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Jack Gramenz

Woman 'destroyed' before husband shot dead in sleep

A woman accused of her husband's murder had been subjected to coercive control, her trial has heard. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

A woman who allegedly murdered her legally blind husband, shooting him in the eye with a double-barrelled shotgun as he slept, meant to shoot herself, a court has heard.

She had been pushed to suicide by her husband's incessant, controlling behaviour, and was mentally impaired when she killed him instead, her barrister said.

"Her life had gotten to a point where she had had enough. She had such a substantial mental impairment that she wished it was over," Greg Hoare told the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Dale Lee Vella, 54, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband of 23 years in rural NSW.

Mark Anthony Vella, 52, was shot on a property at Murrumbateman in the state's southern tablelands in August 2021.

Vella tried to plead guilty to manslaughter as her trial began.

"That plea has not been accepted by the Crown and so the trial now proceeds," Justice Helen Wilson told the jury.

Whether she shot and killed her husband is not in dispute, with the jury instead considering Vella's state of mind at the time and whether she was substantially mentally impaired, which could have her convicted of the lesser manslaughter offence if proven.

Pharmacologists and psychiatrists will be called by both parties during the trial, expected to last about two weeks.

Crown prosecutor Kate Ratcliffe said Vella and her husband's business owed almost $250,000 to the tax office, and the pair had frequent arguments about money before his death.

They were both recreational shooters, with licences, and a collection of guns.

The jury could expect to hear from witnesses about Vella's call for an ambulance.

"I was going to shoot myself but I've shot him," one was expected to recall her saying after requesting paramedics, Ms Ratcliffe said.

The triple-zero call the jury would hear also captured the reaction of the couple's daughter, who asked her mother why she shot her husband when "he's not hurting anyone".

Vella planned to end her own life, recording a message on her phone for her children the morning of the shooting, the court heard.

"I just can't live like this anymore," Vella says in the recording that will be played to the jury.

"I've let him abuse you emotionally for years and I've never protected you ... he won't listen, he doesn't care about anyone but himself. I love you, I'm sorry I just can't do it anymore."

The video was not found until after Vella's arrest when she asked her daughter whether she had seen it.

Mr Hoare described it as a "suicide note", coming after years of personal tragedies including the death of a three-year-old daughter from brain cancer and Vella's own breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, as well as her husband's reaction to those events.

He said Mr Vella was not physically violent.

"But for many years, (Dale Vella) was the subject of what lawyers have finally decided to recognise, something called coercive control," Mr Hoare said, referring to a form of domestic abuse which is being criminalised in NSW.

He said Vella had been controlled by her husband for years.

"This happened incessantly," he said.

"It destroyed her emotionally, it destroyed her psychologically."

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

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