Tuesday 25 October 2016

'Three little children have no mummy' - Friends of Comrie Cullen break silence over her murder

Claire McNeilly

Published 04/06/2015 | 08:08

Comrie Cullen
Comrie Cullen

Distraught friends of the Northern Ireland woman who was murdered by her estranged husband have spoken of the devastation her death will have on her young children.

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Victoria Comrie Cullen's body was found face down and slumped over in the car park of a fishing club in Taren Point, Sydney, Australia, on January 22 last year.

The 39-year-old beauty therapist had 18 stab wounds, her throat was cut, her nose was broken, her face was badly beaten and her clothes were soaked in blood.

Her estranged husband Christopher Cullen (51), a carpenter originally from Liverpool, sat stony-faced after he was found guilty of her murder yesterday, following three-and-a-half hours of jury deliberations.

He had pleaded guilty to manslaughter but the jurors - eight men and four women - at New South Wales Supreme Court rejected Cullen's claims that he was provoked into slitting his wife's throat while he was acting in self-defence.

Friends of Ms Cullen, a mother-of-three, let out a loud sob as the verdict was handed down.

Outside court her friend and former boss Christina Acriuli said: "The truth has won today."

Ms Acriuli added: Unfortunately, three little children have no mummy."

Another friend, Renee Jomaa, shook with emotion as she described what a "harrowing time" it had been for those close to Ms Cullen, adding her family was too distraught to come to court.

"Her death is devastating for us and it will leave a profound impact on our community," said Ms Jomaa.

"The trial detailed Ms Cullen's brave battle as a victim of domestic violence and a terror she did not escape."

A few months before her death Cullen had ordered his wife out of their home, threatening to kill her and accusing her of having an affair.

Cullen was found by police at the crime scene, emerging from mangroves in nearby Woolooware Bay with knife wounds.

At the time of his arrest Cullen told officers his wife had taunted him about her sex life and he "lost it".

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, claiming Ms Cullen had also stabbed him.

When he was arrested he told police: "I think one of them might have been from her and the ones around the heart were from me."

Having been to court that morning over a car dispute between the pair, the court heard that Mr Cullen followed his wife and a struggle ensued.

Neighbours heard "a woman screaming and in pain" from a garage and a man saying "just wait in the car".

Spots of blood were later found in the garage and the jury was told it was likely that Cullen beat her and bundled her into the boot.

Cullen then drove to a camping shop, bought a black T-shirt and two knives labelled "guaranteed sharp" and a change of clothing and drove to an isolated outdoor area of the fishing club in Taren Point.

It is here that Ms Cullen's body was discovered.

During the trial the court heard that Cullen had been abusive to his estranged wife for a long period, calling her a "slut" and "whore" in front of their friends.

He kicked her out of their house in October 2013.

Ms Cullen had a brief affair with a young Danish man, but that ended a month before her murder.

At one point during the course of their separation Cullen phoned police to report that Ms Cullen had tasked a boyfriend with beating him up on her birthday.

He told officers he didn't see anyone before or after he was allegedly hit on the head during an incident near his Sylyania home and no one was ever arrested in connection with it. An apprehended violence order (AVO) had previously been taken out against Cullen, after an incident at his wife's workplace, a hair and beauty salon in the Sylvania Waters area of the city.

Cullen had gone to the business while his wife was at work, and held up signs saying 'Comrie Cullen is sleeping with clients'. The trial heard the Cullens' marriage was "loveless", and that Ms Cullen said he had raped her several times.

The victim's boss Ms Acriuli said Cullen had threatened to kill his wife so often that it had almost become a joke.

"He threatened to slit her throat, he had threatened to kill her regularly," said Ms Acriuli.

Ahead of yesterday's verdict, Cullen had asked Justice Ian Harrison to direct the jury to acquit him of the murder of Ms Cullen, arguing the prosecution had not proved its case.

The judge, however, rejected the application, noting the "ferocity" of the attack on the victim.

"It's clear that she suffered a significantly violent death and she suffered very serious wounds," he said.

Cullen will be sentenced at a later date.

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