Woman beaten and stabbed, then burnt

AFTERMATH: Police investigating the burnt shell of the house at 10 Margaret Cr, South Grafton, where Michelle Roberts' body was found.
AFTERMATH: Police investigating the burnt shell of the house at 10 Margaret Cr, South Grafton, where Michelle Roberts' body was found.

A WOMAN murdered in South Grafton in May 2012 had been beaten and stabbed 24 times before her body was burnt in a house fire, a Supreme Court trial in Grafton heard yesterday.

Andrew Sumpton, 49, of South Grafton is on trial for the murder of Michelle Roberts in South Grafton on May 18, 2012.

He also faces two charges of causing malicious damage by fire.

The trial, before a jury of seven men and five women, opened yesterday.

After opening addresses from the Crown and defence barrister Mr Dennis, the court heard evidence from the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Ms Roberts.

Newcastle forensic pathologist Dr Brian Beer told the court that from the injuries and the state of the body he was able to come up with the most likely sequence of injuries.

He said blunt force trauma to the face of the victim indicated she had been most likely knocked unconscious and then stabbed.

He came to this conclusion because of the absence of defensive injuries on the hands, palms and arms of the victim.

Dr Beer said the woman had been stabbed 18 times in the chest and abdomen and six times in the upper thighs and genital area.

Four of the stab wounds pierced her heart, any of which would have been fatal.

He said from the waist up the front of Ms Roberts's had been burnt beyond recognition. From the burn marks he concluded Ms Roberts had been lying on her back when the fire started.

Blood analysis revealed a blood alcohol reading of .231 plus the presence of marijuana and Valium in her system.

The Crown Prosecutor's opening address outlined the actions of Sumpton and Ms Roberts in the hours leading up to her death.

He told how she had met Sumpton for the first time the day before during a drinking session with another man.

He said she and Sumpton had taken the third man back to his house in Margaret Cres, South Grafton, where he obtained a bottle of home-brew whisky, which they intended to drink.

Before leaving Sumpton indicated he thought he would have sex

with Ms Roberts.

He went on to tell how witnesses described seeing Ms Roberts and Sumpton at various times leading up to the fire alarm at around 2am.

The prosecution also said its case would rely on testimony of two witnesses who claim Sumpton confessed to them about the murder.

These include a prison officer who said Sumpton told him he had rolled her body in a blanket and then set fire to it, to destroy evidence.

"I had to. She was f****d. I had to get rid of the evidence," the officer reported Sumpton told him.

The other evidence of a confession came from a prisoner at Grafton Jail.

The Crown also said there was other forensic evidence which made a compelling case against Sumpton.

Mr Dennis said there was no doubt Ms Roberts was murdered and a fire deliberately lit to cover the tracks of the murderer.

He said his client admits he was with the victim before the murder, but was not involved in her murder or the subsequent fire.

He said there would be serious questions asked of the two confession witnesses, one of whom is a prisoner who gained a reduction in his sentence to testify.

Mr Dennis said the times people said certain things happened would show his client could not have been there at the time of the murder and the fire.

He said there would also be questions asked of Ms Roberts's boyfriend, who told police he had not seen Ms Roberts since the Tuesday before her death.

The trial continues today.

Topics:  editors picks murder south grafton supreme court

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