Murder charge switched to manslaughter

In court: A committal hearing for a woman charged with murder finished in Shepparton on Thursday. Photo by Rodney Braithwaite

The murder charge against a Shepparton woman has been withdrawn, with the woman now facing a manslaughter charge over the death of her partner last year.

She will also soon be out of custody as she awaits trial, with the magistrate granting her conditional bail.

Narelle Atkinson, 47, pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Darren John Still in a committal hearing at Shepparton Magistrates’ Court this week.

At the start of the two-day hearing on Wednesday she had been charged with murder, but the prosecutor withdrew the charge on Thursday afternoon after the court had heard from all witnesses, instead replacing it with a charge of manslaughter.

The charge comes after an incident where Ms Atkinson’s partner, Mr Still, died after he was allegedly stabbed at their Heysen Ave home in the early hours of June 2 last year.

Day two of the committal hearing heard from Ms Atkinson’s son, and a friend of one of her daughters who was at the house on the night of the incident, as well as two neighbours, and the Homicide Squad police officer who investigated the case.

Ms Atkinson’s son told the court on the night of Mr Still’s death he saw his mother “chuck a knife” in the kitchen in what he described as a “frantic” and “in shock” reaction.

A girl who was a friend of Ms Atkinson and Mr Still’s daughter told the court she had heard arguments at the house before but they were “little ones — nothing dramatic”.

She agreed with the defence during cross-examination that Mr Still could be charming or polite while dealing with the children or their friends, or he could be heard screaming in the bedroom on other occasions.

The court also heard of the girl’s description of Ms Atkinson that she was “definitely not there” and was a “a nice lady but I don’t know what runs through her head. She’s always angry and aggressive”.

A man, who was a neighbour of the couple, spoke of hearing the couple arguing at times, but said most of the time he could not make out what was being said.

He did, however, say that six months earlier Mr Still had asked him to call the police because Ms Atkinson was “going to kill him”; however, after the police came the couple went back into the house together and nothing more came of it.

A female neighbour said on the night of Mr Still’s death she heard one of the teenage girls at the property next door screaming for help.

Having a first aid certificate, she said she was on her way outside to help when she saw the police arrive and went back inside because she had decided to “mind my own business”.

Homicide Squad Detective Senior Constable Jacqueline Sadler told the court that during an interview Ms Atkinson said she had “picked up the knife, she doesn’t remember why, and then he was stabbed”.

Det Sen Constable Sadler rejected a notion that Mr Still had “walked into a knife pointed at him”.

The defence brought up a number of Mr Still’s prior entries on a police database, extending back to 1997, that were family-violence related.

Magistrate Peter Mithen committed Ms Atkinson to stand trial in the Supreme Court.

He released her on bail after her barrister argued she was Aboriginal, there was a history of family violence, and that she needed an MRI scan for a heart condition that could not be organised by the jail.

She was bailed to live in Queensland and will be released from prison after transportation has been organised.