THE man charged with the murder of Phillip Island psychologist, Samantha Fraser, her estranged husband Adrian Basham, 42, has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and not guilty to five earlier offences allegedly involving the same victim.
Ms Fraser, 38, was found dead in the garage of her Cowes home on Monday, July 23, 2018 after she failed to collect the couple’s three children from primary school.
The committal hearing, in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court, finished in unfortunate circumstances on Monday this week when Magistrate Russell Kelly was unable to resume hearing the case for personal reasons.
It has since been reported by news.com.au that court clerk Ashleigh Petrie, 23 of Mirboo North, died suddenly earlier in the day and most hearings at Morwell were cancelled while co-workers dealt with the news.
The city media had previously pursued the deceased woman over matters relating to her private life.
Mr Kelly sat on the bench for the first four days on the committal hearing last week; on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, during which health professionals, and family members and friends of Ms Fraser were closely questioned about their statements to police, principally by defence barrister Peter Kilduff.
In the past week they gave evidence about Mr Basham’s controlling behaviour and about Ms Fraser’s fears for the safety and welfare of her children and herself.
Former neighbours of Ms Fraser spoke about the burning down of a back fence, separating the properties, shortly before the couple split, one saying that Ms Fraser had told her she feared Adrian had started the fire.
Another neighbour said he’d spoken to Mr Basham about his separation from Ms Fraser while the pair took their kids to the beach.
“He told me they were having a break and I told him not to worry about it that a cousin of mine did the exact same thing and it worked out well.”
The committal was to have concluded on Monday this week with the two key police informants, Detective Senior Constable Luke Farrell and Detective Senior Constable Simon Fisher, making statements.
Two other witnesses had also been listed to appear.
But none of it went ahead as previously planned.
Shortly after 11am, Mr Kilduff told the court that with several witnesses not available on the day, including one to appear by video link, agreement had been reached for his client, Mr Basham, to be committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court, for the murder of Ms Fraser, starting at a directions’ hearing in Melbourne on Wednesday, November 6.
“I have informed my client about those matters,” he said.
Accordingly, stand-in Magistrate Ann Collins cautioned Mr Basham and invited him to enter a plea.
Standing between two police officers in the dock at the rear of Court 6, wearing a stylish, checked suit and light blue tie, Mr Basham entered his “not guilty” plea to the two sets of charges.
Ms Collins acknowledged to the court that she had not read the brief and made no comments other than to clarify the number of charges proceeding, and to caution the media about certain details relating to the charges which have been suppressed by the court.
Ms Collins also extended an existing Family Violence Intervention Order (by the agreement of Mr Basham without admissions) until April 28, 2021, initially including Samantha Fraser and the couples’ three children as the affected family members to be protected until she was reminded, by Crown Prosecutor Melissa Mahady, that the first named person no longer needed to be included on the order.
Ms Collins cautioned Mr Basham that he could make no contact with the affected family members by any means, including posting messages on Facebook or by getting anyone else to do what he was no allowed to do.
The magistrate asked Mr Basham on several occasions if he understood the restrictions. He responded: “Yes, I think so.”
There is also to be a request made in relation to legal aid.