Kate Stone murder committal: Neighbour claims Stone confessed to fatal fire in Long Gully

Kate Stone, 40, has been charged with murdering her partner Darren Reid in their Long Gully home last year. Police allege she set him on fire, but Stone claims house intruders were responsible. Picture: DARREN HOWE
Kate Stone, 40, has been charged with murdering her partner Darren Reid in their Long Gully home last year. Police allege she set him on fire, but Stone claims house intruders were responsible. Picture: DARREN HOWE

A WOMAN who lived across the road from a Long Gully house where a man was burned to death claims the man's partner confessed to her that she committed the murder.

Kate Stone, 40, appeared at the second day of a committal hearing accused of murdering her partner Darren Reid, 45, in their Derwent Drive home on December 18 last year.

Mr Reid died from his burns on December 19.

Jamie-Lee Haycox, who lived across the road, told the court Stone came to her house about a week after the incident.

When Ms Haycox asked how she was, Stone allegedly made a confession while in her front yard within earshot of children and Ms Haycox's then-boyfriend.

“She replied: ‘Yeah, I’m fine. I did it. I killed him’,” Ms Haycox said.

"(She said) how she got him drunk, put something in his alcohol, I can't say what it was.

"He went to lie down to go to sleep on a single mattress, she poured petrol on him and set him on fire."

Ms Haycox said it was an impromptu confession and, despite their children being best friends, she had only spoken to Stone about four times before.

"I was gobsmacked, I was speechless, I couldn't say anything, I was shocked," she told the court.

Police investigate the house on Derwent Drive in Long Gully. Picture: NONI HYETT

Police investigate the house on Derwent Drive in Long Gully. Picture: NONI HYETT

"I was just like, I didn't say anything. I actually was going to leave, go back inside, and then she professed to tell me how it was done."

The alleged confession was a week after Ms Haycox made a statement to police, which detailed Stone's daughter running to their house urging them to call 000 on the night of the incident.

She did not tell police about the alleged confession until this month because she was living in fear of the consequences, and did not want to add extra stress to ongoing family difficulties.

Ms Haycox came forward when police served a summons for her to appear in court.

"I'm here because it's what's right, she confessed it to me, justice needs to be served," she said.

The court was earlier told that Stone and Mr Reid were panicking on December 18 – the day of the fire – because they owed a $1500 drug debt.

Mr Reid’s sister Janyne Auditori called him at 11.30am and found him to be in a “worried” state.

“I just remember that there was a situation surrounding drugs and they were owing money, so he was just worried about his safety and wellbeing,” she told the court.

“They were going to hurt him if he didn’t have the money back in 24 hours.

“They had nowhere else to go.”

It was the last time she heard from her brother.

Mr Reid had developed an ice habit following the death of his father at the end of 2015, and was introduced to the drug in Griffith while driving long-haul trucks.

A firefighter on the scene told the court the fire was small and was quickly contained. Picture: NONI HYETT

A firefighter on the scene told the court the fire was small and was quickly contained. Picture: NONI HYETT

One nearby resident alleged to the court that Mr Reid had sold his children Buprenorphine – a drug used to cure opioid addiction.

The court heard Mr Reid’s family members were increasingly worried about his drug use.

Nanar Htoo, the next-door neighbour of Stone and Mr Reid, told the court she heard shouting from their house throughout the evening of December 18, starting about 7pm and continuing intermittently.

Emergency services were called to the address shortly after 11.30pm when the fatal fire started.

Via a Karen interpreter, Ms Htoo said she heard a woman shout something similar to “stop doing that”, and a man shout “I’m going to kill you”. She could not be sure of the exact words.

She told the court the shouts were about half an hour before fire crews and an ambulance arrived at the house.

“I heard something like that, but I’m not quite sure what they are saying,” she said.

Several men involved in a confrontation with Mr Reid about three weeks before his death also gave evidence to the court.

Kate Stone was charged with murder on January 4. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Kate Stone was charged with murder on January 4. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Three men attended Mr Reid’s house after an incident at the Long Gully splash park involving their children.

Paul Gibson and Glen Anderson denied being directly involved in the confrontation, and Mr Gibson said he only went to the house to speak to Mr Reid.

A third man was armed with a plank of wood.

Mr Gibson said it was a volatile situation.

“There was a lot of yelling, I couldn’t get a word in, it was a screaming match,” he said.

“Darren came out, he knocked the lady over.

“It was full on, mental stuff.”

No one was assaulted during the confrontation, however.

Leading Senior Constable Shane Bourke attended the house later, and said Stone called the police “f---ing dogs”.

The men were later questioned in relation to Mr Reid’s death, and released without charge.

Acting Sergeant Christopher Gomez spoke to Stone on the night of the fire.

He said Stone – who had burns to her hands – mentioned three men had entered her house and set Mr Reid on fire.

She claimed she recognised one of the men, knew the second via his children, and did not know the third.

Stone continued her version of events to a homicide squad detective in The Alfred Hospital in the hours before Mr Reid’s life support was turned off.

The committal hearing continues in Bendigo on Wednesday.