Life in jail for released wife murderer who killed again — (Sydney Morning Herald)

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Sydney Morning Herald

By Les Kennedy

December 19 2002

Robert Theo Sievers, jailed for life yesterday for the murder of de facto wife Michelle Campbell, had made legal history in 1982 when he sought to have a life sentence for the 1980 murder of his then wife, Diana, reduced on the grounds of “provocation” as a “battered husband”.

The application to the NSW attorney-general was unsuccessful, but in 1992 he convinced Supreme Court Justice James Wood that he was rehabilitated. Under new truth-in-sentencing laws his sentence was reduced to 12 years and he was released that year.

But the same defence of “provocation”, that he was a battered spouse, did not wash with a jury last October when he faced the Supreme Court charged with the stabbing murder of Ms Campbell, 32, on July 4, 2000 at their Lakemba home.

As at his first trial in 1980, Sievers, a carpenter who is now 60, pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter.

In the Supreme Court yesterday, Justice Brian Sully found that for the protection of the community, and particularly women, Sievers should die in jail.

“The proper protection of the public entails that the subjective factors cannot displace the need for the maximum penalty of life,” Justice Sully said of Sievers’s claims that Ms Campbell, a mother of three, had subjected him to alcohol-induced abuse and violence in the weeks before her murder.

Sievers claimed that in one attack, Ms Campbell hit him with a hammer. He had also broken into her house with a file after he evicted her.

He claimed that on the night he killed her, she had attacked him with a small knife and accused him of having an affair. He had struggled with her and stabbed her with the knife – twice in the back, once in the neck and once in the chest.

Justice Sully said Sievers had driven around for three days talking to her body, which was in the boot of his car, before discarding it near Kempsey. He also withdrew money from her bank account.

Justice Sully said he could not ignore Sievers’s criminal history.

Among these was the April 10, 1980 murder of his first wife Diana, 40, whom he shot eight times in the head after breaking into her Merewether home.

Sievers claimed that he had been affected by alcohol and had been subjected to 16 years of violent physical abuse by his wife.

Justice Sully said he could not ignore parallels in both murders, such as extreme violence and alcohol. He said similar factors were also evident when Sievers stabbed his brother in 1967 and also assaulted another woman in 1969.

“In my view the parallel between the two murders suggests a vulnerability to extreme aggressiveness towards female members in close relationships,” Justice Sully said.

“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the prisoner has a personality disorder. It manifests itself in extreme violence, especially in extreme domestic relationships. It can lie dormant for extreme periods but it is a constant reality and a
constant danger.”

Ms Campbell’s father, Leslie, said outside the court that he was shocked to learn Sievers had murdered before.

“He pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes by saying he was a born-again Christian and they let him out. It’s about time he got life.”

 

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Regina v Robert Theo Sievers [2002] NSWSC 1257 (18 December 2002) — (AustLii)

Supreme Court of New South Wales

HEARING DATE{S): 6 and 13 December 2002

JUDGMENT DATE: 18/12/2002

On 21 October 2002, the prisoner, Mr Robert Theo Sievers, was presented in this Court for trial upon an indictment charging him with having murdered, on 4 July 2000, Michelle Campbell, a young woman with whom he had been living in an intimate relationship.

2 The prisoner pleaded that he was not guilty of murder, but that he was guilty of manslaughter. The Crown declined to accept the manslaughter plea. A jury was thereupon empanelled. The prisoner, upon arraignment before the jury, pleaded not guilty and he stood thereupon, trial by jury. On 31 October 2002, the jury found the prisoner guilty of  murder.

The relevant facts can be shortly stated, not least because they were at trial, and are, largely, uncontroversial. On the material evening, the prisoner and the victim had an argument. According to the prisoner, the victim approached him holding a small kitchen knife. He took the knife from her; folded his arms about her in order to quieten her down; struggled with her; “totally lost it”, to use his own words; and stabbed her fatally with the knife.

4 In the immediate aftermath of the stabbing, and again using his own words, the prisoner sat down “basically staring at the wall”. He stirred himself eventually, and wrapped the dead body in a sheet of black plastic. He placed the body, thus concealed, into the boot of his motorcar, where it remained for the remainder of 4 July and most of 5 July.

5 On 5 July, the prisoner drew an amount of money out of the victim’s bank account, and then drove to his brother’s home at Kurri Kurri. From there, he went to Raymond Terrace or Maitland, bought a mobile phone and then, in his own words, “just started riding up the coast”. He drove to a lay-by on the side of the road at a lonely and deserted point on a back road. He said in evidence that he had been talking to the victim while driving to this spot; and that upon arrival at the spot he asked her to get out of the car. He removed the body from the boot of the car, sat or propped it up on the rim of a decline and sloped away from the carriageway and then pushed the body so that it rolled down that decline into bush where it was later found.

Mr Sievers has a history of violence within relationships, although the circumstances of his marriage and his recent relationship were quite different. He also has a history of alcohol abuse. Intoxication with alcohol was a factor in the first offence, but he denied being in any way intoxicated at the time of the second offence. However, he had resumed drinking and alcohol abuse was a feature of his lifestyle and probably affected his mental health in the period leading up to the second offence.

Mr Sievers was assessed and treated for an anxiety disorder in the period before the most recent offence. He told me that he had collected prescriptions for anxiety relieving medication for his partner, who abused those medications, rather than for himself. He said that the only treatment he received for an anxiety disorder was an antidepressant by a general practitioner.