WARNING: Confronting details
It was just six words Sharon Graham spoke which sparked the grisly plot to murder her ex.
“It’s just got to be done.”
Within a week of the chilling statement, two other men would dispose of Bruce Saunders, her ex-partner, in the machine while they were clearing trees at a property near Gympie in 2017.
All of it was made to look like an accident, so as not to arouse suspicion.
More details about the horrific death of Mr Saunders, a Nambour butcher, at the hands of Graham and two other men can be revealed after sweeping suppression orders were lifted by the court.
Gregory Roser and Peter Koenig were two frequently mentioned names throughout Graham’s murder trial at Brisbane Supreme Court in October.
Their fates went unmentioned through the trial, but it can now be revealed Koenig’s evidence played a key role in convicting the two lovers, who took the life of a “loving, kind, gentle and hardworking” man.
Graham pleaded not guilty to plotting the murder of Mr Saunders, 54, while he, Roser and Koenig were clearing trees at a property near Gympie in November 2017.
Mr Saunders died after being dragged through an industrial woodchipper he hired for the work.
While his death was initially regarded as a tragic accident, police investigations later uncovered the act was part of a sinister plot by Graham to claim the contents of Mr Saunders’ will and his $750,000 life insurance policy.
All three men were involved, or had been involved, in a twisted love quadrangle with Graham, 63, at the centre.
She had been dating Roser at the time of the murder after leaving Mr Saunders for him.
Koenig had a “tortured friendship” with her that was intimate and sexual from time to time.
Last month, Graham was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty on October 28 of Mr Saunders’ murder.
She was the last of the trio to be convicted.
Both Roser and Koenig’s convictions can now be revealed after the Supreme Court lifted suppression orders preventing publication of their pre-trial matters and sentences earlier this year.
Roser was last year convicted by a jury of Mr Saunders’ murder after pleading not guilty to the charge.
He too was sentenced to life in prison.
Graham initially stood trial with Roser in September last year, but a judge ordered she be tried separately from Roser due to concerns of a jury needing to take in too much evidence.
Koenig, who was a key witness in the Crown case against Graham, pleaded guilty to a charge of accessory after the fact to murder in July 2022.
He had been in custody since his arrest in 2018.
Koenig’s murder charge was subsequently dropped and he was released from jail after receiving a suspended sentence.
In exchange, he signed a statement implicating Graham and Roser in Mr Saunders’ murder and agreed to give evidence against the pair at their respective trials.
Koenig told the court he was repeatedly asked by Graham to kill Mr Saunders for his life insurance policy.
Graham arranged for the three men to clear trees for Sharon Beighton, a recently widowed woman who was planning to sell her Goomboorian property.
On November 5, during the second weekend of clearing, Koenig overheard Graham asking Roser why “Bruce hadn’t been killed”.
Mr Koenig told the jury that Mr Roser replied: “There were too many people around and the machine was playing up as well.”
She responded with: “It’s just got to be done.”
The act itself occurred on November 12 – a week later – when Roser bashed Mr Saunders in the head with a metal bar.
“He (Roser) asked me to give him a hand to bring him down to the woodchipper,” Koenig said in his evidence.
“I had his legs, Greg had his arms.
“I took him down and stopped a couple of times down there.”
The pair then fed Mr Saunders headfirst into the machine.
All that remained of Mr Saunders were his legs – from the top of his thighs to his feet.
The Crown argued this had the dual purpose of destroying evidence of Roser’s attack on Mr Saunders as well as supporting the false claim that he died in an “accident” by falling into the woodchipper.
In a 2022 judgment concerning the separation of Graham and Roser’s trials, Graham had chillingly hinted at Mr Saunders’ fate weeks before the fatal act.
About three months before Mr Saunders’ death, Graham and a former partner were out fishing on Tin Can Bay in central Queensland.
“Graham ‘mused’ that it would be easy to take someone fishing and that person not come back,” the judgment states.
“The second conversation allegedly took place only a matter of weeks before Mr Saunders’ death.
“Graham told (her former partner) that a property is going to be cleared and that there will be an accident.”
Koenig’s initial story was undone during police interviews when small blood droplets were discovered on the woodchipper’s tailgate.
Detectives said these droplets appeared to come from a vertical source and not from the gruesome disposal of Mr Saunders’ body.
“It suggests Bruce has been assaulted … and placed into the chipper by you, or Greg, or both of you,” one of the detectives tells Koenig during his police interview.
Koenig initially suggests the droplets came from a wound Mr Saunders suffered when a branch fell on him.
In the tape, the detectives aren’t convinced.
“It (the blood) doesn’t magically appear there,” one said.
“The ‘I don’t know’ is a bit hard to take when you’ve got a significant blood pattern.”
Graham had denied any involvement in procuring the murder, insisting she thought Mr Saunders’ death was an accident.
Supreme Court Justice Martin Burns said the 63-year-old displayed “deep-seated psychopathy” in her planning of Mr Saunders’ murder.
“There are no words for the likes of you,” he said to Graham as she was led away to begin her life sentence.
“Even if there were, I do not wish to detract in any way from the statements … which have eloquently described the real horror of what you did and the profound impact it has had and will continue to have.”