Killer’s callous act with woman’s body
A meth user who was questioned over a cold case homicide in Victoria will spend at least 20 years in a WA prison for murdering a woman he had invited to his home for a cup of tea.
Darren John Chalmers, 53, had shared a meal with his neighbour Dianne Barrett, 60, at her Medina home in May 2019 when he invited her to his house.
But shortly after arriving, he injected himself with meth and attacked the music teacher, strangling her with his hands, then forcing an iron bar against her throat.
Chalmers estimated the entire attack lasted about three minutes, the WA Supreme Court heard on Thursday.
He used a trolley to carry Ms Barrett's body onto the back of his utility, and dumped her body in Karrakup bushland, about 30km away.
Chalmers then cleaned his house and later lied to police during their investigation, the court heard.
Friends had reported Ms Barrett missing but her disappearance was a mystery, with her television left on and her dog inside the home.
Chalmers was charged following a police sting and Ms Barrett's remains were recovered in January last year.
Chalmers, who pleaded guilty to murder, said in a letter that he was "sorry for the pain I have put you all through".
"I am not a bad person, I just made a wrong choice," he said.
"I am sorry to Dianne's family for taking her life. I am deeply sorry.
"I hope that everyone now can see that I am ashamed, and I express my remorse and deepest sympathy to all."
Justice Stephen Hall said Ms Barrett had been known to her neighbours as a friendly and hospitable person.
"She was a person who had shown you kindness and who trusted you," he said.
"You abused that trust by attacking her without warning whilst she was in your home."
Justice Hall said there had not been any previous animosity or violence between the pair.
"You told police that you jumped on her, strangled her and that you fell to the lounge floor together," he said.
"You later attributed your sudden violence to prolonged drug use."
Justice Hall said while Chalmer's drug use might provide an explanation, it was not an excuse for his actions.
The court heard the last time Ms Barrett was seen in public, she was at Bunnings buying her mum flowers for Mother's Day.
Her elderly mother died last week after she had a fall, the prosecutor informed the court.
Justice Hall sentenced Chalmers to life in prison, with a minimum of 20 years to be served before he can be eligible for parole.
Outside court, Ms Barrett's sister Kathy Phelan said she was happy justice had been served.
At the time of Chalmers' arrest, Victorian detectives flew to WA to question him over the March 1992 death of Annette Steward in Geelong West.
Ms Steward, 29, had been strangled in her home and a friend discovered her body.
Police offered a $1 million reward for information in 2015 but no one has been charged.
Originally published as Killer's callous act with woman's body