A 66-year-old California Gully woman who enjoyed four-wheel-driving was killed in her home by her husband at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Victorian State Coroner has found.
Catherine Claudia Thomas, who worked as a secretary at a solicitor's office in her youth, was shot by her husband Maurice Thomas, who turned the gun on himself in November last year.
Judge John Cain, State Coroner, gave his condolences to her family as he handed down his findings yesterday.
"The available evidence in this case suggests that in the lead up to the fatal incident, Mr and Mrs Thomas experienced several significant relationship stressors including finances and deceased estate disputes, their daily care needs with advanced age and the stress over isolation from the COVID pandemic,'' he said.
"Mr Thomas had concerns about his own deteriorating health and that of Mrs Thomas.
"Both Mr and Mrs Thomas also suffered from social isolation due to the COVID pandemic lockdown restrictions in Victoria that prevented them from 4WD activities, seeing close friends and family members and Mr Thomas visiting his dying father in hospital prior to his passing in August 2020."
Mr Cain ruled out a mercy-killing, saying there was no evidence Mrs Thomas knew about or consented to her husband's actions.
The coroner said she had some health conditions, including lupus, but there was nothing interfering with her day-to-day life nor was any proposed medical treatment likely to affect her mobility.
In spite of this, Mr Thomas told a relative in mid-2020 that his wife's lupus condition was very bad and that she might need a wheelchair before the end of the year.
He expressed concern he wouldn't be able to support her due to his bad shoulder.
"None of these concerns, however, were supported by the available medical evidence which indicated that Mrs Thomas had no anticipation of a wheelchair or becoming significantly unwell,'' Mr Cain said.
The couple was last seen alive together on their daily walk on the afternoon of November 23, 2020.
"Violence perpetrated by an intimate partner is particularly shocking, given that all persons have a right to safety, respect and trust in their most intimate relationships," Mr Cain said.
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