The Age

Wife to face trial over 1985 killing

Tuesday 23 November 1999
The Age

A 60-year-old woman was yesterday ordered to stand trial for the 1985 murder of her husband, whose skeletal remains baffled police before DNA testing last year revealed his identity.

Geelong Magistrates Court was told that Mrs Barbara Muir Denney shot Mr John Walker Denney, 49, twice in the head as he slept, then dumped his body in bushland.

Mr David Hallowes, prosecuting, said Mrs Denney had had an argument with her husband. She later admitted killing him after years of mental and physical abuse.

Mr Hallowes said Mrs Denney, who allegedly wrapped his body in plastic bags and a rug, told police she "simply couldn't take it any more".

Mr Hallowes, in his opening address to a committal hearing, said the couple arrived in Australia from Scotland in 1977. At the time of Mr Denney's death they lived in Vines Road, Hamlyn Heights, Geelong.

He said that on a weekend in 1985, Mrs Denney shot her husband with a rifle after he went to bed, and the next day disposed of his body in an off-track bushy gully near Meredith, between Geelong and Ballarat.

He said that before the skeletal remains were found in 1988, Mrs Denney had told family members her husband had "simply left" and gone to Ballarat, or possibly Darwin.

Police in 1988 were unable to identify the remains, but with the subsequent advancement in DNA techniques, forensic experts established 10 years later that it was 2000 times more likely the body was that of Mr Denney, he said.

Mrs Denney's doctor for 14 years, Dr Geoffrey Harrison, said she was crying and depressed when she told him in 1985 that her husband had walked out on her.

Dr Harrison, questioned by her defence lawyer, Mr Max Perry, said he made no notes between 1985 and this year of Mrs Denney mentioning mental or physical abuse.

Another witness, Dr Murray Anderson-Hunt, told Mr Perry that based on information from Mrs Denney, her husband had a "gross temper disorder", but he admitted it had no medical classification.

Four of the couple's children gave evidence yesterday, including a daughter, Ms Barbara Mary Margaret Denney, who said her parents never argued in front of them and she had never seen any injury or bruising to her mother.

Detective Senior Sergeant Lucio Rovis, of the homicide squad, said police undertook covert electronic surveillance of Mrs Denney, then asked her to visit his office, where she made admissions.

Mrs Denney, of Waitara Grove, Norlane, was committed to stand trial next March on one charge of murder. She reserved her plea.

Copyright (c) David Syme & Co 1999.