the Breeze

FENNELL COMMITTED TO STAND TRIAL FOR THE MURDER OF LISELOTTE WATSON

The committal hearing at the Brisbane Magistrate's Court has ruled that Macleay Island junk mail deliverer, Steven Mark John Fennell, will stand trial for the murder of 85-year-old grand mother, Liselotte Watson.

After a three-day hearing on December 15, 16 and 17, Magistrate Noel Nunan declared there was enough evidence for Fennell to stand trial.

Fennell has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Steven Mark John Fennell, 54, was arrested in March 2013 after a lengthy police investigation into the murder of pensioner Liselotte Watson.

Mrs Watson’s lifeless body was found in a pool of blood in the bedroom of her Alistair Court home on November 13.

During the course of the committal hearing, a number of Macleay Island neighbours and residents, along with forensic experts, gave evidence.

Several neighbours spoke of seeing Fennell coming and going at her home around the time she was found dead.

Ulla Doolan told the Brisbane Magistrates Court on the first day of a committal hearing that she saw Fennell’s car parked outside Mrs Watson’s home at 7am on Sunday, November 11, and at other times in the following days.

Carol Bowen told the court she regularly visited Mrs Watson to deliver her daily newspaper.

She said the 85-year-old’s health had deteriorated in the year leading up to her death.

Pizza shop owner Evette Uzzell said she had driven home three times to find Mrs Watson outside her home on the street between 9pm and 9.30pm over a period of two months before her death.

Ms Uzzell said Mrs Watson did not seem disorientated but she kept an eye out for her.

She agreed in cross-examination that Fennell had spoken to her about his concern for Mrs Watson’s state of mind and the fact she was growing forgetful about money.

She said she last saw Mrs Watson standing outside her home in a grey cotton house dress with her hair done around 9.30am Monday, November 12.

Neighbour Cornelia Dobson said Mrs Watson used a walking cane because she had problems with her hip.

She agreed in cross-examination she noticed Mrs Watson would sometimes have groceries delivered and a handy man would visit to do odd-jobs. She also agreed Mrs Watson loaned him between $9000 and $10,000.

Ms Dobson said she saw Mrs Watson standing in the street chatting to someone at the back of a gold-coloured 4WD she did not recognise on November 12, 2012.

“She had quite a distinctive voice, she spoke nicely because she had English and German heritage,” she said.

George Robbins said he used to go to the local pub on Macleay Island to read the paper and drink some beer “most days” between 11am and 1pm.

He said Fennell would attend regularly to gamble.

“I’ve seen Steve Fennell when he has a bet and he watches the TV and gesticulates,” Mr Robbins said.

“I didn’t know how much he would spend but I can tell you, most times, he lost.”

In cross-examination by Mr Donaldson Mr Robbins admitted it was “instinct” that told him Fennell was losing.

He said "he usually put bets on every 15 minutes and saw him win once."

Crown prosecutor James Marxson tendered some 416 witness statements to the court but indicated just 25 would be required for cross-examination during the hearing.

On the second day of the hearing, the court was told by neighbour Evan Dallas that Mrs Watson had told him that weekend she was missing $4000 and that she was concerned it had either been misplaced or stolen.

He told her to go to the police.

On a previous occasion Mrs Watson had offered him $1000 but he refused.

Another resident told the court Mrs Watson was known to carry large wads of cash in her purse and store it in her house.

Mrs Watson was not in good health at the time of her murder, and was a very vulnerable and lonely lady, the court heard.

Fennell was seen entering Mrs Watson's home on numerous occasions around the time she was murdered, witnesses told the court.

Her body was surrounded by a pool of blood and police described the attack as being consistent with suffering a high level of violence.

Neighbour John Cooper said he heard a woman scream and dogs barking late in the morning on either the day before or on the day Mrs Watson's body was found in the bedroom of her home.

Another resident, Mary Roberts, told the court she was woken at 2:40am on the day the body was discovered to dogs barking and a person murmuring, followed by a car driving off.

On the third day of the hearing, the court was told Liselotte Watson may have led a quiet and solitary life but her death was marred by horrific violence.

Forensic pathologist Dr Alex Olumbe said he performed an autopsy on Mrs Watson and found she died of head injuries caused by a blunt object.

Dr Olumbe said it was his belief Mrs Watson died on November 12, but it would make little difference if she was found in the morning or the evening.

He said it was less likely she died on the day her body was found by police.

Witness Lorenzo Suarez told the hearing he met and spoke with Fennell several times while an inmate at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in June, 2013.

He said they spoke numerous times when they were housed together in Unit B3 but could not say whether anyone else saw them talking or what the conversations were about.

Lawn mowing worker Shay Tukerangi said he knew his employer to be a regular gambler but had only seen him put a bet on a handful of times.

“I would say I probably didn’t see him win too often,” he said.

The island’s pub manager Paul Weston said it wasn’t unusual for Fennell to have big wins when he put on a bet.

Fennell’s lawyers conceded there was a prima facie case against the accused.

The island’s former junk mail deliverer was prone to outbursts throughout the hearing and at times wrote furiously in a notebook.

Fennell stood in the dock and made a sarcastic parting shot at Crown prosecutor James Marxson.

“Really helpful to know what day, when you figure it out, let me know,” Fennell called out.

Magistrate Noel Nunan told the court he was satisfied there was a prima facie case for Fennell to answer and formally charged him with Mrs Watson's murder.

A trial date is yet to be set.

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