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Lotto winner fleeced and murdered by accountant in row over money

AN ACCOUNTANT who managed the finances of an Australian Lottery winner has pleaded guilty to her murder.

Maria Lourdes (Lou) Devrell, 55, was found in a pool of blood in the dining room of her home in Tamworth, New South Wales earlier this year.

Peter Kelly, a finance manager and longtime friend of Mrs Devrell and her husband David, had looked after her $5m (€3.2m) win in Oz Lotto for the last 12 years.

Mrs Devrell’s body was found at 7pm on March 28 when her husband and Kelly were enjoying a shooting and motorbike riding trip at Watsons Creek that had been planned weeks before.

The prosecution alleges that Kelly and Mrs Devrell had an argument over money at the Devrell house before he hit her over the head with a rubber mallet and smothered her.

After killing her, he continued on his way to meet Mr Devrell at Watsons Creek, where they were to spend about three days.

Evidence was tended in court at Tamworth that there had been a number of failed financial investments undertaken by Kelly, including $600,000 towards a seniors' living complex at Umina Beach on the central coast and another $350,000 lost in a Fijian property development.

The statement of facts also detailed information alleging there had been money management problems on behalf of the Devrells and that Kelly moved to assume a power of attorney in 2000 that gave him control over the couple's spending, bank accounts and payment of bills.

The Devrells had won $5 million in Oz Lotto in June 1999 when Mr Devrell worked as a train guard and Mrs Devrell worked for the Sara Lee food company.

Mr Devrell and Kelly had known each other since about the late 1980s, having met through a shared interest in motorcycles and bike rallies.

Kelly was a financial adviser with a company at the time of the Oz Lotto win. He structured the couple's financial affairs, placing some of the prize money into superannuation and some in annuities to provide a regular income stream. The rest was allocated for immediate expenditure.

Later, Kelly went into his own business but continued to look after their affairs, including payments to himself for his services.

The Devrells moved to Tamworth soon after the win but Kelly continued to handle their affairs and visited them often.

Forensic evidence to the court yesterday included details of positive matches of traces of Mrs Devrell's blood found in Kelly's car and from his fingers.

The Northern Daily Leader reported that a police search on September 10 discovered the murder weapon, a mallet and Mrs Devrell’s purse in bushland as a result of new information.

Sentencing of Kelly, who is in prison and did not apply for bail, will take place on November 4.