Monday, 8 December 2008

Farmer jailed 16 years for wife's murder

A NSW farmer who shot his wife and buried her with lime to deter wild pigs from disturbing the body has been jailed for at least 16 years for her murder.

Laurence Bede O'Connor told police he had had "a gutful" of Flordelizza O'Connor and shot her as she descended a ladder after repairing a leak on the roof of their property.

Acting Justice Timothy Studdert noted O'Connor resented the "expressed assertion" by his wife that she was "the boss" and told police "she used to yell and scream and screech".

The now 65-year-old admitted to the manslaughter of Flordelizza O'Connor, 47, on the basis of provocation in July last year at their property, called Quandalli, near Tooraweenah, in the state's central western slopes.

But in October, a NSW Supreme Court jury sitting at Dubbo found him guilty of the more serious charge of murder.

In sentencing him last Friday, the judge described the shooting as "callous" and "cowardly".

But he accepted O'Connor was remorseful and concluded he had suffered some loss of self control at the time of the murder.

Two months after the shooting, he confessed his crime and showed police where he had buried her body, in a relatively isolated location on the property.

O'Connor said he placed her body in the bucket scoop of a tractor and placed lime on her body when he buried it.

He told police his wife had been on the roof when she said she had taken his car keys, his wallet, his cheque and deposit books, and had burnt his tobacco.

He unsuccessfully searched for his keys and later told police he had had a "gutful" of his wife doing these things, which he claimed had been going on for years and getting worse.

"There was a loaded .22 rifle kept on the verandah, placed there for shooting birds that raided the strawberries and this was the gun the offender used," the judge noted.

As she descended, he placed the gun against his wife's spine and fired without warning, firing a second shot at her temple when she fell on to the concrete and was moaning.

The judge said the marriage was happy at the outset but stresses developed and increased when their two children left home.

O'Connor, an alcoholic, had resented his wife's wish to participate in decisions about the property, most of which was leased out but which she wanted them to work themselves.

In setting a maximum sentence of 21 years, Justice Studdert said O'Connor shot his unsuspecting victim twice at close range with intent to kill.

The earliest date he will be eligible for parole is September 6, 2023.

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