Inquest to decide if poisoning was suicide or murder — (Sydney Morning Herald)

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Sydney Morning Herald

New South Wales

January 31, 2012

by Paul Bibby

A CORONER will have to decide whether the death of Tereza Rendaric was the final act of a delusional woman suffering from depression, or a murder committed in her own home.

The NSW State Coroner, Mary Jerram, will lead an inquest into the 69-year-old’s death this week.

The Glebe Coroner’s Court heard yesterday that Mrs Rendaric was found lying unconscious on the laundry floor of her home in the early hours of December 1, 2009 by her husband, Martin.

The 69-year-old, from Leppington, had white foamy liquid coming from her mouth and police later found a glass nearby with a white substance around the rim.

Martin Rendaric rushed to find the couple’s adult son, Steven, who lived in a shed on the semi-rural property, and the latter immediately called an ambulance.

The inquest heard yesterday that toxicology tests found Mrs Rendaric died from organic phosphate poisoning, the result of ingesting a large dose of pesticide.

So potent was the poison she ingested that, when it interacted with the digestive fluids in her stomach, her body produced noxious fumes that left her husband, son, police and ambulance officers requiring hospital treatment.

The inquest heard yesterday that the precise cause of Mrs Rendaric’s death is not in dispute, but the circumstances surrounding it remain a mystery.

The day before her death, Mrs Rendaric had reportedly been to see her GP and told him that she believed Steven had been acting in a threatening way and was trying to kill her.

The relationship between mother and son had allegedly become very strained following an argument over a house he was building on the family’s property and Mrs Rendaric’s apparent dislike of his girlfriend.

However, the inquest also heard evidence that suggested Mrs Rendaric took her own life.

The pesticide she ingested was so strong that its smell could not have been masked by being put in food or drink, meaning that a murderer would have to have forced it down her throat rather than administering it surreptitiously. The inquest heard this scenario did not seem to fit with the discovery of the glass.

Also, Mrs Rendaric told her doctor she felt depressed and there was evidence that she was taking antidepressants.

Steven did not attempt to hide the problems he was having with his mother, informing the first police on the scene that this was the case.

Counsel representing Steven Rendaric at the inquest, Peter Doyle, said in his opinion there was ”no evidence that points to homicide in this case”.