A widow accused of killing Walcha grazier Mathew Dunbar offered a high school friend $20,000 to make a false statement in the lead up to her murder trial, a court has heard.
Natasha Beth Darcy, 46, is accused of propositioning her friend in a letter she wrote from jail while awaiting trial for Mr Dunbar’s murder.
Ms Darcy is accused of sedating and murdering Mathew Dunbar in 2017 after she was made the sole beneficiary of his multi-million-dollar Merino property at Walcha near Tamworth.
Following eight weeks of evidence in her murder trial, Crown prosecutor Brett Hatfield reminded the jury of the letter Ms Darcy had penned during his closing address, having previously read the letter aloud to the NSW Supreme Court.
“(Her friend) received a letter offering her $20,000 to tell a number of quite specific lies about Mr Dunbar to assist the accused in this murder trial,” Mr Hatfield told the jury.
He told the court the letter showed a “consciousness of guilt” and also illustrated she knew she stood to inherit the $4.65 million property ‘Pandora’ despite her telling police and friend she had no idea she’d been made the beneficiary.
“I’m going to make you a proposition and see if you can be the one to help me,” Ms Darcy wrote to her friend in January 2020.
Ms Darcy then outlines her plan, inspired by the 1990s sitcom Frasier, where one of the characters struggles with the “moral dilemma” of whether to lie for a friend in a court case.
“I was watching an episode of Frasier when Niles needed him to lie in court and say he didn’t know that Niles was in love with Daphne,” Ms Darcy wrote.
“It got me thinking if only I could ask somebody to say that Mathew told them he was planning his suicide maybe a few or several days before he passed.”
At the time of Mr Dunbar’s death, on August 2, 2017, Ms Darcy told police and friends the 42-year-old had suicided using a combination of helium and drugs.
But at the start of her murder trial she told the court she was guilty of “aiding and abetting suicide”.
The Supreme Court heard her high school friend, contacted the Director of Public Prosecutions after hearing about the trial through the media, and came forward with the letters Ms Darcy had written.
In the letter Ms Darcy asked her friend to make up a statement about how Mr Dunbar had spoken about his plans to die by suicide, despite the woman having never met Mr Dunbar or spoken to him.
Ms Darcy said she thought “the following details would be sufficient” for her friend to include in a statement to her solicitor.
“You talked to him for around 40 minutes and he told you:
- he had been planning his suicide
- he wanted to die at home
- he had already had two attempts and he didn’t want to fail again
- he loved the kids and I, but he was convinced we would be better off without him”
Ms Darcy is accused of making hundreds of Google searches in the lead up to Mr Dunbar’s death including “how to commit murder;’ “will helium show up in an autopsy;” “Can police see deleted text messages;” “99 undetectable poisons” and “11 toxic plants that look like food”.
It is the Crown case Ms Darcy purchased ram sedatives – which were later found in Mr Dunbar’s system – using a false name and address at an Armidale vet – and ordered the cylinder of helium later used to kill him.
Following her arrest, the court heard she wrote to her high school friend from jail, explaining how she believed the case against her would be dropped if a false statement was made.
“It could even be dropped before it goes to trial. All they have on me is those web searches and once they know Mat confirmed to you that he had been searching suicide, they have nothing”.
The trial continues before Justice Julia Lonergan.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. National Domestic Violence Service: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). If you are in immediate danger call Triple Zero (000).