22 September 2023

92-year-old accused of murdering his wife under a three-month psychiatric order

| Albert McKnight
Jean Morley

Jean Morley, 92, had been suffering from dementia in the year before her alleged murder. Photo: Supplied.

The 92-year-old accused of murdering his wife earlier this year is under a three-month psychiatric treatment order and his lawyers are facing difficulties in progressing the case.

Donald Morley is accused of suffocating his wife, Jean Morley, who was also 92 years old, at their home in Fisher in late July 2023.

She had been suffering from dementia for at least 12 months before she died.

On Friday (22 September), Mr Morley’s lawyer, Nathan Deakes from Legal Aid, told the ACT Magistrates Court that another psychiatric treatment order had been made for his client last week, which was to last for three months.

He said his legal team faced complexities in progressing the matter and asked for another adjournment so he could obtain proper instructions.

He also requested this adjournment be lengthy as he did not want to return to court to make a similar application. The prosecutor did not object to his proposal.

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Magistrate Robert Cook adjourned until November for a mention of the case, remanded Mr Morley in custody and excused him from appearing in person on the next occasion if he was legally represented.

In August, the court had heard he was still being held at the Canberra Hospital and his team was working towards the utility of a bail application.

The couple lived at their home in Fisher for 45 years. Due to Ms Morley’s dementia, she had difficulty remembering words or performing tasks, while her husband had skin cancers, court documents say.

When a nurse arrived at their home at about 2:30 pm on 31 July, it’s alleged Mr Morley appeared to be “sunken and quiet” as he let her inside.

She noticed two handwritten notes on the dining table, one of which allegedly referred to suicide and forgiveness.

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After asking Mr Morley about the notes and why he hadn’t answered the phone when she called earlier, it’s alleged he replied he had gone out in the morning.

“[The nurse] told the defendant that she was there to help, and the defendant shook his head and replied, ‘I’ve done a terrible thing’,” the documents alleged.

It’s alleged Mr Morley told the nurse he had suffocated his wife with a pillow the night before, then made multiple attempts to end his own life.

The nurse saw Ms Morley’s body in the bedroom. Before leaving the room, Mr Morley sat next to his wife on the bed and said, “That’s her there. My angel”.

The nurse hugged him while he cried. Police arrived just before 2:50 pm after being called by the nurse, arresting Mr Morley a few minutes later.

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