Man’s ‘cowardly’ murder of wife

Richard Dudley Kelsey, 76, will likely die in jail after being found guilty of murdering his wife.

Richard Dudley Kelsey, 76, will likely die in jail after being found guilty of murdering his wife. Photo: AAP

A man has been found guilty of the “despicable” murder of his estranged wife after hitting her on the head with a sledgehammer.

Shaun Robert Sturgess, 54, had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his wife of 17 years, Jacqueline, at the start of the Brisbane Supreme Court trial on Monday.

Prosecutor Chris Cook refused to accept that plea and the charge of either murder or manslaughter was put before a jury.

The jury retired on Thursday and returned with a verdict after deliberating for about three hours.

Sturgess did not visibly react when the verdict of guilty on the count of murder was read out.

One of the victim’s supporters in the public gallery said “yes” and multiple supporters of Sturgess cried out and sobbed.

In April 2020 police found Jacqueline’s body face down in a pool of blood on the floor of the house they had shared.

Her estranged husband was arrested later at a friend’s house.

The prosecution alleged he struck her from behind with a 1.8kg sledgehammer.

Sturgess shook his head and said “no” when asked if he wanted to say anything before sentencing.

Mr Cook said Sturgess had struck Jacqueline with significant force out of a sense of “cowardly rage”.

“This is a horrible incident of domestic violence, part of a scourge of domestic violence that continues to afflict the Australian community,” he said.

Mr Cook read to the court a victim impact statement written by Jacqueline’s father, who said the family would forever be affected by her “horrendous” murder.

“I am broken-hearted and feel a total failure as I could not protect the one I love,” the father said.

Defence barrister Chris Wilson asked Justice Tom Sullivan to find his client did have remorse in case he lived long enough to apply for parole.

“He did not seek to place any blame whatsoever on the victim … he regretted it bitterly and deeply,” Mr Wilson said.

Justice Sullivan said Jacqueline had moved out of the family home as Sturgess became more erratic because of mental health, drug and alcohol issues and a physical attack.

“She was scared. As time would tell, she had good reason to be scared,” he said.

Justice Sullivan said Jacqueline had returned to the home to collect items and Sturgess might have become upset over discussions about divorce and child support.

“Nothing justified what you did next,” he said.

Sturgess attacked Jacqueline from behind and left the house without checking her vital signs to buy and drink strong alcohol.

“In your police interview there is a sense of regret, a lot in respect of yourself, some of it wallowing in self-pity,” Justice Sullivan said.

Sturgess was sentenced to life imprisonment with a mandatory 20 years without parole, reduced to 16 years and two months due to time already served.

Sturgess previously stood trial twice in 2023 charged with Jacqueline’s murder but one trial was aborted and the other’s jury was unable to reach a verdict.


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