Life in jail for strangling murder of Toowoomba woman
THE lack of remorse shown by Desleigh John Henderson who strangled to death his handicapped friend and house mate Christine Malone continued upon his being found guilty of her murder.
With the words of presiding judge Justice John Byrne, that the law provided but one sentence for those convicted of murder, that of life imprisonment, ringing in his ears, Henderson was led from the court dock.
"This is bull***t," he muttered as he left the courtroom where the family of his victim hugged each other in tearful relief.
Henderson, 60, had pleaded not guilty to strangling Ms Malone in the Gaydon St home they rented on July 12, 2011.
He claimed he had left the house to take their dogs for a walk in a nearby park after arguing with Ms Malone who wanted their german shepherd Rocco removed from the house because it had become aggressive and had bitten a number of people.
Henderson told police he had been at the park for up to 20 minutes and when he returned to the house he found Ms Malone on the floor of her bedroom, unconscious and not breathing.
The post mortem examination found Ms Malone had been strangled by hand and hands.
Crown prosecutor Sarah Farnden told the court the trial had been twice listed for the Supreme Court sittings in Toowoomba but had been delayed because of the defence seeking further expert reports as to what extent Ms Malone's multiple sclerosis may have had in her death.
Ms Farnden said Henderson had shown no remorse throughout and had not co-operated with police or made admissions.
Henderson, who had been in a relationship with Ms Malone when she was about 16 years old, had reunited with her about five years before her death.
For the past four years, he was supposed to be her full-time carer.
Victim impact statements from Ms Malone's children and siblings told of the devastating effect her murder had had on the family, Ms Farnden said.
Ms Malone's daughter Helen, who gave evidence during the trial, read aloud her victim impact statement to the court.
Through tears she told of her mother's love and how her mother had only been a phone call away when ever she was needed.
She said when the police told her of her mother's death, she had asked it her death was natural as "I'd only seen her the day before".
After making a statement at the police station that afternoon, Helen Malone said she had her partner drive past her mother's Gaydon St home to make sure it was all real.
"I just wanted to wake up and find it was only a bad dream," she said.
After her mother's death she had fallen into depression and was now on medication, she said.
She spoke of the pain of trying to explain to her toddler son that the grandma he loved so much had passed away.
Her son had seen Henderson put into a police car at the crime scene on the television news, prompting him to ask a lot of questions.
Her son, who now received counselling once a week at school, still asked questions and would continue to do so, meaning the tragedy would always remain with her, Ms Malone said.
When the jury returned a verdict of guilty, Henderson bowed his head and closed his eyes.
Jury members remained in court to hear Ms Farnden outline Henderson's criminal history which included spending three months in jail in 1973 for failing to remain at the scene of a car accident.
He had also spent four months in jail after being convicted in Toowoomba District Court in 2004 of sexually molesting a 20-year-old intellectually impaired woman who had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old.
As Ms Farnden referred to the facts of that case, Henderson mumbled "that's crap" from the court dock.
Henderson had spent 1039 days in custody since his arrest for the murder of Ms Malone and that time was declared by Justice Byrne as time already served under the life sentence.
A sentence of life in Queensland normally equates to 25 years with the earliest possible release on parole after having served 15 years.