Man loses appeal over wife's drowning death in Tweed river
An unfaithful husband whose wife of 25 years drowned after he deliberately drove their car into a river during a fight has lost an appeal against his sentence.
Edward Lord, 56, was jailed for a minimum of eight years last February after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Michele Lord, who was killed in October 2015 when he veered into the Tweed River in northern NSW.
Lord appealed against his punishment last April, arguing the significance of him retrieving his wife from the car was overlooked by a judge because he was unable to figure out how this was done and that his punishment was "manifestly excessive".
But a panel of three judges dismissed his appeal in the NSW Supreme Court on Monday and found "although the act was spontaneous and momentary, it was an … unlawful and dangerous act".
Agreed facts state Lord began an affair with a Malaysian masseuse and persuaded Mrs Lord to let the woman live in their Queensland home as a housekeeper.
Mrs Lord grew suspicious about the two having an affair and met with a lawyer to discuss getting a divorce.
However, the married couple decided to drive to Byron Bay together in an attempt to resolve their issues but quickly began fighting.
On the way back to the Gold Coast Lord grew enraged and deliberately swerved their car into the river.
Lord escaped the sinking vehicle but went back underwater and retrieved Ms Lord. She was unable to be saved and later died. The agreed facts state Lord's window was open and Mrs Lord's was closed at the time of the incident.
Lawyers for Lord argued the sentencing judge had overlooked the significance of him retrieving his wife from the car because he was unable to determine how their client had done so "in circumstances where the argument is that he should get some benefit for the fact that he had done everything he could to retrieve, to save, his wife".
But Justice Peter Garling said he did not accept the sentencing judge had discounted Lord's conduct after driving his car into the river, saying there was a lack of evidence concerning how the attempted rescue happened.
Justice Garling said there were questions around the timing of the attempted rescue.
"Did he go back to rescue the deceased immediately he was freed from the vehicle? Did he do so in sufficient time before the vehicle was completely submerged and sank to the bottom of the river? Or, did he do so having waited for some short period of time? Did he do so at the earliest time he thought he possibly could? These are all questions to which answers were not supplied in the evidence," the Supreme Court judge said.
Lawyers for Lord also argued the sentence was "manifestly excessive" because the act was "spontaneous, momentary and unplanned."
But Judge Garling said "any unlawful and dangerous act involving deliberate conduct which results in the death of a person is an offence which carries with it a need for general deterrence".
"I am of the view that the appeal be dismissed," he said.