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Double murderer begs not to be released

Darren John Chalmers has pleaded guilty to the murder of Annette Steward in 1992. Picture: Supplied.
Darren John Chalmers has pleaded guilty to the murder of Annette Steward in 1992. Picture: Supplied.

A double killer has begged a court to never release him from jail, as details on how he murdered a Geelong mum are finally revealed.

Darren John Chalmers, 56, returned before the Supreme Court on Wednesday for a presentence hearing after pleading guilty the cold-case murder of Annette Steward in 1992.

The court was told Chalmers had written a one-page letter to the court — the full details of which were not aired.

In it, Chalmers asked “never to be released”.

“No parole for 40 years, not 20, not 30; please 40 years-plus, I think I deserve it,” he wrote.

Outlining the case, Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd KC, said Ms Steward, 29, was found naked and strangled to death in her home on March 18, 1992, by her former housemate David Grant, who had attended to collect his belongings.

Annette Steward - Murdered 18th March 1992 Picture: Unknown
Annette Steward’s children, Jacinta Martin and Aaron Steward, told the court their mother was ‘free and fun’. Picture: Supplied

Despite a significant investigation at the time, she said no one was charged and the case went cold.

But the case was revived more than 20 years later when a man came forward and revealed to police that Chalmers’s brother, Jamie, had once confided in him that Darren Chalmers confessed.

Detectives then tested DNA evidence collected at the time, learning a hair on Ms Steward’s body “could have originated” from Chalmers or a relative.

Chalmers had since moved to Perth and was working as a gardener, where police learnt he was a “person of interest” in the 2019 disappearance of Dianne Barrett, 60.

The two respective police forces partnered up for a covert investigation which culminated with Chalmers confessing to undercover operatives his role in both murders.

Ms Judd told the court he did so believing he would “secure a significant financial benefit for himself”.

Chalmers was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2021 after admitting he murdered Ms Barrett, his then neighbour, with a metal pole and his bare hands for no reason.

He was transferred to Victoria in March this year to face court over Ms Steward’s death, pleading guilty just five months later.

DARREN CHALMERS
Darren Chalmers, now 56, was aged 25 when the murder occurred. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

Ms Judd told the court Chalmers had murdered her two days earlier on March 16, just hours after he was introduced to her for the first time.

He had visited her home for a coffee with a friend who was dating Ms Steward, leaving after about 45 minutes.

Hours later he turned up on her doorstep with a “Darwin stubby”, saying he had “no one to celebrate his birthday with” and asking to come in.

His birthday was a day earlier on March 15.

Ms Steward agreed, and they drank a bit before she said he could spend the night on her couch.

An hour later, he rose and murdered Ms Steward by bashing her head three times with an iron before strangling her with a cord.

He then left by the back door.

Chalmers, a large man with a white handlebar moustache and tattoos down both arms, remained still as details of the murder were read out, his eyes fixed on the floor.

Annette Steward - Murdered 18th March 1992
The 1992 homicide investigation went cold. Picture: Supplied.

Ms Steward’s two children, Jacinta Martin and Aaron Steward, told the court their lives were ripped apart when she was murdered.

“We were left to feel like a burden on our families,” Ms Martin said through tears.

I know telling you this will change nothing … All this does for us is end a chapter in our lives that has gone unanswered for so long.”

Ms Judd called on Justice Andrew Tinney to impose life imprisonment without parole, saying this was a “deliberate, calculated and unprovoked” attack.

“It is an incredibly violent and sustained attack … on a woman in her home that was showing the offender kindness,” she said.

Ms Judd told the court Chalmers remained a “grave danger” to the community and pointed out the disturbing similarities between the two murders 27 years apart.

She said Chalmers had never given an explanation for either attack.

DARREN CHALMERS
The court was told Chalmers (left) had requested to never be released. Picture: NCA Newswire / David Geraghty

His barrister, Amy Brennan, acknowledged the “brutal” circumstances of Ms Steward’s murder, but said it did not warrant life imprisonment without parole.

Ms Brennan told the court her client had a difficult childhood and spent time as a ward of the state.

She pointed to his background of trauma and abuse, saying it had led to lifelong mental health issues.

“The inexplicability of conduct does not automatically catapult this case into the most serious category,” she sad.

“This is not a case where the court should impose life without parole.”

Justice Andrew Tinney reserved his sentence to a later date, saying he would “endeavour” to sentence Chalmers before the end of the year.