Natasha Darcy should get life sentence for ‘cold-blooded’ murder of Mathew Dunbar, court told
Natasha Darcy, who shocked the quiet NSW town of Walcha with the chilling murder of her partner Mathew Dunbar, will discover in six weeks if she will ever again step foot outside the confines of a prison.
The 46-year-old mother was found guilty in June this year of murdering Mr Dunbar in the early hours of August 2, 2017, in a bid to inherit his $3.5m farm, Pandora.
She researched how to kill Mr Dunbar for months — googling, among other things, “how to commit murder” — before drugging the 42-year-old sheep farmer with a cocktail of sedatives blended in a Nutribullet and gassing him to death in his bed.
Now Justice Julia Lonergan is now tasked with deciding whether Darcy should be imprisoned for life or just for a very long time.
Darcy listened intently to her sentence hearing from Dillwynia women’s prison on Friday, regularly furrowing her brow and occasionally dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.
Crown prosecutor Brett Hatfield told the NSW Supreme Court only a life sentence could reflect the heinousness of Darcy’s actions.
“Her culpability is so extreme because of the degree of planning and persistence, the calculated and cold-blooded nature of the killing, the callous disregard for the deceased and the purely financial motive,” he said.
Mr Hatfield said the relationship between Darcy and Mr Dunbar had been “exploitative” from the outset, as she convinced him to make her the sole beneficiary of Pandora and then set about her grim online research.
He urged Justice Lonergan to find beyond reasonable doubt Darcy had embarked on two “dry runs” before actually killing Mr Dunbar.
Darcy’s “trial and error” approach to the murder meant Mr Dunbar survived an attempted poisoning in June 2017 and then an incident where she drugged him and injected ram sedative into his leg the next month, Mr Hatfield said.
But Darcy’s barrister Janet Manuell SC said the evidence just wasn’t enough.
“It might be suspicious,” she said.
“But we say it’s simply not enough to make a finding beyond reasonable doubt.”
Ms Manuell urged Justice Lonergan not to hand down a life sentence, saying Darcy would be “a completely different person by the time of her release”.
“In that sense, the continued denial of guilt should not be used against her, in the sense of who knows what will happen in the decades to come,” she said.
A neuropsychologist who interviewed Darcy and read material from the trial concluded she had a “complex personality structure” and generalised anxiety disorder, the court was told.
Therapy was a possibility but contingent on Darcy’s willingness to engage, the expert’s report said.
Ms Manuell described Darcy’s extensive search history as “obsessive” and “discomfiting”.
“There’s just something strange about the searches,” she said, adding that while Darcy had attempted to erase her online history, she had not tried to ditch her phone.
Mr Hatfield read aloud a statement from Mr Dunbar’s adoptive mother, Janet, who described her son as “so kind-hearted”.
“If Mathew only had the shirt on his back he would give it to anyone who needed it, whether he knew them or not,” she said.
“Mathew was my only child, and now I am on my own. I have lost my rock and my life will not the same again.”
The trial heard evidence Mr Dunbar had a difficult relationship with his mother and they were estranged.
“Still, she was his mother, and she’s clearly been affected by his loss,” Mr Hatfield said on Friday.
The jury that convicted Darcy heard evidence that eight years before she killed Mr Dunbar, she had hit her ex-husband, Colin Crossman, in the head with a hammer as he slept and, days later, set the house alight as Mr Crossman slumbered under the influence of sedatives.
It was also revealed she had offered a friend $20,000 to lie at her trial for Mr Dunbar’s murder, writing that she had been inspired by an episode of Frasier in which Niles asks Frasier to lie in court, sparking a moral dilemma.
The friend was appalled and cut off contact, prompting a second letter from Darcy in which she joked about friends being there to help each other “hide the body”.
Towards the end of Friday’s hearing, Darcy steepled her hands and lightly tapped the tips of her fingers together for several minutes, her eyes darting back and forth.
She will be sentenced on December 3.
Originally published as Natasha Darcy should get life sentence for ‘cold-blooded’ murder of Mathew Dunbar, court told
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