Herald Sun

18 years' jail for arsenic lunches

By WAYNE HOWELL, Supreme Court reporter
Herald Sun (Australia
04may02
THE wickedness of a woman who poisoned her husband with arsenic over 15 months knew no bounds, a Supreme Court judge said yesterday.

Justice Bill Gillard said Lorraine Alice Whyte's heartlessness had turned her husband's life into a living hell.

She regularly laced husband Leonard Moss's work lunches with doses of arsenic from about September, 1982, until the 38-year-old's excruciating death in January 1984, the judge said.

Whyte, now 53, sobbed in the dock of the Supreme Court in Bendigo as she was sentenced to a minimum term of 18 years' jail.

Saying her culpability in her callous crime was of the highest order, Justice Gillard set a maximum term of 22 years.

Whyte, of the Loddon Valley Highway, Bendigo, was found guilty by a jury of murder.

The judge yesterday lambasted Melbourne's Austin Hospital for misplacing a report on Mr Moss in August 1983 which revealed high levels of arsenic in his body.

He said the report only surfaced in January, 1984, too late to save Mr Moss.

"This gross negligence played into your hands," the judge told the sobbing prisoner. "It allowed your callous, heartless actions to go unchecked and undetected."

The judge said Mr Moss's frequent bouts of painful illnesses, which included symptoms such as sweating, his face turning blue, his tongue hanging out, confusion, rashes and painful cramps, had doctors stumped.

"The doctors were mystified but you knew. You were torturing him to death," Justice Gillard said.

The judge rejected Whyte's claims that her husband beat her, shot her dog in front of her and had forced her to have sex with him while he was having sex with a man.

He noted that Whyte had refused to be cross-examined on any of these claims and that her three children denied them.

The judge said Mr Moss had been a good father and a friendly colleague at his meatworks job.

Justice Gillard said even if Whyte's claims of abuse were true they happened long before she started poisoning Mr Moss.

The judge also noted that she continued to "bombard" her husband with arsenic even after he became helpless and wheelchair-bound.

"Your wickedness showed no bounds," Justice Gillard said.

He said that at the end of Mr Moss's life his wife appeared to be caring for him full-time.

"You were nursing him but you were not nursing him to health, but to certain death," Justice Gillard said. "You had no compassion. You were heartless, you were hell-bent on killing him."

The judge said that in the end Whyte had been feeding her husband every week more than 20 times the amount of arsenic that occurs naturally in humans.

He said she did not even stop when a couple of Mr Moss's work mates became violently ill after eating some of his arsenic-laced lunches.

He said one of these colleagues had been forced out of work for months after being poisoned.

Justice Gillard noted it was almost 18 years since Whyte committed her crime and that she had suffered rejection by her children.

He said however there was little evidence of remorse as she had maintained her innocence even after confessing her crime to one of her daughters two years ago.

He said she only made the confession because she thought she could no longer be prosecuted. "How wrong you were," Justice Gillard told her.

© 2002 Herald and Weekly Times