Spider search challenge at murder trial

·3-min read

Google searches about redback spiders may have related to "creepy crawlies" in the house rather than a potential poisoning method, a NSW woman's murder trial has been told.

And searches relating to mushrooms could have related to checking on edible fungi around the rural property, Natasha Beth Darcy's barrister told the Supreme Court jury on Tuesday.

The 46-year-old has denied sedating and gassing her sheep farmer partner Mathew Dunbar, who was found dead on his Pandora property in the Northern Tablelands town of Walcha on August 2, 2017.

She contends the 42-year-old killed himself, but the Crown has rejected her guilty plea to aiding or abetting suicide alleging he was murdered in a bid to inherit his $3.5 million property.

Prosecutor Brett Hatfield has suggested Darcy started looking for ways to murder Mr Dunbar by poison in February 2017, citing searches on her iPhone and on a computer.

But in her closing address, Darcy's barrister Janet Manuell SC asked if that was the only reasonable inference to be made from the searches on mushrooms and redback spiders.

She also questioned whether other people in the household could have made the searches.

Darcy had only been living at the property for a few months in February 2017.

"Were there lots of redback spiders around the property?" Ms Manuell asked.

"Were there spiders in the house, the usual creepy crawlies?"

The barrister asked why Darcy and the other householders wouldn't want to know more about what they were seeing.

Referring to mushroom searches, she suggested they could be checking on fungi they could not eat.

"When's mushroom season around Walcha?."

She said the Crown needed to exclude as a reasonable possibility that Mr Dunbar died by his own hand.

Noting he was diagnosed with depression in 2009, she also referred to his confused sexuality and the devastation he described feeling after the suicide death of a close friend in April 2017.

One week after the friend's death, the computer at Pandora was used for searches about suicide methods.

The Crown has suggested Darcy exploited Mr Dunbar's known depression and "killed him in the manner that she did to make it look like a suicide" after numerous internet searches.

But Ms Manuell noted the day after the suicide method searches, the computer was used to search "how to stop suicidal thoughts".

"Who do you think makes a search for how to stop suicidal thoughts?"

Mr Hatfield has suggested Darcy carried out "two dry runs" before his death including injecting his calf with a ram sedative on July 7, causing him significant leg injury.

"We will be asking you to draw a different inference," Ms Manuell said.

After the couple argued on June 13, Mr Dunbar left the property with a firearm, went to an isolated place before contacting a friend and being taken by ambulance to a psychiatric unit.

She said Darcy tried to ring him 19 times, telling the jury there was no evidence of a text message from her saying "he was doing it for attention" as Mr Dunbar told a doctor.

He had given a history of self-harm in the past, saying he had specific plan on how to kill himself and was having financial and relationship difficulties over the last three weeks.

But he told another doctor he did not have a plan, which meant the jurors had to consider how accurate was his reporting on his mental health.

One doctor concluded Mr Dunbar was "being emotionally manipulated" by Darcy, but Ms Manuell asked how easily could that happen to him.

He had managed to cut his adoptive mother out of his life and did not speak to her for decades.

He had been prescribed anti-depressants and the dosage was increased weeks after his hospital discharge.

Ms Manuell will continue her address on Wednesday.

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