Despair after sister's murder: 'I haven't got over it'
DON Spencer doubts he will ever get over the loss of his sister, Isabella, such was the closeness of their relationship.
"I will always have good memories," the Ballina man said.
But that won't replace the connection the pair had held since childhood when Isabella, eight years Don's senior, would do her bit to look out for him as they grew up on a dairy farm in rural Victoria.
Isabella, 77, was one of two aged residents murdered by former registered nurse Megan Jean Haines at St Andrews nursing home, Ballina, in May 2014.
Mr Spencer couldn't hide his anger for Haines, who has been found guilty in the NSW Supreme Court and will be sentenced on December 7.
"I was pissed off," the 71-year-old said about learning his sister had been murdered.
"How dare somebody take somebody's life and take my sister away from me.
"I am pleased they found her (Haines) guilty.
"I haven't got over it and I don't know how long it will take to get over it."
He said the murder had affected he, his wife Joy and their two daughters - all of whom shared a close bond with Isabella - in significant ways.
Isabella Spencer lived much of her life in Melbourne working as a bookkeeper.
She also had a stint in Sydney when Mr Spencer served in the Royal Australian Navy, and Joy would stay with Isabella while her husband was at sea.
One of Mr Spencer's fond memories of his sister was her taking him to the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956.
He said his Isabella, then aged 20, had no qualms in taking her 12-year-old brother to the historic event.
Isabella came to live in St Andrews after suffering a stroke, which affected her significantly, but not her ability to talk.
She was in Melbourne at the time and needed care, but Mr Spencer said he couldn't bare to think of her being in a nursing home in the Victorian capital with few people to visit her.
It was only in November 2013, before Isabella's stoke, that the pair celebrated their birthdays together at the Frankston Hotel in Melbourne - Mr Spencer's birthday is two days after Isabella's on November 21.
The pair had not seen each other for some time, but kept in weekly contact via Skype.
It was only because a mate of Mr Spencer's randomly offered to take him on a trip to Melbourne that Don and Isabella met up for what were to be their last birthdays together.
After her stroke, Isabella was flown to the North Coast by the Royal Flying Doctor Service and then lived in St Andrews for three months before her death.
Mr Spencer said he or his wife visited her every day. She also had regular visits from a long-term friend, Coral Henson, who lives at Wollongbar.
Mr Spencer said his "very private" sister was just starting to feel at home in St Andrews, and in Ballina, when she was murdered.
The "very artistic and intelligent woman" who loved classical music enjoyed the occasional lunch at local clubs.
"She was just starting to come out of her shell," Mr Spencer said.
Mr Spencer and his wife were having a brief holiday on the Sunshine Coast when they learned of Isabella's death.
It was tragic news.
Mr Spencer said he had nothing but praise for the care Isabella received at St Andrews, and accepted that Haines was someone who "fell through the cracks" of the checks in place for nursing staff.
He and his family have no plans to seek financial compensation from the nursing home.
"She (Isabella) is dead, and you can't bring her back," he said.
"But we have our memories."