The Crown wants a life sentence imposed on the woman guilty of the murder of Kangaroo Flat mother Samantha Kelly.
But in a pre-sentence hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, it was revealed Christine Lyons believed she was wrongfully convicted of murder and attempted murder when the jury delivered its verdicts in June.
Ronald Lyons too says he is innocent of attempted murder, but admits he helped Peter Arthur, the man who struck the blows that killed Ms Kelly, following the January 2016 murder.
The jury found him not guilty of murder.
Crown prosecutor Fran Dalziel said the verdicts reflected the prosecution’s evidence about the attempt to kill Ms Kelly in the days before her death, and that Christine Lyons, Ronald Lyons and Arthur were all involved in that attempt.
Ms Kelly was drugged with several medications over the course of three days in an attempt to trigger a fatal overdose, before Arthur killed her with a hammer.
The crimes were motivated by Christine Lyons’ desire for Ms Kelly’s four children, a motive Justice Stephen Kaye described as “evil” and “bizarre”.
Ms Dalziel said the evidence showed pre-planning and meditation in both Christine Lyons’ part in the murder and attempted murder, and Ronald Lyons’ part in the attempted murder, particularly conversations about killing Ms Kelly that were given in trial evidence.
She said the ultimate murder of Ms Kelly fell within the context of the planning and failed attempt on her life, showing it was not a spontaneous act.
Arthur is already serving a 22-year sentence, with a minimum of 18 years, for Ms Kelly’s murder.
‘It’s like we’ve lost a paddle to our row boat’
The loved ones of Samantha Kelly have spoken of the harrowing impacts her death has had on their lives, and how they miss the caring mother.
In June, a Supreme Court jury found Ms Kelly’s housemate Christine Lyons, 47, guilty of her murder and attempted murder, and another housemate, Ronald Lyons, 46, guilty of attempted murder and assisting an offender.
Christine Lyons’ partner, Peter Arthur, had previously pleaded guilty to killing Ms Kelly in January 2016 at the Kangaroo Flat home the four adults shared with several children, including Ms Kelly’s four young children.
At a pre-sentence hearing on Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Fran Dalziel read out a statement written by Ms Kelly’s mother, Vivienne Kelly.
“You have stolen the life of my beautiful daughter, who was a sister and a mother,” Ms Kelly wrote.
She spoke of the defendants’ “cruel, horrific, heartbreaking actions”.
“She did nothing to you, just be friends with you all three,” Ms Kelly said.
The murdered woman’s father, Kerry Kelly, said in his statement that his daughter’s death had caused deep pain within the family.
Mr Kelly said he missed his “baby girl”.
“I don’t know if I’ll get over all this bitterness,” he said.
Ms Kelly wanted to give her children everything, her brother Michael wrote.
He said his sister’s death had led to the failure of he and his partner’s cleaning business.
“I struggle with knowing I wasn't there to protect Sam when she needed me the most,” Mr Kelly wrote.
Mr Kelly’s partner, Danielle Stevenson, delivered her statement in person to the court.
“She was and forever will be an amazing mum to four beautiful children,” Ms Stevenson said.
She did not want to be sad about “Sammy”, she said, but she found it hard to keep the images of what “these monsters” had done out of her head.
Ms Stevenson spoke of how Ms Kelly’s loved ones wanted her. “Someone stole her bright bubbly future with her children,” she said.
Ms Kelly’s aunt, Tracey Lubcke, remembered the good times she and her “caring, loving” niece shared.
She said she could no longer listen to certain songs because they put her in tears, and had trouble visiting Warrnambool, where she and Ms Kelly had taken a trip together.
“Sammy’s death has really impacted me and my family, it’s like we’ve lost a paddle to our row boat,” Ms Lubcke said.
Ms Kelly’s 17-year-old cousin described Ms Kelly as “like a second mum to me” and said she still remembered her laugh.
“I feel so lost, confused. I’m angry, so angry, and I’m constantly upset,” she said.
But Christine Lyons’ barrister Peter Kilduff said the jury’s verdicts in convicting his client of murder and acquitting her co-accused of the crime were “inexplicable” and his client maintained her innocence.
He argued that it was of some relevance that Christine Lyons did not strike the fatal blows, and the evidence could not show that she knew the manner in which Ms Kelly was to be killed.
There was no pecking order in the house nor was his client the matriarch, Mr Kilduff said.
He said the motive of killing a mother to gain custody of her children would be a “highly aggravating” factor if coming from a “normal person”, but asserted his client’s moral culpability was reduced.
Christine Lyons wiped away tears as her defence counsel spoke of the sexual, physical and emotional abuse she suffered during a childhood that was characterised by poverty and neglect.
Mr Kilduff said his client had been “parentified”, having had to take care of her infant siblings as a young teenager.
Christine Lyons had an intellectual disability and suffered chronic mood disturbance, he said, referring to a psychiatrist’s report that suggested could have contributed to her “seemingly quite out of character misconduct”.
But Ms Dalziel said while these factors could explain her offending, there was no evidence to show she did not know that what she was doing was wrong.
“She wanted the children and so they had the plan and they put into action,” she said.
Mr Kilduff said his client was vulnerable in prison and likely to remain in protective custody, where she had been placed because of bullying, and her intellectual disability would make her more susceptible to the harmful effects of incarceration.
The court heard Christine Lyons had no prior criminal history, and Mr Kilduff said his client’s prospects of rehabilitation were “at least good”.
Ronald Lyons’ defence counsel, Jarrod Williams, said his client had sought to support his children and engage in work, having mostly undertaken farm work until he he retrained as an aged care worker.
In regards to his client’s criminal history, Mr Williams said there were two minor incidents related to a previous relationship, but before this matter he had never spent time in custody.
He said it was Ronald Lyons’ understanding that he would serve his sentence in protective custody, although it was not known why he was placed there.
He suffered from some health conditions, Mr Williams said, including diabetes, which would make his time in prison more onerous.
The barrister argued a distinction could be made between an offence of the nature of which his client was found guilty and an attempted murder that involved a violent attack such as a stabbing.
He said his client had also invited the jury to find him guilty of assisting an offender, which demonstrated acceptance of responsibility.
Mr Williams said Christine Lyons was someone Ronald had known his whole life and with whom he remained close, even after the end of their intimate relationship.
Christine Lyons has spent 917 days in custody since her arrest on February 11, 2016.
Ronald Lyons has served a total of 731 days.
A sentencing date has not been set.