother's head in the water and he couldn't breathe and then he died."

When asked the last time he saw his brother's body he said "it was just floating".

The youngest boy's body was found two days later 250m down stream.

The autopsy report conducted by Dr Jane Vuletic was tendered as evidence today which said "drowning was the presumed mechanism of death".

Justice Richard Button told the court the woman accepted what she did was "legally wrong" by telling the witness to take her to the police that night.

"The acceptance of legal wrongfulness is different from morally wrongfulness," he said.

Justice Button told the court he would deliver his verdict tomorrow morning.

UPDATE 11am:

In a harrowing interview with police just four days after the attempt on his life, the eight-year-old son of the mother accused of murder recounted the events which led to his brother’s death.

“Mum told me to dunk my head under the water, I said I didn’t want to so she dunked my head under and I was suffocating,” the boy said from a hospital bed on March 7, 2017.

“The dog started biting me and mum put my brothers head under the water and he couldn’t breathe and then he died.”

The boy’s video interview is being played on the third day of his mother’s murder trial in the Supreme Court in Wagga Wagga.

The boy is shown with bandages across both shoulders and arms and on his chest laying still with his arm propped up on a pillow in a hospital bed in the Royal Children’s Hospital.

The court heard the boy called out to his mum to help him while he was being attacked by the dog.

“I just said help me,” he said.

“Then Bobby came down and told me to run but I couldn’t.

“He kept hitting the dog to get him off me.”

When asked by police whether he thought the dog was helping him the boy said “no he was hurting me”.

The accused was not present in court at the time the video was played.

UPDATE 3.30pm, November 27:

THE woman accused of murdering her son said she sat on top of her oldest son in the river while her other son was screaming on the river bank.

“He kept fighting me because he is so strong and he was still alive,” the woman said in her second interview with police the day after the murder.

The Supreme Court in Wagga Wagga heard the woman then put the other son under the water face down.

“I pushed him out into the river because he stopped fighting me,” she told police.

“I could hear my other son screaming with the dog attacking him. I should have killed the dog but I couldn’t do it.

“I couldn’t have my kids scared so I had to kill them.”

The court then heard the woman floated out into the river with the intent of killing herself.

The interview is still being played in court.

UPDATE 1PM: 

THE woman accused of killing her son has been granted leave from the court room when her surviving son's interview and her interview with police is played this afternoon.

The Supreme Court in Wagga Wagga has adjourned for an early lunch after hearing from 20 witnesses in the form of statement summaries this morning.

"I had to kill my babies" was repeated more than 15 times by Justice Richard Button when reading out statements where the accused told witnesses what she had done in the hours and days after the murder and attempted murder.

The court fell silent when Justice Button read out a conversation between the accused and Leading Senior Constable Paul Kervin.

"The following conversation happened around 12.15am on March 4 while at the Echuca hospital," Justice Button said.

"Where did you last see your son?" LSC Kervin said.

"I pushed him out and he was floating," the mother said.

The conversations between the accused and multiple police officers both sides of the river were read out in court.

She told each of them she had killed her "babies".

The trial continues.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27 11.30AM:

"I DROWNED my babies and I tried to drown myself but I couldn't, I need a bullet," the accused said.

"I had to do it, I had to do it, I had to do it."

"I had to do it, I had to kill my babies."

This was the evidence of witness and resort owner Michael Falzon, who said the accused had told him after she had allegedly drowned her five-year-old son and attempted to drown her eight-year-old.

Mr Falzon described, in his statement which was summarised in court this morning, the woman as "soaked" with a large gash on her leg.

He said he took her in to his home, gave her a glass of water and took her to the Echuca police station after she suggested it around 9pm.

Mr Falzon was one of 14 statements tendered by the Crown prosecutor Max Pincott in this morning's session.

The court also heard the statement of Robert Cooper, who pulled the surviving boy from the water.

"He was naked and covered in blood," he said in his statement, which was also summarised.

"You will save me Bobby," the young boy said to Mr Cooper.

"I am the only survivor."

The court also heard from witnesses including taxi drivers, the Goornong General Store owner and the mother of the accused, who said her daughter had been "acting strangely" in the days leading up to the murder.

The trial continues.

EARLIER: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26:

TWO expert psychiatrists have taken the stand in the Moama murder trial in Wagga Wagga this afternoon.

The Crown called forensic psychiatrist Dr Jonathon Adams as its first witness and he told the court the woman accused of murdering her son believed she had “no choice”.

“She believed in killing her two sons she was saving them from a worse homicide,” he said in his report.

“I think there is reasonable grounds to say she does suffer from mental illness which is not caused by the use of illicit substances.

“It is most likely she has borderline personality disorder, long standing substance abuse disorder and depression disorder and deteriorated prior to the offences.”

The defence witness, consultant psychiatrist Dr Anthony Samuels, said the accused was suffering from “delusional perceptions” at the time of the murder.

“She was definitely psychotic at the time,” he said.

“There is no doubt for a woman like this, with an extensive mental health background, drug use is going to be detrimental but someone like her who uses drugs will end up with a long standing psychotic illness.”

Both doctors agreed the accused had a troubled childhood and could possibly be on the autism spectrum.

The trial adjourned for the day at 3.40pm and will resume at 10am tomorrow.

EARLIER:

“I HAD to kill my babies."

Those were the words of the mother accused of killing her son in Moama last year.

They were read out in the Supreme Court this morning in Wagga Wagga as the accused appeared, crying and rocking side to side, in custody as the details of the murder and attempted murder were heard.

It was her belief she was “saving” her sons by drowning them in the Murray River - saving them from an abusive ex-relationship.

The court heard the accused feared her ex-partner would kill her and her sons.

She pleaded not guilty by way of mental health to both murder and attempted murder.

It was also heard her mother had an AVO out against her which included her not being around her mother within 24 hours of being effected by drugs or alcohol.

The defence said the psychosis the accused was in when the offences occurred was not drug-induced.

In a harrowing final phone call to her mother, the accused said “you won’t see us anymore” before taking the boys to the river.

The court also heard the five-year-old who died in the river was found 251m downstream from where his mother drowned him.

The eight-year-old who survived the murder attempt had severe injuries from the dog attack and internal injuries from the attempted drowning.

The Crown said he was taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital where he had aspiration pneumonia and had to be intubated for three days.

“A doctor described the injuries as life-threatening,” the Crown prosecutor Max Pincott said.

The court has adjourned for lunch and the hearing continues.

EARLIER:

THE mother accused of murdering her son in the Murray River at Moama last year has pleaded not guilty by way of mental health on the first day of her trial in Wagga Wagga.

The woman, who is not named for legal reasons, appeared in front of Justice Richard Button at the Supreme Court this morning pleading not guilty to the murder of her five-year-old son and attempted murder of her eight-year-old son on March 2, 2017.

In the Crown’s opening statements the court heard the eight-year-old boy had told police his mum “put his head under the water and tried to dunk him”.

It was heard the boy had asked to be saved after a dog attacked him while his mother was attempting to drown him.

“I think I’m the only survivor,” he said to a witness.

In the defence's opening statement Eric Wilson said although his client knew it was wrong to kill her children “she didn’t appreciate the moral wrongfulness of doing so”.

The court has adjourned for a short recess.

More to come.