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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Tim Piccione

'He can't hurt us anymore': Woman admits shooting sleeping husband

Dale Vella, who is accused of murdering her sleeping husband in August 2021. Picture Facebook

A Murrumbateman woman on trial for her husband's murder has admitted killing the sleeping man with a shotgun but has claimed she was mentally impaired when doing so.

Dale Lee Vella faced the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, the first day of a jury trial expected to run for two weeks.

The woman, aged in her 50s, is accused of murdering her husband of 23 years, Mark Vella, by shooting him in the head as he slept in their home about 10pm on August 9, 2021.

In her opening address, a prosecutor told the jury Vella had shot her husband "deliberately", with intent to kill him or at the very least seriously physically injure him.

"It caused catastrophic brain injuries and death was immediate," the prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Vella has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.

The jury heard on Tuesday the woman would have pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, but prosecutors had rejected her offer.

It is alleged a friend staying with the family on the night of the incident was woken up by the gunshot before Vella banged on their bedroom door asking for an ambulance to be called.

"I've shot him," she is accused of having said.

"I was going to shoot myself but I've shot him."

The crime scene set up at the Murrumbateman home in August 2021. Picture by Elesa Kurtz

The jury is set to watch a video allegedly recorded by the woman on the morning of the shooting and addressed to her three children.

"I'm sorry, guys, I just can't live like this anymore. I've let him abuse you emotionally for years and I've never protected you," she allegedly said.

The jury is also set to hear the triple zero call made to emergency services after the shooting, which allegedly recorded Vella's daughter speaking to her mother.

"Look what you've done. Why did you do this, mum? What is going on?" the daughter allegedly asked.

"He can't hurt us anymore," Vella is accused of replying.

The pair, who were described as being in a "carer" relationship due to the man being legally blind, housed several firearms they were licensed to own.

Defence barrister Greg Hoare told the jury Vella did not deny killing her husband with a double-barrel shotgun in August 2021.

"You won't hear any question from me on whether that did or did not happen. it most certainly did," he said in his opening address on Tuesday.

The jury, Mr Hoare said, would have to decide whether Vella had a mental impairment on the night of the shooting and if it was substantial enough to reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter.

"Was it a cold-blooded, deliberate execution of her husband?" he said.

"Or was it the actions of a woman with a substantial mental impairment?"

Mr Hoare referred to Vella's "suicide note" video recorded on the day in question as evidence of such a mental impairment.

The court is also set to hear evidence Vella was allegedly substantially impaired by the mixture of pharmaceutical and herbal antidepressant medication.

The barrister further told the court the woman was for many years subject to "something called coercive control".

"You will hear from [the accused] that Mark Vella was the boss in every aspect of his and her life," Mr Hoare said.

"Things had to be done Mark Vella's way, or else.

"It destroyed her emotionally. It destroyed her psychologically."

The trial is set to continue on Tuesday with the commencement of evidence.

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