Arnold Coleman on Anzac Day in Ballina and forensics attending the scene of the murder.
Arnold Coleman on Anzac Day in Ballina and forensics attending the scene of the murder. The Northern Star

Wheelchair-bound man charged with wife's murder

NEIGHBOURS described Arnold and Jean Coleman as gracious and amiable people, quick to say 'hello' or offer a wave from their veranda or garden where they spent many peaceful hours.

"I still can't believe it's happened," said one neighbour. "I saw the police cars coming up the road and I wondered what was going on, but I never dreamed ..."

Soon after 11am last Thursday police responded to a 000 call from the modest brick home in Hillcrest Avenue, Goonellabah.

There they found Mrs Coleman, 86, already dead with multiple stab wounds to her upper body.

Mrs Coleman's husband Arnold, 87, was arrested at their home and later charged with his wife's murder.

Acting crime manager Stephen Clark said a knife was recovered at the scene and it is believed the couple had an argument before the attack.

Mr Coleman, an amputee who is confined to a wheelchair, is an ex-serviceman who signed up with the Royal Australian Navy in 1939 at the age of 17.

A case of the measles meant he narrowly missed sailing on the HMAS Sydney which was sunk off the coast of Western Australian in 1941. Mr Coleman served aboard the HMAS Stuart.

Ex-serviceman Dom Cechini, of Ballina, said he got to know Mr Coleman in the 1980s when they both lived in a local caravan park.

"He is one hell of a bloke, a very nice man, definitely a gentleman," Mr Cechini said.

President of Lismore's RSL sub-branch, Bob Mowle, said Mr Coleman was not well-known to sub-branch members.

"It is an exceedingly sad situation for Mr Coleman and his wife," Mr Mowle said.

According to a neighbour, Mrs Coleman was a keen bingo player who enjoyed a game at the Goonellabah Soccer Club.

The couple were also keen gardeners.

After being interviewed by police, Mr Coleman was taken to Lismore Base Hospital for treatment for an existing medical condition.

Mr Coleman was unable to be present in Lismore Local Court yesterday and proceedings were transferred to the police cells.

Defence solicitor Hugh Van Dugteren did not apply for bail on behalf of Mr Coleman.

The case was adjourned to October 7, when Mr Coleman is expected to appear by audio visual link from Sydney's Long Bay jail.


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