Jail the next chapter in wife-killer's 'exemplary life'
A Sydney man who lived "an exemplary life" until the day he had an "uncharacteristic loss of control" and killed his wife has been jailed for at least five years.
Engracio Songcuan, 75, was found guilty of manslaughter in November after strangling his 69-year-old wife Erlinda in the garage of their Woodcroft home in May 2020.
After initially attempting to make it look like suicide, Songcuan quickly abandoned the subterfuge, making frank admissions to police which Justice Stephen Campbell described as tantamount to a full confession when sentencing the retired accountant in the NSW Supreme Court.
The killing was an "aberration" stemming from an "uncharacteristic loss of control", he said on Friday.
"This was not a case where his homicidal conduct was part of an ongoing or escalating pattern of violence by a husband against his wife," the judge said.
"There is absolutely no evidence, or even mere suggestion, of any previous violence by Mr Songcuan."
Speaking to police, Songcuan likened himself to a dog backed into a corner.
His wife had been engaged in a course of threatening, controlling, aggressive and violent conduct over a number of years, which had intensified, and constituted intimidation under domestic violence laws, Justice Campbell said.
It included striking him with shoes, including while he was driving.
She once threw his mobile phone in the toilet, quizzed him about his whereabouts, suggesting he was with his non-existent girlfriend, and threatened to kill him if she caught him being unfaithful, the judge said.
Erlinda had formed what the court found was a mistaken belief her husband had an affair.
She found an almost two-year-old birthday card he received from a coworker and threatened him with a knife two days before he killed her.
Songcuan asked his daughter and the couple's church pastor to help them reconcile, showing he did not intend to kill her, the judge said.
Another fight about money was interrupted and resumed the next morning, when Erlinda barged into Songcuan's separate bedroom and began hitting him with a roll of canvas as he slept.
She followed him to the garage, threatening him with pliers, before he disarmed her.
When he began strangling her she was not posing a threat, the judge said, but Songcuan overreacted.
"I have no doubt that her conduct could have caused an ordinary person to lose self-control to the extent of lashing out at her with the intent of inflicting really serious bodily injury," the judge said.
The loss of control was immediate, no weapon was used, and the attack was not brutal, ferocious or gratuitously violent, the judge said.
Songcuan and his wife lived a "prosocial life" after emigrating from the Philippines.
He worked casually driving autistic children after retiring and they were both heavily involved in their church.
"Looking at the established objective facts, one can say that Mr Songcuan by the ordinary standards of the community lived an exemplary life until (the day he killed his wife)," Justice Campbell said.
He had nonetheless committed a serious act of domestic violence against someone who was entitled to look to him for protection and feel safe in their home.
Songcuan would have received a 10-year sentence had he not pleaded guilty to manslaughter ahead of his trial and eventual acquittal for murder, the judge said.
He has been in custody since May 2020, and the judge took into account his advanced age and the impact COVID-19 had on prisoners and his trial's delay when fixing a total sentence of seven years and six months.
Songcuan is eligible for parole in May 2025.
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