Monday, September 17, 2018

Australia: Man pleads not guilty to assisting his wife's suicide, as prosecutors claim he did so to access her life insurance

By Melanie Vujkovic, click here to view original article

A 69-year-old man who has pleaded not guilty to assisting his wife to kill herself in 2014 had "1.4 million reasons" to intentionally help her end her life because she had three life insurance policies, a court has heard.

Graham Robert Morant is on trial in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on two counts, including one of counselling and one of aiding Jennifer Morant, 56, to kill herself.

During the Crown's opening statement, Prosecutor Michael Lehane said the jury would hear from a number of witnesses, including Mrs Morant's sister and closest friends who would testify that he encouraged his wife to end her life, and assisted her to gas herself in her car in November 2014 by helping her buy the petrol generator.

Mrs Morant — who the court heard suffered from chronic back pain, depression and anxiety — was found by police in the driver's seat of her car on November 30, 2014 with the doors closed and a note saying "please don't resuscitate me".

The court heard when police opened the door they smelt strong carbon monoxide, and it was not in contention that she died from acute carbon monoxide poisoning.

The backseat was folded down with a petrol generator in the boot, which was not running at the time but seemed to have had limited fuel.

Prosecutor Lehane said Mr Morant initially told police in his interview that he had no involvement whatsoever in his wife's suicide, but when officers questioned him about how a woman with back pain could purchase a generator from Bunnings, his story changed.

"Slowly, very slowly over the course of the next hour the accused explained he did assist his wife in her suicide," he said.

Mr Lehane also told the court Mr Morant, who was a born again Christian, had intentionally taken a different car to a service the Sunday morning of her death to leave behind the car with the generator.

The court heard Mr Morant claimed he did not know the details of three life insurance policies Mrs Morant had taken out to the value of $1.4 million, which named him as the sole beneficiary and would be paid out even in the event of suicide.

"The Crown does not have to prove a motive for the accused's actions, but in this instance there were 1.4 million reasons why the accused intentionally assisted his wife," Prosecutor Lehane said.

"The Crown also says he clearly looked to conceal his involvement to police and to Jennifer's sister and her close friends."

'He wants me to kill myself'

The court heard Mr Morant later admitted to police he was aware his wife wanted to go to Peru to end her life, and they had signed an irrevocable nomination banning her from changing him as sole beneficiary.

The document claimed Mrs Morant had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, but Mr Lehane said her general practitioner would testify during the trial that she was not fatally sick.

The court heard Mr Morant told his wife it would not be a sin in God's eyes for her to kill herself and warned that she would not be strong enough to survive the "rapture".

Her sister Lynette Lucas told the court she wanted to leave her husband but did not have the money to do so, and mentioned she had taken out the three life insurance policies.

Ms Lucas testified that Mrs Morant said: "It's all about money with Graham, and I just had to take them out".

She said Mrs Morant expressed serious concerns for her safety, that her life was in danger and her husband openly spoke about what he would do with the money when she died.

"She said Graham had encouraged her to take them [insurance policies] out," Ms Lucas told the court.

"Jenny said, 'he was trying to encourage me to kill myself'."

She told the jury Mr Morant wanted to buy a property in the Gold Coast hinterland with the life insurance money to start a religious commune.

"He already described to her a property… he had explained to her he would have a communal environment, with bunkers and extended out-building so that when the raptures came, they would have a place of safety," she testified.

'Truth is stranger than fiction'

Defence barrister Dean Wells told the jury they would find the trial extremely confronting and would hear of a number of things Mrs Morant was supposed to have said.

In a short opening statement to the court he asked the jury to keep an open mind because "truth is stranger than fiction".

"We all have our faults but I suggest to you that Graham is more innocent than anybody you will hear giving evidence against him," Mr Wells said.

"[There are] more sub plots in this particular case than you will see in any court room drama on television."