THE woman accused of murdering a Walcha grazier in order to inherit a multi-million-dollar property has been refused bail after making a fresh bid for release.
More detail of how the Crown alleges Natasha Beth Darcy, also known as Darcy-Crossman, killed her de facto partner Mathew Dunbar, was revealed in a lengthy bail application heard in Tamworth Local Court on Wednesday afternoon.
Darcy, 42, is yet to enter a plea to the charge of murdering Mr Dunbar on August 1 last year on his property Pandora, outside of Walcha – the same property the Crown claims was the motive for his killing.
In November last year, The Leader revealed it was the police case that in the nine days prior to Mr Dunbar’s death, Darcy allegedly searched ‘murder by injection, ‘the science of getting away with murder’, ‘99 undetectable poisons’, ‘arsenic’ as well as various methods of suicide.
Police will allege that many of these searches relate to certain methods of causing death that are undetectable or hard to locate during a post-mortem.
The applicant has denied those searches.Barrister Tracey Randall
On Wednesday, the court heard that Darcy, who is being held in custody at Mary Wade Correctional Centre in Picton, will argue her Apple ID was synced to multiple devices including an iPad in the house, meaning the search history could have been someone else in the house.
“The applicant has denied those searches,” barrister Tracey Randall told the court.
“That will be significant evidence.”
She said “there will be some real technical issues” which would need “to be ventilated at trial”.
THE DEFENCE BAIL APPLICATION
The court heard Darcy’s family had offered surety of $75,000, and she could live with her former partner in Walcha if granted bail.
Darcy has been in custody since she was denied bail in November last year in a weekend bail court, a day after her arrest by Oxley detectives.
Ms Randall said there was a combination of issues that showed why Darcy’s detention was not justified.
She submitted Mr Dunbar had a history of depression; and “had threatened suicide”, where police intervened, “firearms were removed from his property” and he was hospitalised.
He also had been on medication and his symptoms had been “worsening”, Ms Randall told the court.
That's essentially the case that might be put forward by death by another means.Barrister Tracey Randall
“There was significant factors in his life that may have resulted in the death being a suicide,” she said.
“That's essentially the case that might be put forward by death by another means.”
She argued the sedative that “was found in his system” was a common one used to treat livestock and Darcy had obtained it to shoe a horse.
She rejected the Crown’s assertion that Darcy tried to disguise her identity when buying it at a local vet practice several weeks before Mr Dunbar’s death.
Ms Randall said “she's indicated the young girl that served her on the day was having significant difficulty” fulfilling some of the entries, and “there were other errors made” by the same vet employee.
“Why would the applicant go to such lengths to disguise her identity”, she asked the court, “and then provide the email address?” that showed her full name.
The court heard Darcy had been “co-operative” and “participated in four interviews with police”.
Ms Randall argued Darcy could live with her children, remain under house arrest in Walcha and report daily to police.
“[The] show-cause issue is that it is a circumstantial case and I've put forward an alternative hypothesis,” Ms Randall said.
THE CROWN CASE
The court heard there would be a “significant” delay because “it’s a complex brief” spanning 12 volumes of evidence.
The Crown prosecutor said “bail is absolutely opposed”, submitting the defence’s “criticisms … if I can put it that way” of the case could be argued.
“This is a very strong Crown case,” he told the court on Wednesday.
This is a very strong Crown case.Crown prosecutor
“Circumstantial cases can be very, very strong."
He said the motive “being inheritance” was because Darcy was told she would be made “the sole beneficiary of the will” in a recorded jail call.
“The applicant was told … [Pandora] would be hers if anything happened to him,” he said, adding it was something that was denied by Darcy: “that she didn’t have any knowledge of that".
He told the court there was no evidence, and “nothing to suggest there was any suicidal thought” by Mr Dunbar at the time of his death.
“He was making future plans, he saw his surgeon [about a leg injury],” the prosecutor said, and shortly before his death “he was told that the surgeon was happy with his progress”.
“He was in the initial stages of recovery.”
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The Crown said there was “evidence of Ms Darcy conducting those searches” with CCTV from a local eatery in Tamworth.
He said the web searches were multiple and it was “not as if there is a single use”.
“There is a history of constant and regular use of this phone,” he said.
The prosecutor said the CCTV showed Mr Dunbar walking into a local restaurant and Darcy on her phone when, the Crown alleges, she searched “suicide bag, euthanasia device … helium … and the like,” the prosecutor said on Wednesday, adding “suicide by poison” and “want to get away with murder, or getting away with murder”.
“Searches that were obviously made by the applicant,” he told the court.
He said Darcy had allegedly tried to obtain a “ram sedative” but “those inquiries flagged members of the public to not provide the drug in the first place,” he said, arguing Mr Dunbar had told the staff he had not made the order for the drug.
“He confirmed with them that was not the case,” the prosecutor told the court, adding Darcy then allegedly “used a fake name the second time”, which was “another strong piece supporting the Crown case”.
The prosecutor submitted “with those searches and obtaining those sedatives, together with the knowledge with the likely result” of the property windfall, the court “would see that as a significantly strong Crown case”.
THE BAIL DECISION
In reply, Ms Randall said it was “my submission it’s not clear that the searches were conducted” by Darcy because of the web browser syncing.
“There was an iPad in the house that was used by everybody,” she said, adding Darcy had bought the sedative to shoe a horse months before Mr Dunbar’s death.
“It’s a sedative for livestock; it’s not in particular used for rams.
“It’s not like this purchase was the day before – it was in June.”
Magistrate Julie Soars said the show-cause test for bail to be granted relied upon the defence proving Darcy’s detention was not justified, pointing to the delays “in relation to a complex murder investigation … a complex brief”.
The circumstantial case and there is an alternative hypothesis for the death of the deceased being death at his own hand.Magistrate Julie Soars
“The circumstantial case and there is an alternative hypothesis for the death of the deceased being death at his own hand,” she told the court.
“There are explanations for a number of matters raised by the police, said to make up the Crown case.”
But it wasn’t enough, and Darcy will remain behind bars until November.
“I find that it is significant; it is significantly, sufficiently strong,” she said of the case.
“Cause has not been shown and I refuse bail.”
Mr Soars was told the “brief is largely complete” but the defence needed time to consider the evidence and start the negotiation period with a Crown prosecutor, who would soon be appointed.
She was also told a Section 91 hearing, where witnesses would be called by the defence to give evidence at a contested committal hearing, would be needed.
The case has been adjourned for eight weeks. Darcy will return to court in November.