A jealous man who ferociously stabbed his former partner more than 30 times after she dared to disobey him by embarking on a new life has been jailed for at least 17 years.
Paul Thomas Ryan flagrantly breached a court order made hours before he murdered 63-year-old Maree Van Beers, mother of their two adult sons, in her Tweed Heads unit near the NSW border in November 2018.
While begging for her life, she was heard to say “what about the boys?’ only to be told “f*** the boys”.
Ryan, 66, pleaded guilty to manslaughter but after a judge-alone trial Justice Richard Button in October found him guilty of murder.
While accepting he had a dependency upon prescription medication and brain damage as a consequence of chronic alcohol abuse, the judge found his impairment was not so substantial as to reduce the verdict to manslaughter.
In the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday, Justice Button jailed Ryan for 23 years with a non-parole period of 17 years – noting the sentence and his poor health may mean he will die in jail.
“The homicide can readily be seen as an act of intense patriarchal oppression that has no place in modern Australian society,” the judge said when finding him guilty of murder.
“I think that members of the community would see this homicide as simply yet another example of a man killing a woman because she dared to disobey him.”
The couple had been together for more than three decades, but by 2018 their relationship had significantly deteriorated and she had begun seeing another man.
Ryan posted abuse on Facebook, threatened to smash her face if she continued seeing him and shortly before she was killed, Ms Van Beers reported a domestic violence incident to police.
On the morning of her death, and the day before Ms Van Beers was to look for a home with her new partner, an interim AVO was imposed on Ryan at Tweed Heads Local Court.
As she left the courthouse, she told a domestic violence worker: “I feel strong and I’m leaving”.
Ryan then spent hours drinking at the bowls club before repeatedly stabbing her in the kitchen, using at least two knives, while neighbours couldn’t rescue her because both doors had been locked.
Either before or during a pause in the stabbing, Ryan held a knife to her throat and ordered her to phone her sister Moya Reid, in far western NSW, as he believed she would tell her to remain with him.
Mrs Reid promptly got off the line to call triple zero, her husband came on the line, and he heard the conclusion of the fatal assault, the judge said.
“It was committed in flagrant breach of a court order, and in order to forestall a woman making her own life choices as she saw fit.
“Furthermore, the fatal attack was a terrifying and excruciatingly painful death that was inflicted upon an unarmed and defenceless woman who was entitled to feel safe in her own home.”
Victim impact statements had described Ms Van Beers as an earthy, fun-loving person who had been a rock of support to the family and was terribly missed.
The judge found Ryan’s prospects for rehabilitation to be good, concluding “on balance” that he had come to appreciate the enormity of his actions.
© AAP 2020