Murder accused 'smothered mum with pillow'

·3-min read

A West Australian woman accused of smothering her 71-year-old mother in her home in northern Tasmania then used her credit card to buy plane tickets off the island, a court has heard.

Natalie Maher, 48, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Veronica Corstorphine, whose severely decomposed body was discovered in her bed on October 29, 2019.

Crown prosecutor John Ranson alleged Maher used a pillow to kill her mother on the night of October 3.

He said Maher, who was arrested by police in the city of Bunbury, south of Perth, in November 2019, used Ms Corstorphine's credit card to buy plane tickets on the same day.

She booked two flights from Launceston to Perth a "matter of minutes apart" for October 5 and 11, before travelling on the earlier plane.

"(This was) consistent with her wanting to leave the murder as soon as she could," Mr Ranson told Launceston Supreme Court on Wednesday during opening submissions.

He said there was a $1000 cash advance from Ms Corstorphine's credit card to Maher after 10pm on October 3, followed by a $5000 bank transfer.

The next day, $3500 and $3860 were allegedly transferred to Maher's account.

"The last transaction left (the) account at zero," Mr Ransom said.

Maher later took more than $6000 from her mother's account after it was topped up by automatically deposited superannuation funds, Mr Ranson said.

He said Maher, who had been living with Ms Corstorphine since August 2019, also took her mother's phone, tablet computer and some jewellery.

Defence lawyer Evan Hughes said Maher denied being responsible for her mother's death, describing the case as resting entirely on circumstantial evidence.

Ms Corstorphine's body was found by police after a long-term friend reported her missing when she didn't reply to text messages.

Her body was under a doona, with a pillow on her head and her jumper bunched near her neck, Mr Ranson said.

Mr Ranson said the jury would be presented medical records showing Ms Corstorphine was not expressing suicidal ideation.

However, Mr Hughes said the jury would hear witnesses who would "speak to suicidal ideation" and hear facts supporting the proposition of an intruder entering the house.

He said he disagreed with the prosecution's position that it was unlikely Ms Corstorphine suffered a medical episode or took her own life.

"Don't be too quick to jump to conclusions," Mr Hughes said.

Mr Ranson said Maher's DNA was found around the edges of the pillow, consistent with it being held over her mother's face.

The court heard Ms Corstorphine's computer records were dominated by English history but then showed a discernible change to finance and travel on October 3.

Mr Ranson said a friend of Ms Corstorphine, who called on the night of October 3, spoke to Maher who told him her mother was sleeping, something he thought unusual because she was "known to be a night owl".

Mr Hughes said the bank transfers were consistent with earlier help Ms Corstorphine had given her daughter.

The trial is expected to run for up to a month.

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