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by: Ben McClellan in Wagga Wagga
October 07, 2015 12:00AM
An inquest has begun into the Hunt family murder-suicide that devastated a small rural community, and left a nation asking why
Geoff Hunt is believed to have killed wife Kim and three children
Suicide note found inside home after Kim’s body found on path
Family wasn’t experiencing financial stress, inquest hears
Mrs Hunt had ‘explosive rages’ after serious car crash in 2012
“I AM sorry, it’s all my fault, totally mine.” These are the final words of Lockhart farmer Geoff Hunt, penned moments before he took a double-barrelled shotgun and murdered his wife, Kim, and their three young children, before fin-ally turning the weapon on himself, an inquest has heard.
The unsigned epilogue, written on a sheet on A4 paper in black texta, was found lying on the dining table of the family home, 80km south of Wagga Wagga, after a support worker discovered Mrs Hunt dead with a blue jacket over her head on September 9 last year.
The couple’s children, Fletcher, 10, Mia, 8, and Phoebe, 6, were found in separate bedrooms of the house, while Mr Hunt was discovered the following day in the farm dam.
Counsel assisting Dr Peggy Dwyer yesterday told the inquest into the tragic familicide “evidence would establish Geoff Hunt shot his wife and then shot each of the three children before driving to the dam and taking his own life”.
But she said the pain and suffering in the Hunt family had started long before Mr Hunt left that note.
The inquest at Wagga Wagga Local Court, attended by the Hunts’ close family, heard Mrs Hunt had been involved in a serious single-vehicle crash in July 2012 that left her with a brain injury and little use of the right side of her body.
When she finally returned home after seven months in hospital, she would “explode with rage” at her husband.
“There were significant difficulties Kim and Geoffrey faced after Kim’s accident, and these were obviously tense times, including on the last day of their lives,” Dr Dwyer said.
The inquest heard Mrs Hunt confided to a counsellor in June 2013 that she wished she had died in the crash and was having “suicidal thoughts”. The struggling mother, who was on antidepressants before the crash, said she would not use a gun to end her life as it was “too messy”.
Police removed two registered firearms, one of which was later used in the killings, from the home but returned them in August 2013, after officers were satisfied Mrs Hunt would not have access to them. Dr Dwyer said the police did nothing wrong in handing back the guns.
In the weeks before the deaths, Mrs Hunt told a relative she did not love her husband and was no longer attracted to him, and the night before the deaths she told support worker Lorraine Bourke of her frustrations with Mr Hunt.
Forensic ballistics expert Senior Constable Alan Dusting told the inquest Mrs Hunt and the three children were shot at point-blank range. He said only one barrel of the shotgun had been fired, indicating whoever used it was a “confident” shooter able to reload easily.
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From loving family home to eerie abandoned farm: Chilling photos show how Geoff Hunt’s Lockhart property has decayed since he murdered his wife Kim and three children before shooting himself
- This week a four-day inquest has investigated the reasons for the brutal deaths of the Hunt family in rural NSW
- Police say Geoff Hunt, 44, killed wife, Kim, and their three young children before taking his own life in the dam
- Their country home where they were all killed is still standing but eerily stripped bare of any signs of life
- The windows are boarded up and Kim’s beloved garden killed off, with any signs of the family removed
- Geoff’s brother continues to farm on the Watch Hill property where the two brothers had run farm together
- Inquest heard it’s likely Mr Hunt was motivated by suicide, murdered family to ‘spare them future pain’ with his death
- State Coroner Michael will deliver his findings on Friday after presiding over the four-day inquest
By Lucy Thackray for Daily Mail Australia
Published: 00:48 GMT, 9 October 2015
‘Watch Hill’ once appeared to be the dream home for a child to grow up in – set in the countryside with a maze in the backyard, two ponies, a trampoline, endless green paddocks to run around in and a lush garden, tended to by keen gardener, Kim Hunt.
But now the home stands eery and deserted – stripped of all signs of life since the dream home became a horrific crime scene.
Last year, Lockhart farmer Geoff Hunt shot his wife dead on the footpath at the rear of the property, before entering the home and shooting his three children dead, one by one as they lay in their beds.
He then took his own life in a nearby dam, with an inquest this week hearing that Mr Hunt loved his family and was primarily motivated by a desire to commit suicide – rather than by murder – but it’s likely he held the warped view he needed to kill his family too to ‘spare them from future pain’
A year has passed since the distressing events on September 9 when the entire family was killed and while the home is still standing, it has been stripped bare.
The home appears abandoned, although efforts have been made to board up windows, round-up the once beautiful garden and remove any signs of the family who lived and died there.
Mr Hunt and his brother Allen Hunt used to farm the successful canola and wheat farm together, but the bereaved brother now farms the property alone, with only the help of a young hired hand.
Their crop this year has been harvested, leaving the house standing in the middle of dusty, bare fields.
When they were killed, the house had lush green crop on one side of the property and stunning, bright yellow canola on the other.
The night Geoff Hunt killed his family before taking his own life his wife Kim had raged at him about finances, claiming one of her husband’s brothers was stealing from the family trust.
An inquest into the deaths of Lockhart farmer Geoff, nurse Kim and their children Fletcher, 10, Mia, 8, and Phoebe, 6, is taking place this week.
A forensic psychologist told the inquest it’s likely the farmer primarily wanted to kill himself due to his depression and a total loss of hope.
However, he may have decided to kill his family as he believed they were dependent on him and he thought ‘he would spare them future pain’. His use of a gun to inflict a single fatal injury also indicates he did not wish to inflict pain on his wife and children, the psychologist said.
The evidence suggests Mr Hunt gunned his wife down in the driveway of their property in the NSW Riverina before walking inside his house and shooting each of his children dead as they lay in their bed.
The last person to see them alive, carer Lorraine Bourke, has detailed the tense final night in their home, with Mrs Hunt berating her husband for being lazy as he watched Home and Away with his children after giving them dinner and making their school lunches.
Mrs Hunt became depressed and often flew into a rage after suffering a brain injury in a near-fatal car crash in 2012.
The inquest heard that Mr Hunt also seemed very depressed and quiet on September 8, 2014 – the last night he was seen alive.
Mr Hunt had confided in a counsellor that his worst fear was being alone, as the family sought help from mental health experts in their final years.
Just weeks before she died, Mrs Hunt told a relative she was not in love with or attracted to her husband.
Ms Bourke told the inquest Mrs Hunt demanded her husband do something about the family finances – despite the inquest finding the farm was profitable, expecting a good yield in their next crop and there was no debt or financial stress.
‘Kim would often demand that he do something about the money issues. The topic of money stressed Kim out,’ Ms Bourke told the inquest, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Mrs Hunt ranted that one of Mr Hunt’s brothers and his wife had stolen money from the family trust to build a new house and buys cars and boats.
Geoff Hunt ran the canola farm with one of his three brothers and with his father John.
On their final evening, Mrs Hunt also became angry that the family paid Mr Hunt’s parents $1 million a year, the inquest heard.
The mood was so tense in their final hours ‘you could cut the air with a knife’.
A NSW forensic psychologist who examined the case says Hunt probably acted on impulse when he gunned down his wife and three children before taking his own life.
Sarah Yule has told the inquest that the grieving town of Lockhart will never know what triggered a loving father with no history of domestic violence to destroy his entire family last September.
‘I don’t believe we can know that. It could have been something in a conversation that occurred that evening,’ Dr Yule told a Wagga Wagga courtroom on Thursday.
Under questioning on Thursday, Dr Yule agreed that Mr Hunt’s behaviour in the last hours he was seen alive – making lunches for his children to take to school the following day, setting up plans for a tennis game with a friend later in the week – suggested he probably killed his family on impulse.
But she believed Mr Hunt’s primary motivation was to take his own life, ‘with the homicides occurring in his mind as a secondary necessity’.
Dr Yule said family destroyers may be motivated by ‘pseudo-altruistic intent’ when they kill their loved ones, ‘in that they feel they were sparing them from further pain’.
‘I believe it occurred in the context of a distorted rationale in his own mind. I believe that he presented a face of being able to cope,’ Dr Yule said.
‘Something at that particular time has caused him to lose whatever component of hope he had left that he could fix things … that it would never get better, and he couldn’t fix it.’
Relatives of Riverina couple Geoff and Kim Hunt, whose bodies were found along with those of their children at the family’s Lockhart property, have also spoken of their pain and regret that they never saw the tragedy coming.
Mr Hunt’s brother and sister-in-law, Allen and Renae Hunt said they would ‘never be rid of the gut-wrenching heartache’ that enveloped them when they learned that Geoff, Kim, 10-year-old Fletcher, eight-year-old Mia, and the baby of the family, six-year-old Phoebe, were dead.
A statement from the couple, who ran the Lockhart farm with Geoff, says they struggle with their regret, wishing they had done more to help Geoff at his time of need
‘We could only imagine the depths of despair, pain and isolation that Geoff must have felt,’ they wrote in a statement read to the court.
‘We now live with the pain of regret that maybe we could have done more to help him.’
Kim Hunt’s younger sister, Jenny Geppert sobbed as she recalled the last time she had seen Mr and Mrs Hunt with their children.
It was her daughter’s fourth birthday party, and the Hunts stayed on after the other guests had left.
There was little sign of the terrible car crash two years earlier that had left Mrs Hunt battling wild mood swings and anger, and forced her to re-learn how to walk and talk.
‘My sister and I were as close as they come,’ Mrs Geppert said.
‘I made her promise me once that she would never let anything happen to her because I couldn’t imagine how I’d live my life without her. I wish she could have kept this promise.’
Mrs Hunt’s family also said an urgent re-think of support services for families who have experienced trauma, such as her 2012 car crash, was needed to prevent another tragedy.
Mrs Hunt’s cousin, Jane Blake, writing on behalf of her extended family, slammed the ‘obvious ineffectiveness of the mental health system’ in Australia.
‘We believe one hour with Kim every now and then was grossly inappropriate to deem her ‘better’ and no longer needing support,’ Ms Blake said in a submission.
‘To take the word of an individual with a brain injury and significant spinal injury is unacceptable. Equal support for main carers like Geoff is totally unrecognised.
‘It is too late for our family, but ultimately it does not have to be for another.’
The inquest continues, with Coroner Michael Barnes expected to hand down his findings on Friday.
Carer Ms Bourke said Mrs Hunt was angry and upset with her husband for a number of reasons – saying he was lazy as he watched Home and Away with his kids after making their lunches and feeding them dinner.
Mr Hunt had umpired a local kids football match over the weekend and had been accused of cheating.
The inquest has heard 10-year-old Fletcher was teased about it on his final day at school, where schoolmates taunted him with chants of ‘Fletcher Hunt the c***’ and ‘Geoff Hunt the c***’.
‘She was talking about Geoff playing golf on the Saturday, and what had happened at the football on the Sunday, and just the financial things,’ Ms Bourke said.
When Mrs Hunt told her husband to ‘piss off’ and go in to town, she said, Mr Hunt didn’t respond at all.
He was so quiet that evening that Ms Bourke wondered aloud whether he was depressed.
‘I was genuinely concerned,’ she said.
She broke down in tears as she described how Mr Hunt had waved her goodbye that night: ‘He said, goodbye Lainie. Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow.’
But he never did.
Mrs Bourke also described the horrific moment she found Mrs Hunt’s body after she was shot dead by her husband.
Afterwards, the carer waited at the farm for the couple’s three children to come home from school – only to realise the kids were also dead inside the Lockhart home.
The disability support carer spent three days in hospital after stumbling across the disturbing scene, as she struggled with the confronting news of the family-of-five’s shocking demise, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Mrs Bourke told the inquest that she arrived at the property at 2.30pm the next day and realised something was wrong when she found the family’s dog Ellie barking.
Mrs Hunt was lying the driveway of the family’s home with two of Mr Hunt’s work jackets over her head.
The carer says when she saw Mrs Hunt lying in the driveway of the family’s Lockhart farm, she thought she had taken a fall.
But when she knelt down to remove the jackets lying over Mrs Hunt’s head she realised the mother-of-three had been shot.
‘Straight away, I thought to myself ‘He’s shot her’.’
She ran inside to call emergency and found a suicide note, believed to have been written by Mr Hunt, which said: ‘I’m sorry, it’s all my fault. Totally mine.’
The note was believed to have been placed on top of a place mat little Phoebe had made for her dad for Father’s Day just days before.
Mrs Bourke ran out of the home – unaware the children were also dead in their beds.
‘I can only assume that Geoff was under immense pressure in many aspects of his life, including living with Kim’s disability and her changed personality and may have simply just snapped’; she said in a statement to the inquest.
Ms Bourke had been providing constant help for the family in the wake of Mrs Hunt’s near-fatal car crash in 2012, which left her with a debilitating brain injury and resulted in significant changes to her personality.
She has described Mrs Hunt as ‘a little firecracker who loved Geoff and the kids, even through the tough times’.
But she said Mrs Hunt had ‘bad days’ as a result of a traumatic brain injury suffered in a car crash in mid-2012, which left her with little use of the right side of her body.
She says the mother was on anti-depressants and sometimes missed her medication, which made her lash out at her children.
Mrs Hunt would become frustrated easily and would snap at her young children and would swear and rant at her loved ones, apparently without realising.
‘Geoff tried to do all the things she asked him to do.’
‘Some days she had missed taking her tablets and you could see her mood change,’ she said. ‘She would get cranky and yell at them. (Geoff would) just tell her it was enough,’ said Ms Bourke.