Battle of wills ends in murder

A FINANCIAL adviser who murdered a $5million lottery winner has told a court he could not recall wanting to kill the woman when he got a mallet from his car, covered it in plastic wrap and hit her in the back of the head after an argument about money.

Central Coast accountant Peter Joseph Kelly told the Supreme Court in Sydney yesterday he felt ‘‘frustrated’’ with his client, Maria ‘‘Lou’’ Devrell, who increasingly demanded more of her winnings to gamble.

Kelly, 53, of Umina Beach, faces life imprisonment after pleading guilty to murdering Mrs Devrell at the Devrells’ Tamworth home on March 28 last year, when he was on the way to join her husband David on a hunting trip in bush outside the town.

Kelly told the court yesterday there was ‘‘a constant battle of wills’’ between himself and Mrs Devrell, who gave him power of attorney.

The couple had approached him about 10 years ago seeking his help to control their significant spending, including on drinking and gambling, he said.

Kelly restricted Mrs Devrell’s access to money, but she became ‘‘less and less friendly’’ and sought more cash.

They argued on the day of her murder. Kelly went to his car, retrieved a rubber mallet, returned to the house and struck her in the head from behind.

He hit her four times then covered her mouth and nose until she ‘‘went quiet’’, the court heard.

He told police during an interview he placed Mrs Devrell on her side in a recovery position.

He took her purse as he left, to make it look like a robbery.

She died of head injuries and asphyxiation.

Kelly admitted to Justice Robert Hulme he put plastic wrap over the mallet to ‘‘avoid biological matter’’ getting on it. But he could not recall intending to murder Mrs Devrell at the time of the attack.

The court heard Kelly put $2million of the Devrells’ money into a property investment at Umina Beach that ‘‘went bad’’.

Another $350,000 was tied up in an investment in Fiji.

Kelly will be sentenced on September 14.

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