By Brendan Rees
A man who was in a drug-induced psychosis when he stabbed his wife to death at their Cranbourne North home while two of their children watched on has been jailed for 18 years.
On the morning of 7 July, 2018, Daniel Eckersley, 40, used a hammer to smash items in the kitchen before punching and kicking his 36-year-old wife, Amanda Harris, after experiencing delusions she and their children had tried to poison him, Supreme Court Judge John Champion said in his sentencing remarks on 30 January.
Eckersley then reached for a 120mm knife and stabbed Ms Harris in the head, neck, chest and upper body as his son tried to pull him away but was kicked away by Eckersley, who he was under the influence of the drug Tramadol, a commonly used analgesic or pain killer which acts on the central nervous system.
During the trial, the court was told Eckersley set fire to the house using a cigarette lighter as Ms Harris’ body lay in a pool of blood in the dining room. During his rage, Eckersley “applied the lighter flame” to his daughter’s shoulder before taking his three children and dog and fleeing the scene.
One neighbour, who was an off-duty firefighter, entered the house and dragged Ms Harris’ body outside but there were no signs of life, Judge Champion said.
Eckersley was later arrested by heavily armed officers from the Victoria Police Special Operations Group at a friend’s house.
Judge Champion said days before the incident, Eckersley, a former baker, was “sad and depressed” with friends saying his behaviour was “erratic”.
A forensic psychiatrist found Eckersley was in a drug induced psychosis during his offending, caused by an overuse of Tramadol – for which he had been prescribed after a workplace knee injury.
Eckersley pleaded guilty to murder on 29 April, 2019.
In her victim impact statement, Ms Harris’s sister said she had been devastated by the death and felt “robbed of a life together”.
In sentencing, Judge Champion told Eckersley: “Your actions have destroyed your own family”.
“You treated your children callously after they had witnessed your brutality by driving them away and telling them to tell others that Ms Harris had committed suicide”.
Judge Champion described the murder as “brutal killing,” saying it was “difficult to fully imagine” the impact the murder had had on their children.
“Ms Harris was defenceless against your attack and completely innocent. There was no basis for your delusions that she was trying to kill you or your children by poisoning”.
Judge Champion described Ms Harris as a “loving and caring partner and mother”.