13 May 19

HAPPIER TIMES: The body of Renee Mitchell was found by walkers in Bangalay Reserve at Windale on November 12, 2014. Graham Anthony George Sloane has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but not guilty to murder. Picture: SuppliedA MAN accused of brutally murdering an aged-care worker and dumping her body in a Windale park has raised a defence of substantial impairment, claiming he couldn’t control himself at the time of the woman’s death.

There is no dispute that Graham Anthony George Sloane, now 68, was the man who took Renee Mitchell, 38, from her kitchen while she was cooking dinner for her family on November 11, 2014, Newcastle Supreme Court has heard.

There is also no questionthat Mr Sloane took Mrs Mitchellto nearby Bangalay Reserve andstabbed her four times in the chest and once in the neck.

And it’s not disputed that those injuries caused her death and that Mr Sloane intended to kill Mrs Mitchell.

But what a jury will be asked to decide is whether Mr Sloane was suffering from an “abnormality of the mind” at the time of the killing, meaning his capacity to understand events, judge right from wrong or control himself wassubstantially impaired by mental illness.

If they make that determination, then the jury will be asked whether his capacity to control himself –which both sides acknowledge is the central issue to the case –was so substantially impaired that it would reduce what was otherwise murder to manslaughter, the court heard.

“Not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter,” a frail-looking Mr Sloane told a jury panel during his arraignment on Monday.

Barrister Janet Manuel, for Mr Sloane, told the jury of nine women and three men that Mr Sloane was showing “clear signs of mental illness in the days, weeks and months” leading up to Ms Mitchell’s death.

Mr Sloane had began telling people he was a stand-up comedian or a musician, that he was embarking on a national tour or heading overseas to “entertain the troops” and had even hired a “showbiz manager”, Ms Manuel said.

None of these things were true.

“But that didn’t stop Mr Sloane,” Ms Manuel said. “Because he not only spoke about these things, he acted on them.”

Mr Sloane bought thousands of dollars worth of musical and electrical equipment as well as a new car to use during the tour, making repeated visits to Musos Corner, Harvey Norman and a car dealership on the day he killed Mrs Mitchell.

During his opening address, Crown prosecutor Lee Carr submitted that, ultimately, the jury would reject the defence of substantial impairment and find that Mr Sloane had the capacity to control himself.

The trial, before Justice Helen Wilson, is expected to run for two weeks.

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