MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — An Australian jury convicted an infertile woman on Thursday of murdering a mother-of-four in a plot to gain custody of the children.
Christine Lyons, 47, was found guilty in the Victoria state Supreme Court of murdering Samantha Kelly in January 2016 in a bungalow they shared with the children in the city of Bendigo. Lyons was also convicted of attempting to murder 39-year-old Kelly days earlier with an overdose of prescription drugs.
Lyons’ partner at the time, Peter Arthur, 46, killed Kelly by striking her repeatedly on the head with a hammer. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty last year to murder.
Prosecutor Fran Dalziel told the jury that Lyons had been desperate to have children and wanted Kelly out of the way in a bid to gain custody of her children. Lyons had previously asked several women to become surrogate mothers for her, but none obliged.
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Lyons’ former lover Ronald Lyons, a cousin-in-law by marriage who shared the same house, was on Thursday acquitted by the same jury of murdering Kelly. But he was found guilty of attempting to murder her with the overdose and of assisting a criminal by helping Arthur bury the body in a dry creek bed. The body was found a month after the murder.
The two Lyons will return to court on Aug. 15 for a sentencing hearing. Christine Lyons faces a potential life in prison sentence.
Christine Lyons told the children, three of whom have disabilities, that their mother had suddenly abandoned them in the middle of the night. She told police that Kelly was an irresponsible parent with a drug problem.
Lyons initially took over care of the children and changed their names. But they now live with their uncle, Michael Kelly. He told reporters outside court on Thursday that one of the children still believes that their mother abandoned the family.
The victim’s aunt, Tracey Lubcke, told reporters that her niece was a “gorgeous” but “vulnerable” woman who was preyed upon.
“She never saw the bad in people, even though they were horrible people,” Lubcke said.