EVEN according to his doting mum, Michael Moad was finally happy.
The hardworking Cessnock man, 48, had found love with a local woman, Karen Thompson. The future was looking bright.
“He had found a lovely lady he felt he could be with for a long time. I still can’t get that out of my head, how it was finally his turn to be happy,’’ mother Colleen Moad said on Thursday.
But the gut wrenching tragedy was that Mrs Moad’s words were not part of a massive celebration like a wedding or birthday, or a loving memory to a dear friend or relative.
They were part of a victim impact statement, courageously read by her granddaughter, Amy, at the sentencing hearing of Mrs Thompson’s ex-husband, Gregory John Thompson.
Thompson was being sentenced for the brutal murder of Mr Moad – a man he had only discovered existed less than a day before he stabbed him 10 times inside Mr Moad’s home as Mrs Thompson screamed for help.
Newcastle Supreme Court Justice Peter Hamill would later send Thompson to jail for more than 23 years.
The 51-year-old will have to wait until at least 2032 before he can apply for parole.
It ended the journey through the justice system for Mr Moad’s family and friends, many of whom sat through every second of harrowing evidence in a nine-day trial as Thompson tried to blame his significant depression for the murder.
“This week justice has been served for the vicious and brutal murder of our loved one, Michael Anthony Moad,’’ his brother-in-law Stephen Scott said outside court.
“We would just like to say a big thanks to our family and friends for all their support, not only these last two and a bit weeks but for the last two and a bit years.
“It has been hard and it will always be hard.
“We would like to pass on a special thanks to the detectives, the police, and also the Crown for all the hard work they have put to bring this case together to give justice to our family.’’
Thompson had fallen into the deep depression after his wife left him and it continued after she filed for divorce on January 27, 2015.
He couldn’t get over the separation, and despite already putting Karen through years of psychological abuse, of harrassing phone calls, of intimidation, of blackmail and of nuisance complaints to police, for the next month his behaviour escalated to frightening new levels.
In the days leading up to the murder, Thompson was arrested twice in two days for harassing his ex-wife and then stalking her.
But it was during his second visit to Cessnock police station - for breaching an apprehended violence order that had only been in place a matter of hours - that he learned something.
“Within 24 hours of learning Michael Moad's name, Michael Moad was dead,’’ Crown prosecutor Brendan Campbell would tell the jury.
But first there was the trip to buy some items to assist in Thompson killing himself.
And the trip to the bottle shop for some bourbon.
Thompson flicked through the White Pages and found Michael Moad’s address, and just before midnight on February 28 he parked in a laneway near the Cessnock home and got himself ready, including secreting two knives he had brought with him.
Thompson’s defence team had argued that the broken man had just wanted to speak to his ex-wife one last time before taking his own life.
Justice Hamill said in sentencing that he was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Thompson arrived at the house with the direct intention to kill his ex-wife or Mr Moad.
It was in the early hours of that Sunday morning when he was confronted by Mr Moad inside the victim’s own bathroom, and after he had been seen to enter to property in a “selfish and obsessive desire to see his ex-wife’’, the judge said.
But he ruled that he was certain that Thompson was prepared to kill Mr Moad as the confrontation got violent to the extreme.
He stabbed him 10 times – the blows so violent that one knife was snapped in two and the second was twisted.
Mr Moad fought hard but succumbed to his injuries, and Thompson then started following his ex-wife around the house before she ran outside to the safety of several neighbours who had heard the commotion.
Thompson made a cowardly escape back through the backyard and drove to bushland, where he attempted to commit suicide before returning back to the scene where he was arrested.
Justice Hamill found that Thompson’s motive for the killing was jealousy and bitterness.
In several emotional victims impact statements read in Newcastle Supreme Court on Thursday, Colleen Moad confronted Thompson with the gravity of his actions.
Her granddaughter, Amy, who held a deep connection with her Uncle Michael, read out the statement.
“You’re never supposed to bury your children. The loss of Michael has caused me pain that is unbearable,’’ the statement read.
“Some days I’m numb, and some days I ache.
“I wake most nights at 2am. I lay there and I think.
“I try to think of Michael being in a better place but then I’m drawn back to the same thought I have every night and most days.
“That’s the thought of my little boy being murdered.
“The pure fear he would have felt as the life slowly drained from his body.
“Then it hits me. Pure and utter despair.’’
Mrs Moad told of Michael’s call every Friday where he would open with “Ha Mum” and how her heart now skips a beat if the phone rings on a Friday.
“I lost my husband of over 60 years last year,’’ the statement said.
“Michael’s death was just too much for him to bear.
“Sometimes I feel so alone now.
“When I wake up of a morning, I have to remind myself to keep breathing, to keep moving, to keep going.’’
Her daughter and Mr Moad’s sister, Louise Scott, said her brother’s death was too much for her father to deal with.
“He never, ever got over having to bury his youngest child,’’ Mrs Scott said.
She said Michael had treated her children like his own.
“Michael was a real person, not just a victim or the deceased,’’ Mrs Scott said.
“He had a name, a face and a family who loved him.
“He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a great uncle, godfather, a friend and a partner.’’
Mrs Scott said her brother was 48 when he was killed and still had “so much life to live.’’
She said his death had impacted on her family “in a way that I’m afraid words may never convey”.
“The murder of my brother has consumed my life and my family’s life,’’ Mrs Scott said.
“It’s all we think about, all we talk about and I’m scared it’s never going to go away.
“Because of this, I find it difficult to socialise with my friends anymore because I don’t know what else to talk about or I’m consciously trying not to talk about Michael’s murder.
“I’ve lost friendships.
“The actions of Gregory Thompson have instilled so many fears in to me I’m scared I’ll never recover. My coping skills, attitudes and behaviours will never be the same.’’
Mrs Scott said she had to change her working conditions as a registered nurse because she could now not work in trauma or at night.
Thompson sat with his chin on his hands as the victims impact statements were read and a photograph of Michael Moad was displayed on court screens.
Justice Hamill would later tell the court: “I can’t see any evidence at all, including his demeanor during the reading of the victim impact statements, to show me he is remorseful at all.’’