A FYANS Creek woman has been found guilty of murder.
Janice Bufton, 68, pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering her former partner Colin Snooks - but on Tuesday a jury deemed her guilty of the charge after a 10-day trial in the Supreme Court, sitting in Horsham.
Mr Snooks died of internal injuries after Bufton hit him while driving in a utility vehicle on October 30, 2017 at her Fyans Creek property.
The court heard the pair had a troubled 20-month relationship which was fraught with conflict.
The jury took more than two days to find her guilty.
READ MORE: Janice Bufton found guilty of murder
The trial began on May 15 and Justice Andrew Tinney highlighted a key piece of evidence - the account of the sole eye-witness Benjamin Weston, who died in unrelated circumstances before he could be cross-examined.
"His evidence has been permitted to be placed in spite of that fact," Mr Tinney said. "The defence will take strong issue with that evidence."
Bufton sat motionless and showed little emotion in the dock throughout the trial, though would sometimes joke with custody officers during short adjournments.
READ MORE: Fyans Creek homicide trial begins
Prosecutor Kevin Armstrong, in his opening address, told the court he would push for a guilty verdict of murder.
He said Mr Snooks' death was the culmination of months of abuse by Bufton, and he would call multiple witnesses to give evidence about their relationship.
He called the relationship "volatile" and said Bufton believed Mr Snooks was cheating on her with his former wife.
Mr Armstrong played a confronting recording of the Triple Zero call Mr Weston made on the day Mr Snooks died.
READ MORE: How it was reported at the time
In the Triple Zero recording, Bufton was heard screaming: "Why'd he jump in front of me?"
Simultaneously, Mr Weston was heard screaming: "That's f*cking murder."
Mr Armstrong then played a video of Mr Weston's walk-through with police on October 31, when Mr Weston recounted the incident.
Mr Weston said when he and Mr Snooks arrived at the property to retrieve Mr Snooks' caravan, Bufton had come out of the house "breathing fire" and yelling accusations at Mr Snooks.
Mr Weston said Bufton got into Mr Snooks' ute, driving it around the back of the house where she "revved" the engine.
The men began walking away, calling Triple Zero on Mr Weston's phone.
Mr Weston said Bufton then drove back around the house and along the driveway towards them, forcing him to jump out of her way, before she followed Mr Snooks onto a grassy verge and struck him.
Mr Danos, in his opening address, agreed the pair had a difficult relationship - but disputed this meant Bufton meant to kill Mr Snooks.
"That she was so angry with his behaviour that she was out wreaking revenge ... that very much is an issue," he said.
Instead, Mr Danos argued Mr Snooks lost his footing and fell into the ute's path.
He said he would question the accuracy of Mr Weston's account.
At the end their opening addresses, Mr Armstrong said he would push for a verdict of murder, while Mr Danos argued the murder charge should be dismissed.
On day two of the trial, the jury was taken to the property and shown markers placed by police displaying the alleged movements of the ute to help them visualise what had occurred.
The following day, the prosecution called collision reconstruction expert, Detective Leading Senior Constable Michael Hardiman to give evidence.
Constable Hardiman said testing had determined Bufton was travelling at speeds of at least 45 kilometres an hour when she struck Mr Snooks and was in complete control of the vehicle.
He said testing showed Bufton only applied the brakes when she was in close proximity to Mr Snooks, demonstrated by skid marks made by the back tyres beginning only one metre before the point of impact.
Mr Danos cross-examined Constable Hardiman, which revealed parts of Mr Weston's account were inaccurate.
Mr Danos said if Mr Weston was correct, the markings on the grass and ute would be different - which Mr Hardiman confirmed, and which cast considerable doubt on Mr Weston's account.
Mr Danos argued instead that Mr Snooks jumped onto the grass in a fatal error of judgement just as Bufton was trying to swing the vehicle further onto the grass to avoid him.
However, Mr Armstrong contested this assertion with evidence from Mr Snooks' orthopedic surgeon, John Patrikios.
Dr Patriokos said Mr Snooks had arthritis in his left foot, worsened by plates and screws put in it after he broke it in early 2016.
Three months before Mr Snooks' death, Dr Patrikios removed the plates and screws and performed other surgery to ease the arthritis.
He told the court that Mr Snooks would have been unable to perform the leap Mr Danos had suggested.
Mr Armstrong called several witnesses to give evidence about the pair's 20-month relationship.
He told the court that as early as four months into the relationship, things were tense.
The court heard Mr Snooks often left town with his caravan - sometimes without warning and for weeks at a time.
"She had many complaints about him," Mr Armstrong said.
Mr Armstrong read from Bufton's diary, where she wrote she had "never been on such an emotional roller coaster", and wrote she was sick of Mr Snooks running away to his caravan when things got tough.
She detailed a "hot and cold relationship" where she never knew what Mr Snooks was thinking or feeling, but she couldn't stop herself trying to find out.
Bufton's neighbour, Robert Wallace, told the court although he liked both of them, after a time he refused to visit if they were together at Bufton's house.
"We would start hearing arguments in the evenings (from a kilometre away)," he said.
On one occasion, he witnessed a physical tussle between the two.
Mr Snooks' friend David Margetson also gave evidence and said at one point, Mr Snooks was at the house nursing his broken ankle and rang Mr Margetson saying Bufton had taken all the car keys.
"He said, 'She's too strong for me'," he said.
The court also heard about an incident on December 8, 2016 when police in Stawell received a call out to the Fyans Creek property.
Senior Constable Gjalt Erkelens said Mr Snooks told him Bufton was physically and verbally abusive and he wanted to end the relationship, but he was concerned about her mental health.
Then, on January 21, Mr Snooks appeared at Senior Constable Erkelens' home - again accusing Bufton of abuse.
Mr Snooks told Senior Constable Erkelens he wanted to retrieve his caravan from Bufton's house, but was concerned about getting access to the property.
However, Mr Danos' cross-examinations suggested a man who was difficult to bully.
Mr Wallace said they both had fiery personalities.
"He would always try and have the last say - but Jan wouldn't take it lying down," he said.
The court heard a different account of events on day five of the trial, when a video of Bufton's police interview was played.
This was the only time the court heard from Bufton. She did not give evidence during the trial itself.
She told police she took the ute to stop Mr Snooks leaving again, but had first told the two men she would come back and make them coffee so they could talk.
When she saw the pair walking up the driveway, Bufton told police she hadn't understood why Mr Snooks was leaving, and began to drive carefully up the driveway to head them off at the gate.
Bufton said she veered to try and avoid him, but he "jumped out" in front of her.
She said she loved Mr Snooks.
"He was the most loving, affectionate man that I'd ever known," she said.
When police put it to Bufton during her police interview that she hit Mr Snooks deliberately, she appeared shocked.
"I wouldn't do that in my wildest nightmare," she said
In Mr Armstrong's closing address, he alleged Bufton used Mr Snooks' property to control him.
He described an angry woman who in a fit of "incandescent rage" ran down her former lover when he tried to leave.
He said Mr Snooks' repeated contact with his former wife and his attempt to retrieve his caravan in order to leave her had pushed her to the brink.
Mr Danos argued this was a tragic accident brought about by a fatal error of judgement on Mr Snooks' part and misrepresented by an unreliable witness.
To further dismiss the notion that Mr Snooks was a victim, Mr Danos listed the occasions Mr Snooks was able to collect his caravan and leave Bufton's place without issue.
It took the jury two days to reach their verdict.
Bufton remained calm and unemotional as the jury shared their decision.
The court is waiting on reports of Bufton's health before the prosecution and defence will present their submissions for sentencing.
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