Bendigo woman Kate Marie Stone will spend at least 28 years of her life behind bars for the "vicious" murder of her partner, Darren Reid.
Stone, 41, was sentenced in the Supreme Court in Bendigo on Friday to 34 years' imprisonment with a non-parole period of 28 years.
Mr Reid was attacked late on the night of December 18, 2016 at the Long Gully home he shared with Stone and some of their five children.
Stone doused him in enamel thinner and ignited it, leaving the 45-year-old with burns to 95 per cent of his body, including his upper airways.
His injuries were not survivable and he died in a Melbourne hospital the following afternoon.
[T]he manner in which you murdered Mr Reid was vicious... You could not have been ignorant of the unbelievable terror and pain you would unleash upon him the moment you ignited the fuel.Justice Lesley Taylor
Justice Lesley Taylor said the gravity of Stone's offending and her moral culpability were "extremely high".
"First, the manner in which you murdered Mr Reid was vicious," Justice Taylor said.
"You knowingly poured a highly flammable liquid on Mr Reid.
"You could not have been ignorant of the unbelievable terror and pain you would unleash upon him the moment you ignited the fuel."
Justice Taylor described Stone's behaviour as "barbarous": Mr Reid remained conscious throughout the ordeal and spent his final hours awake in agony and believing he would die.
The murder was the "ultimate act of family violence", she said, and no matter what had transpired between Stone and Mr Reid, he had a right to be safe in his own home.
"Your actions are a violation of the sanctity of the home and a massive breach of trust," Justice Taylor said.
Two of Stone and Mr Reid's daughters, then aged 16 and 11, were at home at the time of the murder. Justice Taylor said Stone was "utterly indifferent" to the impact on them.
She also condemned Stone's blaming of others for the murder, noting Stone identified those she accused which led to the arrest of three men on suspicion of murder.
"To deny your own guilt is one thing. To maliciously nominate others as responsible is wicked in the extreme," she said.
In sentencing Stone, Justice Taylor said denunciation of her conduct was an important consideration, as was deterrence and protection of the community.
She labelled Stone's actions as "despicable".
"For no obvious reason, you ended the life of the man you say you loved in an excruciating manner, making him suffer unimaginable pain and fixing him with the belief he would die," Justice Taylor said.
"You did so in the sanctity of the family home and while two of his children were close by.
"You invented a patently false story and perpetuated it as far and wide as possible, thereby ensnaring three innocent men in a murder investigation."
The motive for the crime was not clear, she said, but it must have been rooted in Stone's relationship with Mr Reid.
Justice Taylor said she found it difficult to assess Stone's prospects of rehabilitation given limited information but characterised them as "not bad".
She agreed with the Crown that a sentence of life imprisonment was not warranted, in spite of the gravity of the crime.
Stone's lawyer indicated she still planned to appeal.
She spent 919 days in custody before sentencing.
Emergency services were called to Mr Reid and Stone's Derwent Drive home at 11.38pm on December 18, 2016 by a neighbour.
The neighbour was alerted by the couple's youngest daughter, who came running to his door screaming that her dad was on fire.
When firefighters and paramedics arrived they found Mr Reid in the bath, conscious but severely burned.
He was taken to Bendigo Health before he was airlifted to The Alfred in Melbourne, where he was placed in an induced coma.
But his injuries were insurmountable and he died the following day when life support was removed.
It was found he had been doused in a mixture of toluene and xylene, or enamel thinner, before he was set alight.
From the beginning, Stone blamed others for the crime.
She named one man as the perpetrator, implicated another as being involved and said there was a third present when Mr Reid was attacked.
Stone said these same three men had previously attended the house and threatened her after an incident involving her and Mr Reid's son and other children at the Long Gully Splash Park.
Police arrested and interviewed three men on suspicion of murder.
But Stone was unable to identify the two men she named from photo boards and her descriptions did not match their appearances.
She identified one photo as being that of the main alleged perpetrator, but her identification was wrong - and that person was in custody the night Mr Reid was attacked.
Stone told police the attacker had thrown petrol on both her and Mr Reid the night of the murder.
But neither her clothing nor that of the men she blamed carried any trace of flammable liquid.
Stone's minor burn injuries also did not accord with her claim that she was standing close by Mr Reid when he was set alight.
She was arrested and charged on January 4, 2017.
Stone's murder trial began in the Supreme Court in Bendigo on October 22 last year. Over the following four weeks, the jury heard from 41 witnesses, including neighbours, family, emergency service workers, medical and forensic experts, and the men Stone blamed for the crime.
Mr Reid's mother, Valda Webb, gave evidence that in her last phone call with her son the month before his death he said he was afraid for his life and Stone had chased him down the street with a knife.
His stepmother, Norma Auditori, said he had told her he was not happy with Stone and was leaving her, and planned to stay at her home the night he was attacked.
Neighbours told the court they heard yelling the night of the murder, and had heard arguing in the months they lived next door.
Two other neighbours said Stone told them she "did it" when asked how she was after Mr Reid's death.
The court heard evidence from the older of the daughters who were home that night, who said the perpetrator was the same man identified by Stone.
In sentencing, Justice Taylor said the children must have blamed this man under the influence of their mother.
The daughter said she saw her father engulfed in flames and he told her he was dying, but he loved her.
The jury also heard it was likely Stone contributed to the DNA found on the handle of a tin of enamel thinner found in the next-door neighbour's backyard.
- Day 1: Murder trial begins for woman accused of setting partner alight
- Day 2: Murdered Bendigo man in fear for his life, mother tells court
- Day 3: Couple heard yelling in hours before fatal Long Gully fire
- Day 4: Murdered man told paramedic he did not know attacker, court hears
- Day 5: Daughter says three men set father on fire in Long Gully
- Day 6: Murder accused told police men were to blame for death
- Day 7: Man denies talking 'revenge' after confrontation with murdered man
- Day 8: Man not in area night of fatal Long Gully attack, court hears
- Day 9: Neighbours heard death threats before murder, court hears
- Day 10: Man tells court he was home the night of Darren Reid's murder
- Day 11: Long Gully murder accused said she 'did it', neighbour tells court
- Day 12: Long Gully murder trial hears DNA evidence
- Day 13: Fire expert gives evidence to Long Gully murder trial
- Day 14: Murder accused's police interview played in court
- Day 15: Forensic evidence points to guilt, prosecution says
- Day 16: Murdered man's words show Stone is not guilty, defence says
- The verdict: Long Gully woman found guilty of murder
Stone herself, while not called to give evidence, was sometimes vocal during the trial.
During the video evidence of her daughter, she laughed at references to Mr Reid hating a certain romantic comedy, but had tears streaming down her cheeks when her daughter's distress was apparent.
She also scoffed at the evidence of some witnesses, particularly that of the man she blamed for Mr Reid's death.
Mr Reid's family attended every day of the trial, maintaining a stoic silence throughout.
But their distress was evident, especially as the details of their loved one's death was laid bare.
About halfway through the trial, one of the 13 jurors was discharged after realising that the name of one of the witnesses was the same as that of a man who had once been arrested in relation to his stolen car.
Justice Taylor said not only must justice be done, but it must be seen to have been done.
There was another issue when, about halfway through the third week, Stone said a custody officer asked her something like, "Did you murder your husband?"
Defence barrister Peter Kilduff said this bordered on contempt of court and obstruction of justice.
Mr Kilduff said he would ask for the entire jury to be discharged if it occurred again. Justice Taylor described the conduct of the member as "appalling".
But a few days later, Stone reported that another officer asked her, "Did you do it?"
The jury did not hear evidence that day, as Mr Kilduff said Stone could not properly instruct him due to her mental state resulting from the interaction with the officer.
But the trial continued and on November 20, the day after retiring, the jury returned a verdict of guilty.
Outside court yesterday, Mr Reid's family said they were satisfied with the sentence handed down to Stone.
"We've got a sentence we thought we were going to get, or were hoping to get," Mr Reid's brother Michael Auditori said.
"But at the end of the day, it still won't bring him back.
"She's still sucking air, he's not. All we can do is try to move on and live life the best we can now."
His mother, Valda Webb, said justice had definitely been done.
But the family said there was no closure and the death of their beloved son and brother was not something they could walk away from.
"The only thing that comforts me is that [Stone] can't hurt, abuse, threaten or control him ever again, and he is now safe, happy," Ms Webb said.
She thanked everyone who supported the family throughout their ordeal.
His sister, Janyne Auditori, also thanked the legal team for their "hard work and dedication in seeing justice prevail".
She said she would love and miss her brother, always.
"I'm still struggling to deal with Darren's death, every day," Ms Auditori said.
"It's hard to believe he's gone. Darren and I were very close and I miss him so much."
His mother described him as someone with a "beautiful heart".
"He'd do anything for anyone - if he could help someone, he'd do it," Ms Webb said.
"He's up there with his grandmother now, and father... He just loved his family."
Ms Webb remembered the close relationship Mr Reid and his young son enjoyed, describing them as best friends.
"He went everywhere in the truck with Darren. Where Darren was, [he] was," she said.
When asked what the family would say to Mr Reid now, Ms Webb said it would be how much they loved him and missed him, and that he was in their hearts every moment of every day.
"He's always a part of us, everywhere we go we can see him," she said.
"In our homes, whatever we're doing... Darren is there with us.
"He's always by our sides, all the time."
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