Killer dug up wife's grave 'over pension'

Toby Mann

A man accused of murdering his young wife later uncovered her body in the shallow grave he had dug so it would be found, to access a pension, a court has heard.

Steve Fesus, 46, is accused of strangling his wife sometime between 9pm on August 11, 1997, and 5am on August 12, 1997, enraged after their relationship had deteriorated after months of squabbling and arguments that sometimes turned violent.

The former bouncer then drove the body of his 18-year-old wife Jodie to Seven Mile Beach, near Gerroa, and buried it in a shallow grave, the opening of his NSW Supreme Court trial heard.

Fesus and his wife shared a bank account and soon after she went missing he tried to apply for a pension, Crown prosecutor Greg Smith SC said.

While filling out forms, he made a telling mistake and ticked the "no" box when asked if his partner was still alive, the court heard.

When questioned about this by a friend, he became "flustered", Mr Smith said.

Fesus was having problems altering his pension, as there was no proof his wife had died.

To resolve this, he returned to Jodie's grave and partially uncovered her body.

"So it would be discovered," Mr Smith said.

An anonymous male had also phoned in a tip about human remains at the beach.

Things were so bad between the couple, who had previously play wrestled in front of friends, that they were accusing each other of cheating and had not had sex since being married in May, 1997, the court heard.

In February that year, during a play fight, Fesus had knocked out his wife to demonstrate a sleeper or choke hold, Mr Smith told the jury.

On the night before she went missing, Jodie and Fesus had argued at a friend's home, enraging Fesus, the court heard.

Fuming, he strangled his wife, bundled her corpse into their family station wagon and drove her under the cover of darkness to the beach, where he buried her in the shallow grave, Mr Smith told the jury.

The next day he went to work briefly and was later seen cleaning their car and home at Mt Warrigal.

But despite his wife not being home all day, Fesus didn't phone any of her friends or relatives, the court heard.

But he did call the local pizza shop.

The defence says Fesus and his wife had argued and had their disagreements, but their marriage was sound.

"Mr Fesus did not do what he is accused of doing," defence barrister Grant Brady said.

No calls were made to anyone and Fesus had carried on with his day as usual because he simply thought his wife had left, he said.

"He wasn't particularly concerned," said.

The couple had met in July 1995 when Fesus was working as a bouncer at a Shellharbour club.

Fesus was 24 while Jodie was 16 and pregnant.

They married in May 1997, despite their relationship having soured in the weeks preceeding it.

The trial continues.