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Gran who killed lover loses appeal

AN Ipswich grandmother convicted of lacing her estranged lover's cauliflower with drugs before strangling him in an armchair has lost her appeal.

Diana Fae Hughes and Gregory Ross Stewart had split but they were still living together at their Summerholm house, near Laidley, pending a property settlement.

There had been several domestic disputes and arguments over Hughes's mother's Royal Albert china, in the lead-up to the night she killed him in August, 2006.

Hughes had internet searched the words "premeditation, murder, conviction" the day before but she appealed her murder conviction in the Court of Appeal on two grounds.

She argued the trial judge erred in allowing her estranged partner's suspicions she was drugging him to be admitted into evidence.

She also argued the jury should have accepted she was suffering from a diminished capacity and, therefore, found guilty of manslaughter, not murder.

Police found Stewart's body sitting in a lounge chair covered by a sheet.

When they removed the sheet, they saw a rope around his neck and three other ropes tied to various parts of his body.

His prosthetic leg, needed after a motor bike accident in 1992, had been detached.

In opening the case at trial, the prosecutor explained the significance of the suspected drugging episodes.

Hughes was prescribed valium, a muscle relaxant and sedative. Her 52-year-old de facto was never prescribed the drug.

But traces of the drug were found in her partner's system after he died.

The prosecution led evidence Stewart believed Hughes was drugging him "to prove she committed the murder" and also "to prove the motive, to prove her intent, to negate any allegation of self-defence and to show her mental state that she was in control".

Hughes had told neighbours and friends she would "be better off to do away with him or get rid of him" and she wished she could find a way to electrocute the deceased in the bath tub without activating the cut-off switch.

There had been evidence of previous domestic disputes.

Hughes argued she was depressed and not coping with missing property as he played games with her in their property dispute.

She said she was hearing voices in her head, experiencing pseudo-hallucinations and had had tried to commit suicide through electrocution and drug overdoses.

A psychologist submitted to the court that Hughes refused to come to terms with the killing, preferring to believe Stewart had "just gone and her fantasy had been met".

Justice Margaret McMurdo said that evidence supported an impaired ability to tell what she had done was wrong.

But after assessing evidence from a second psychologist and other matters before the court she, in agreeance with two other Court of Appeal justices, found neither ground was made out.

She dismissed the appeal when she handed down a judgment on Tuesday.

Topics:  court of appeal crime drugs ipswich murder


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