Vic man murdered woman, burnt her body

·2-min read

A Victorian man has been found guilty of fatally shooting a woman before burning her body inside a tent.

Supreme Court Justice Rita Incerti found Nicholas James Cross, 34, shot 29-year-old Maddison Pante in the head at a Geelong campsite on December 3, 2018.

The shooting happened sometime between 8.43am and 8.48am after Cross and Ms Pante had an "intense argument" inside the Geelong Showgrounds tent.

Cross then burned the tent, or instructed another person to burn the tent, with Ms Pante's body inside, Justice Incerti said in her judgment on Friday.

Cross gave evidence in his Supreme Court murder trial earlier this year, arguing it was another man who accidentally shot dead Ms Pante.

But Justice Incerti found Cross' evidence was "inherently implausible" and "unrealistically precise".

"The only reasonable explanation for the implausibilities, issues reconciling aspects of his account, and precise recollections ... is that Mr Cross has moulded a version of events to meet the case against him," she said.

Justice Incerti also rejected Cross' explanation for why he fled to NSW after the murder.

Cross told the court he had received an emoji reaction from what appeared to be Ms Pante's phone and panicked because he assumed the police had found her mobile and were coming after him.

"The proposition is fanciful," Justice Incerti said.

"It is abundantly clear that, by the time he allegedly received the notification, Mr Cross was actively avoiding police detection and well advanced in his preparations to flee the jurisdiction."

Justice Incerti found Cross had intended to fire a shot in the middle of Ms Pante's forehead rather than accidentally pulling the trigger.

Cross was remanded in custody ahead of his plea hearing in the Victorian Supreme Court. A plea date is yet to be determined.

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