Paul Darren Mulvihill appealing conviction and sentence for domestic violence murder of Rachelle Yeo — (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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The Sydney Morning Herald

August 16 2015

Louise Hall

Former rugby player Paul Darren Mulvihill​ is appealing his conviction for the stabbing murder of his ex-lover Rachelle​ Yeo.

Mulvihill, 47, has also lodged documents with NSW Court of Criminal Appeal appealing his sentence for the “vicious and sustained” attack on Ms Yeo on July 16, 2012 at her home at North Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches.

In April 2014, Mulvihill was sentenced to 29 years’ jail with a non-parole period that makes him ineligible for release until February 5, 2035, when he will be 67.

The former NSW rugby union representative has maintained his innocence, claiming he stabbed his former girlfriend with a kitchen knife in self-defence.

Roger and Kathy Yeo wear yellow in honour of their daughter, Rachelle, who was murdered in 2012.  Photo: Ted Reed TTR

During a five-week Supreme Court trial in February and March last year, Mulvihill told the jury the two stab wounds inflicted upon Ms Yeo to her chest and neck were accidental, occurring during a violent struggle that ensued after the young woman came at him with the knife.

But a Supreme Court jury rejected this claim, taking less than two hours to find him guilty of murder.

In sentencing Mulvihill, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton said that on the day of the murder, Mulvihill lay in wait for Ms Yeo, 31, at her home, seething with anger at the end of their relationship more than four months earlier.

The former first-grade rugby player forced his way into the unit and stabbed Ms Yeo with a kitchen knife in an attack Crown prosecutor Maria Cinque described during the trial as “a blood bath”.

Rachelle Yeo was killed by her former lover Paul Mulvihill.  Photo: Supplied

Neighbours heard the young woman screaming for help, as well as Mulvihill’s telling them in a calm voice: “I’ve got it under control.”

Justice Fullerton said the young woman would have experienced “extreme terror” during the attack, and “the indescribable torment when she realised that there were people trying to help her on the other side of the door”.

After the murder, Mulvihill leapt from the balcony of the apartment and fled the scene in a rental car, throwing the murder weapon into the bush and later disposing of his bloody jumper and shoes.

She said Ms Yeo made it clear the affair, which had begun in 2010 while the pair worked at the Brisbane office of pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, was over by the end of April 2012, when she moved to Sydney.

After their daughter’s death, Roger and Kathy Yeo actively campaigned on the issue of domestic violence, urging people not to hesitate to help when someone is being abused.

Mulvihill’s appeal is anticipated to be heard later this year.

Justice Fullerton found Mulvihill demonstrated a “lack of remorse or any insight into his offending”. She also rejected his claim that, before Ms Yeo’s death, he had been a “man of good character”.

During the sentencing hearings, it emerged that he had a history of threatening former female partners with violence, particularly after the relationships had ended. Mulvihill’s first wife, Celine Carroll, said he made death threats, including leaving a “goodbye and good luck” card with a bullet in it at her house after their 1991 divorce, following an 18-month marriage.

 

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R v Mulvihill [2014] NSWSC 443 — (Austli)

16 April 2014

R v Mulvihill [2014] NSWSC 443 (16 April 2014)

Decision:  Sentenced to imprisonment for 29 years, comprised of a non-parole period of 22 years commencing on 16 February 2013 and expiring on 15 February 2035, with a balance of term of 7 years expiring on 15 February 2042. First eligible for release to parole on 15 February 2035.

On 10 March 2014 the offender was convicted after trial of the murder of Rachelle Yeo at her home in North Curl Curl on the evening of 16 July 2012. She was aged 31.

The events of 16 July 2012

  1. Ms Yeo lived in a unit on the first floor of a unit block comprising a total of seventeen units with six units on each of three levels (with the exception of the ground floor which had only five units). Her unit was accessible from an internal staircase via a pathway on the western side of the building which extended from garages at the rear to a bank of letterboxes situated at the front of the building. There was a dual locking mechanism on the front door of her unit consisting of a deadlock, operated by a key, located above a barrel lock, also requiring a key. A security peephole was also installed in the front door. The units on the first floor each had an external balcony located approximately 3.6 metres above a driveway which extended the full length of the property on the eastern side.
  1. Ms Yeo left her place of work at Macquarie Park at 6.34pm on 16 July 2012 at the end of her working day. Her manager, Renee Ward, gave evidence that Ms Yeo was in high spirits, planning to spend the night at home preparing a fancy dress outfit for an event at an upcoming conference.
  1. On leaving work Ms Yeo drove directly to Freshwater where she attended a yoga class. En route to her yoga class she spoke by telephone to her father at 6.52pm and then again at 7.10pm. She also spoke to Michelle O’Flaherty, a close friend, at 6.38pm. Ms O’Flaherty gave evidence that in the course of that phone call she asked Ms Yeo whether the offender had been in contact with her. Ms Yeo said that she had not heard from him and continued:

“[It’s] waiting for what he will do next that scares me.”

  1. After her yoga class, and at a time when it would appear she was on her way home, Ms Yeo placed a telephone call to her boyfriend at 9.04pm. He did not take the call. He returned her call at 9.34pm. It was unanswered.
  1. Police arrived at Ms Yeo’s unit at 9.25pm in response to 000 calls placed at 9.18pm and 9.19pm by her neighbours after they heard her repeated and increasingly strident screams for help, extending over a period of approximately ten minutes. Ms Faletoese (a resident of the unit above Ms Yeo’s unit) was first alerted to a loud scream from a woman some time after 9pm. At about the same time, another neighbour, Ms Burrows, heard a woman scream, “Oh My God, Oh My God”. Ms Faletoese and her partner, Mr Gualtieri, went down the stairs to investigate, passing Ms Yeo’s unit en route. They heard nothing at that time. When they were outside they heard the woman scream again. They immediately tracked the screams as coming from Ms Yeo’s unit. They went directly to the door to her unit where Ms Faletoese banged and shouted, demanding for the door to be opened. They heard Ms Yeo repeatedly scream for help and for the police to be called in what they described as a state of deep and escalating distress.
  1. By this time Ms Faletoese and Mr Gualtieri were joined by other residents, including Ms Burrows, on the landing outside Ms Yeo’s door where they heard sounds of a struggle that appeared to escalate in seriousness. Some residents described voices raised in argument. In response to Ms Faletoese continuing to shout and bang on the door for it to be opened, Ms Yeo was heard to say that she could not get to the door to open it. One resident heard her say, “He won’t let me”. The only thing the offender was heard to say (and in what was described as a calm and controlled voice) was, “Everything is okay, you don’t need to call the police”. It was after that that everything went quiet, which prompted Ms Burrows to urge the 000 operator to have the police attend urgently. The last sounds from inside the unit were described by another resident as a “gurgling noise” or a “rasping for air”. He said these sounds lasted for a few minutes and that they sounded as if they were coming from immediately behind the door of the unit.
  1. After forcing entry to the unit, police found Ms Yeo unconscious, face down behind the front door in a pool of blood. She was pronounced deceased by ambulance officers shortly after 9.36pm following unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate her.
  1. Penetrating stab wounds to the right side of her chest and the left side of her neck were noted by ambulance officers. Both wounds were associated with a considerable loss of blood. Extensive lacerations and abrasions were noted on her face, hands and feet.
  1. There was a considerable amount of pooled, expirated and transferred blood in the immediate vicinity of where Ms Yeo was found, in the hallway leading to the front door, and in the kitchen and living room. Her clothing was heavily blood stained. She had bare feet. Her shoes were in the hall near her handbag, both in a state of disarray. A bag containing her work clothes was in pooled blood in the kitchen. Her mobile phone was also in pooled blood on the kitchen floor.

The forensic evidence

  1. The results of autopsy identified the cause of death as either one or a combination of the two penetrating stab wounds. The wound to the chest penetrated multiple layers of Ms Yeo’s clothing before penetrating her lung and heart. The wound to her exposed neck severed the jugular vein. The stab wound to the right chest penetrated to a depth of 18 centimetres. A superficial stab wound was located proximate to her right underarm. A constellation of blunt force injuries and sharp force injuries was identified by Dr Van Vuuren (who performed the autopsy) with the greater concentration being on Ms Yeo’s head and neck. Professor Hilton (the pathologist called by the offender at trial) noted that the severe bruising on the bridge and upper septal area of Ms Yeo’s nose indicated the application of severe blunt force trauma (consistent with a punch with a fist) and which would be expected to produce copious bleeding. Both Professor Hilton and Professor Duflou (who was called by the Crown at trial) considered that the multiplicity of injuries and their severity overall indicated that Ms Yeo was engaged in a violent and prolonged struggle with the offender before she died.

The offender’s conduct after the murder

  1. It was not in contest at trial that a long-bladed knife was the mechanism by which the wounds to Ms Yeo’s neck and chest were inflicted. A kitchen knife of similar size and dimensions to one that belonged to Ms Yeo, which could not be located after her  murder , was tendered at trial. The expert pathologists agreed that the fatal stab wounds could have been sustained by a knife of that kind. They also agreed that it could have caused the deep lacerations to the palm and outer aspect of Ms Yeo’s hands, injuries that were described by Professor Duflou as “typical defensive injuries”, an opinion shared by Professor Hilton and Dr Van Vuuren. I am satisfied that the knife that was used by the offender to kill Ms Yeo was, in all likelihood, in her unit and not taken by the offender to the unit. That does not, taken alone, lead me to have a reasonable doubt on the issue of premeditation. It is, however, one of the factors that is relevant to the resolution of that question.
  1. The offender disposed of the knife, together with his hooded jacket and shoes. None of those items have been recovered. He was captured on CCTV footage returning to the hotel where he was staying in Macquarie Park at 9.58pm, barefoot and wearing a T-shirt. I reject his evidence at trial that he removed his shoes and his outer clothing as he drove back to his hotel because he was hot. I have no doubt that he removed and disposed of them because they were bloodstained, and in order to conceal the fact that he had killed Ms Yeo. I am satisfied that he disposed of the knife for the same reason.
  1. The telephone call the offender placed to his wife at 10.05pm where he said, amongst other things, “She’s gone”, is also unambiguous evidence of the fact that he knew Ms Yeo was dead when he left the unit. I reject the offender’s evidence at trial that in using those words he was merely reporting to his wife that Ms Yeo would no longer be a factor to be contended with in their marriage because he had so seriously wounded her that she was unlikely to want to see him again. The fact that he placed the call to his wife within an hour of the murder, implicitly admitting he had killed Ms Yeo, is difficult to explain consistent with the Crown case that the murder  was premeditated.
  1. The offender was arrested by Queensland police on the afternoon of 17 July 2012 at Brisbane airport, after failing to board a flight to Brisbane scheduled to depart Sydney at 7.05am. He was seen in CCTV footage in the business class lounge at Sydney airport eating breakfast at 6.40am. At 7.10am he was seen in CCTV footage hiring a car from the airport which he then drove to Newcastle where he booked a flight to Brisbane, under a friend’s name. He also used his friend’s credit card after telephoning him en route to Newcastle and falsely claiming that he had lost his wallet.
  1. The offender’s mental state examination on 2 April 2014 was reported by Dr Furst as evidencing intact cognition without any indication of suicidal ideation. Dr Furst did note, however, that in some of the materials he was asked to consider, including medical records from a general practitioner in Southport with whom the offender was consulting between 6 June 2012 and 13 July 2012 (the Friday before the murder, the offender was reported to be suffering the effects of stress and mood changes because of the problems in his marriage and the separation from his wife and children as a consequence of having been required to leave the family home. This attracted a diagnosis of depression by his treating doctor on 1 June 2012 which was treated thereafter with antidepressant medication. Although the offender reported suicidal thoughts to his doctor in June 2012, and had apparently threatened suicide from time to time in various dealings with his wife, the notes also record that he denied suicidal ideation when he last attended upon his doctor on 13 July 2012.