Keep an open mind, murder trial told

A jury has been told to keep an open mind about whether a man was acting in self-defence or was provoked when he strangled his wife in the Sydney family's garage.

Engracio Songcuan is on trial in the NSW Supreme Court for allegedly murdering his 69-year-old wife Erlinda in their Woodcroft home on May 2, 2020, months after nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed.

Songcuan has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter, saying his actions were like a "dog biting back".

In his opening statement, defence counsel Brian Royce told the jury to "pay attention to the small print" in the trial.

"When you've heard all the evidence it will become clear he's guilty of manslaughter," Mr Royce said.

"If there is a reasonable possibility that the accused was acting in either extreme provocation or self-defence, or both, the legal result is that he's guilty of manslaughter."

A police officer also testified on Tuesday that she attended the Woodcroft home to find Mrs Songcuan cold and without a pulse with a rope tied around her neck in the garage.

The retired accountant forged three notes purporting to be from his now deceased wife to be found by the couple's daughter Catherine.

The jury was shown body-worn footage of the daughter sitting on the floor crying, explaining to police there was a letter from her father left upstairs, which read "cremate our bodies together ... cause of death is heart attack".

On Monday crown prosecutor Adrian Robertson said the couple's relationship worsened from early 2018 with arguments ramping up until the date of the killing, and the pair opting to sleep in separate bedrooms.

In February 2020, the Songcuans signed divorce papers but never formally lodged them.

Two days before the killing, Catherine claims she awoke to her parents arguing in the kitchen.

Mrs Songcuan had found a birthday card addressed to her husband in the garage and was screaming while holding a kitchen knife and hitting him with her slippers, demanding to see her husband's phone and messages, the jury heard.

Accusing her husband of having an affair, Mrs Songcuan was also concerned about money, with around $17,000 allegedly missing from their Westpac bank accounts.

Songcuan has always denied he had an affair.

On May 2, 2020, he claims his wife burst into his room while he was sleeping, threw a television remote at him, and hit him with a 50cm-long object.

"I ran downstairs and went to the garage and she followed me there still hitting me and shouting so I had no choice but to silence her," he told police.

Placing one hand over her mouth, he squeezed her throat for 15 to 20 minutes until she stopped breathing.

He then manipulated the crime scene to make it seem like she had hanged herself and left the body for his daughter to find, the jury heard.

A week or two after her mother's death, Catherine found the divorce papers and Westpac bank statements torn up in their recycling bin.

Mr Robertson urged the jury to find that the strangling was a voluntary, deliberate act done with the intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm.

The barrister rejected any arguments that Songcuan had acted in self-defence or that he had lost control as a result of extreme provocation.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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