15 June 2023

'I'm so sorry, baby. I love you', murder accused allegedly told partner after she fell from his car

| Lizzie Waymouth
ACT Courts

The trial of Michael O’Connell, 42, began on 30 May. Mr O’Connell has pleaded not guilty to murdering Danielle Jordan. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Jurors in the trial of Michael O’Connell heard in the prosecutor’s opening remarks that a witness said he said, “I’m so sorry, baby. I love you”, after finding his on-again, off-again partner Danielle Patricia Fleming, also known as Danielle Jordan, on the road severely injured after falling off his car.

Ms Jordan died in hospital several days later.

Mr O’Connell, aged 42 at the time, entered a not guilty plea to murdering Ms Jordan, age 40, in the early hours of Friday, 15 April 2022, at her home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Melba.

READ MORE Murder accused Michael O’Connell remarks ‘perfect’ when committed to trial

The prosecution said the accused was arguing with Ms Jordan on a number of occasions in the early morning and that the two had allegedly been taking crystal methamphetamine (ice) over the course of 14 and 15 April. A witness, who was 13 years old at the time, was also present.

The prosecution said that, according to this witness’s evidence, Mr O’Connell had left for a period of time following the argument, and returned again at around 4 am.

The prosecution put to the jury that Mr O’Connell and Ms Jordan started arguing again, and then Mr O’Connell got into his Mitsubishi Triton while Ms Jordan sat cross-legged on the bonnet. According to the witness’s account of the events, she and Ms Jordan tried to get the accused to come back inside; Ms Jordan was calm at this point, but Mr O’Connell was, in the witness’s view, “schizo”, in the sense that he was extremely angry.

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The prosecution said Mr O’Connell allegedly drove off with Ms Jordan still on the bonnet. The witness said Ms Jordan was “terrified”. The witness then reportedly heard a loud thump and saw Ms Jordan lying in the road at the rear of the accused’s vehicle, surrounded by blood.

The prosecution told the jury that Mr O’Connell picked up Ms Jordan from the road and placed her in the passenger seat. The accused allegedly said to the witness, “I’m so sorry mate, I’m so sorry”, and “She just fell off. I don’t know what happened”.

Mr O’Connell then drove to the emergency department of Calvary Hospital and allegedly told medical staff that Ms Jordan’s injuries resulted from her falling down steps in her home.

Ms Jordan was transferred to Canberra Hospital later that day for further treatment where it was deemed that her injuries were non-survivable. Her life support was disconnected on the evening of 17 April and she was pronounced dead at 9:25 pm.

The prosecution told the jury that they are likely to hear from witnesses that Mr O’Connell told several other people, including Ms Jordan’s mother and her ex-boyfriend, that she had fallen down the stairs. He allegedly did this because he “didn’t want to make her out to be a psycho”.

The jury is also expected to hear from one of Ms Jordan’s neighbours who said she heard the sound of car doors and a car driving up and down the street and allegedly heard her say, “Michael, what are you doing? I haven’t done anything”.

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After Mr O’Connell was arrested, his car was seized at Canberra Hospital and the prosecution said the police found droplets of blood on the front nudge bar, left front bumper and the left front guard flare above the wheel.

The prosecution said that the jury should expect to hear from the medical professor who carried out an autopsy on Ms Jordan that she sustained extensive injuries to the back of the head, suggesting impact from a hard surface and that there were no fractures to her arms or hands.

The jury was also told that a blood sample was tested for drugs, with low levels of ice and cannabis found in her system. The prosecution said this is not thought to have contributed to her death.

The jury heard from the defence that the basis of the prosecution case is not that Mr O’Connell intended to kill Ms Jordan but that he was “recklessly indifferent” to her life. The defence told the jury that it is contested whether the accused was aware Ms Jordan was on his car, noting that she weighed around 46 kilograms. It is also contested whether she was on the bonnet or the back of the car.

The defence called Ms Jordan’s death a “tragic end through a set of tragic circumstances”, but noted that the jury will need to decide whether her actions that night were unpredictable, impacted by drugs, or an example of “obsessive behaviour”.

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