11 August 2023

Lawyers for 92-year-old accused of murdering wife looking at utility of bail application

| Albert McKnight
Jean Morley

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

CONTENT WARNING: Some readers may find the details in this story distressing.

The legal team for the 92-year-old accused of murdering his wife of 69 years is looking at the utility of a bail application and said he is still being held in hospital.

Donald Morley is accused of suffocating 92-year-old Jean Morley, who had been suffering from dementia for at least 12 months, at their home in Fisher earlier this year.

He is still under an emergency detention order, which runs out in a week’s time, Legal Aid lawyer Nathan Deakes told the ACT Magistrates Court on Friday (11 August).

He is being held at the Canberra Hospital and his team was still working towards the utility of a bail application, the lawyer said.

He asked for a short adjournment so the team could have enough time to get instructions from their client.

The murder accused was not present in court, although Mr Deakes said he could appear if needed.

“We need to be very careful that defendants participate in proceedings as much as possible,” Magistrate Glenn Theakston said.

The magistrate adjourned the matter until 1 September, remanded Mr Morley in custody and directed that he appear in court on the next occasion, although noted he could do so via audio-visual link.

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Mr Morley had withdrawn a bail application earlier this month.

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

A nurse had been scheduled to visit their home on 31 July and had tried to call ahead, but the phone wasn’t answered.

When she arrived at the home at about 2:30 pm, it’s alleged Mr Morley had appeared to be “sunken and quiet” as he let her inside.

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

After asking Mr Morley about the notes and why he hadn’t answered the phone, 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”.

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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.

When police examined the home, they stated they found the notes seen by the nurse.

“Please don’t call this ‘murder’-suicide. After 69 years married we were both afraid of the future’,” it allegedly said.

“Sorry to upset all our family + friends this wasn’t easy for me, especially my darling,” the note continued.

It is believed Mr Morley is the oldest person to be charged with murder in the ACT.

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