A man shot his wife in the master bedroom of their home before killing himself in a murder-suicide plan, a court has heard.
A man shot his wife in the master bedroom of their home before killing himself in a murder-suicide plan, a court has heard.

Husband shot wife dead on farm

An elderly Victorian man shot his wife in the master bedroom of their 300-acre property as the couple grappled with significant financial and health problems, a coroner has found.

The murder-suicide deaths of Arthur and Gwen Smith, both 91, sent shockwaves through the farming community of Parwan, west of Melbourne, in July 2018.

The pair was found dead in their property on Smiths Road in Parwan on July 25 and a firearm was found under Mr Smith's body.

On Friday, the Coroners Court of Victoria was told there was "no indication" Mrs Smith was "aware or agreeable" to her husband's actions.

State Coroner Judge John Cain said the elderly Mrs Smith had struggled with depression for years while her husband had grappled with health complications after surgery.

He said Mrs Smith died from a gunshot wound and Mr Smith was "capable" of the actions necessary to cause her death.

Both of them had resisted moving into aged care because they found "change and moving too difficult".

Gwen and Arthur Smith, of Parwan, died in their home in the early hours of July 25. Photo: Supplied.
Gwen and Arthur Smith, of Parwan, died in their home in the early hours of July 25. Photo: Supplied.

"The available evidence in this case suggests that … Mr and Mrs Smith experienced significant relationship stressors that included finances, debts, daily care needs and … maintaining their large farm property," Judge Cain said.

"Mr Smith exhibited behaviours that aligned with gender roles of their generations.

"There were no concerns of family violence in the lead-up to the fatal incident."

The court was told there were no signs of struggle, forced entry or third party involvement.

The pair had married in 1950 and purchased farmland in Parwan, where they raised their family and resided until the murder-suicide.

They had nine great-grandchildren at the time of their deaths.

Counsel assisting the coroner Nicholas Ngai said the elderly Smiths had lost two of their daughters, Jennifer and Carolyn, due to complications from multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2001 and 2016.

Their third daughter, Maree Ryan, had moved away to NSW.

Despite offers to move with her or go into aged care, the couple refused.

"Mr and Mrs Smith had struggled financially and with the upkeep of their property and home, due to their age and the condition of their property," Mr Ngai said.

"They said they found change and moving too difficult."

Mr Ngai said the passing of her daughters and the subsequent suicide of one of their son-in-laws had "significantly" impacted the elderly Mrs Smith.

She was diagnosed with depression in 2008, prescribed antidepressants and began seeing a psychiatrist that same year.

Mr Smith's health had worsened after undertaking heart surgery in June 2018.

"On July 6 Mr Smith was readmitted to hospital due to complications, which led to a further stay at a rehabilitation facility with concerns that Mr Smith was having trouble co-ordinating," Mr Ngai said.

"Prior to her death, Mrs Smith's general health was reported to be 'in reasonable health for her age' with her main health issues relating to the management of her depression, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels."

Prior to their deaths, Mr and Mrs Smith were heavily supported by their grandchildren Kerryn Sanders and Gavin Minns, who attended their property daily.

Home support workers for the couple reported they appeared appreciative of their assistance and an offer to move into aged care when they visited on July 24.

Mr Ngai said the support workers did not hold concerns for either of them.

Originally published as Husband shot wife dead on farm

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467. 


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