A Wollongong lawyer who died when her house was deliberately set on fire was murdered by her estranged partner and a former friend who were having a secret affair, a court has heard.
Supreme Court jurors were on Wednesday told the alleged love triangle between the deceased woman, Katie Foreman, her on/off boyfriend Bradley Max Rawlinson, and once-close friend Wendy Anne Evans, would be at the centre of the trial of three people accused of orchestrating and carrying out the murder.
Prosecutors allege Rawlinson and Evans were desperate to have Ms Foreman ‘‘gone’’ from their lives so they could be together, and agreed to pay to have her killed.
Text messages between the pair in the month before Ms Foreman’s October 2011 death revealed their close relationship and the shared ‘‘ill-feelings’’ they had towards Ms Foreman, Crown prosecutor Chris Maxwell, QC, said.
The messages included: ‘‘Yeah, so do I but just keep thinking, one more week then she’s gone and we are away from her’’, and ‘‘I want to be with you till I die. I hope you understand the various reasons why it needs to happen to her now. I love you’’. Both were sent from Rawlinson’s phone to Evans, Mr Maxwell said.
It is alleged Evans enlisted western Sydney couple Bernard Justin Spicer and Michelle Sharon Proud to help with the murder plan, and it was eventually Evans and Spicer who crept into Ms Foreman’s Corrimal home in the early hours of October 27, threw petrol into her bedroom and set it alight.
Mr Maxwell described the blaze as ‘‘ferocious’’.
An amateur video, shot by a neighbour shortly after the fire ignited and played to the jury yesterday, showed flames leaping from Ms Foreman’s second-storey bedroom window.
Firefighters discovered Ms Foreman’s body on the landing immediately outside her bedroom.
A post-mortem examination conducted the following day found widespread, severe burns on Ms Foreman’s body, as well as ‘‘black debris’’ in her airways and lungs, leading doctors to conclude she had been alive and breathing for part of the fire, but died from a combination of direct heat injury and the effects of inhaling noxious products.
Evans, Rawlinson, Spicer and Proud were subsequently charged with Ms Foreman’s murder.
Evans pleaded guilty to murder last year, however, Rawlinson, Spicer and Proud indicated they would fight the charge and formally entered not guilty pleas to murder at the start of the trial on Tuesday.
Guilty pleas to lesser charges – Rawlinson to manslaughter and Spicer to break and enter and commit a serious indictable offence, namely lighting the fire – were rejected by the Crown.
In his opening address in the case, Mr Maxwell said despite the fact only Evans and Spicer were physically present at the house when the fire was lit, the jury could find each of the accused guilty of the murder charge if they believed they were part of a criminal group (with Evans) that had agreed to kill or seriously injure Ms Foreman.
Jurors could also return a guilty verdict on the murder charge if they believed the alleged group – referred to as a joint criminal enterprise – had agreed to harm Ms Foreman, and in doing so, contemplated that serious bodily harm could come to her, Mr Maxwell said.
Jurors were also given a third option to consider – that Spicer’s actions that evening showed he was ‘‘recklessly indifferent’’ to the continuation of Ms Foreman’s life.
The trial continues today in Sydney.