Killer's 'lenient' sentence angers victim's family

FAMILY of slain mother Caroline Widgell stormed out of Toowoomba Supreme Court after learning the penalty handed down to her killer John Henry Brown.

Ms Widgell's brother Glen stormed past waiting media outside saying he was "too upset" to speak.

Though Justice Peter Lyons sentenced Brown, 33, to nine years in jail for the manslaughter of his cousin, he ordered the 33-year-old be eligible to apply for release on parole as early as July 20 next year.

Brown had served three years and three months in pre-sentence custody which Justice Lyons declared as time already served.

If granted parole in July, Brown would have served just four years behind bars for the manslaughter of the young mother.

Brown's barrister Robbie Davies said his client had offered to plead guilty to the charge of manslaughter before his eventual trial this week for murder.

During the trial, Mr Davies told the jury the fact his client had stabbed Ms Widgell in the chest leading to her death was not in dispute.

It was whether he had intended to kill the 28-year-old.

Mr Davies went as far as to tell the jury that his client was guilty of manslaughter.

Crown prosecutor Mark Whitbread had argued Brown had taken a steak knife from the Lindemann Crt home in Wilsonton Hts where he had been staying to the nearby Seppelt St residence where Ms Widgell was with two cousins.

Mr Whitbread argued that the fact he had taken the knife there and that he had lured Ms Widgell away from the protection of the two other men to speak to her alone in the front yard, spoke of intent to kill.

Mr Whitbread told the court Brown had a criminal history that included previous offences of violence for which he had served prison time.

Mr Davies submitted his client had long standing mental health issues and had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia for which he was medicated and supervised and would continue to be if released from prison forthwith.

However, Mr Whitbread argued Brown was medicated and supervised when released from prison just weeks before he committed manslaughter.

During the sentencing hearing, Mr Whitbread read a victim impact statement from Ms Widgell's family who spoke of their grief and the impact her death had on the close knit family.

"When we are all together there is a big piece missing," the letter read.

Ms Widgell's parents had struggled with health problems since her death and her young daughter Lilyarna had lost her mother at just three-years-old and would be "forced to grow up with only her memories".

"How do we tell her someone intentionally took the life of her mother?" they asked.

Though he has never explained the motive behind his actions, Brown told the court he was "very sorry".

Justice Lyons accepted that Brown was remorseful.



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