10 February, 2010

A Callous Remark

Colleen Sharpe lived with her husband in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains. She was 53 years old. About half-way through 1995 she met Arthur Whitmore, a 66 year old man who also lived in the area. They began an affair, meeting secretly at both their homes, whenever possible. Arthur moved to the Central Coast later in 1995, but they continued their affair, meeting up in Katoomba frequently. Mr Sharpe was completely unaware of the liaison between his wife and Mr Whitmore.

On 25 April 1996, Colleen flew to Brisbane to visit a relative, and arranged with Arthur that he would meet her up there. They came back together on the 29th, and Colleen decided it was time to come clean and tell her husband what was going on. She phoned him at work, and when he came home, he found her packing her clothes. Not long after, Arthur arrived at the Sharpe's house, and he and Colleen left together.

However the next afternoon, Colleen rang her husband and said she would be coming home. A few minutes later the phone rang again, but this time it was Arthut Whitmore calling to tell Mr Sharpe in no uncertain terms that Colleen would not be returning home to him. Mr Sharpe was concerned, as he could hear his wife in the background stating that she would be going back to him, and Arthur replying aggressively that she would not. Arthur rang the Sharpe home once more later that evening, stating again that Colleen would not be coming home, and later Colleen also rang, agreeing that she would not be coming home after all.

The following morning, just before 8:00am, Colleen telephoned Mr Sharpe again, and said that when she returned to Katoomba, she would be staying with her friend Grace Rogers. The call was then abruptly terminated. Mr Sharpe, correctly as it turned out, interpreted this as a coded message from his wife, since Grace Rogers was a mutual friend of theirs who had been murdered some six years earlier. Mr Sharpe immediately went to the police station and reported the situation. He returned home shortly before 10:00am, whereupon he recieved yet another phone call from Arthur, this time telling him that his wife was dead. Mr Sharpe hung up the phone in shock, but Arthur rang back again and invited Mr Sharpe to come around and collect his wife's body. The Judge described this "as callous a remark as one could imagine".

Arthur then phoned his sister and complained to her that despite "all he had done" to arrange a pension for Colleen, and for her to move into his house, she had threatened to leave. Accordingly, he shot her between the eyes with a pistol at point-blank range.

When the police arrived and placed him under arrest, he told them Colleen had assaulted him, and then demanded money in exchange for sex. It later emerged that he had been convicted in 1968 for maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm upon his wife at the time. At that earlier trial he stated that his wife had been aggressive towards him regarding sex, and had victimized him with her demands. Needless to say that jury did not believe him and convicted him of the offence.

Following a guilty verdict in his trial for the murder of Colleen Sharpe, Arthur was sentenced to a total of 25 years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 15 years. He appealed that sentence, as he objected to the Judge's conclusion that he had a dangerous habit of attacking women when problems arose in their relationship. He also told the Appeal Court that the Judge had not taken into account his advanced years, which in his view meant he should have received a lighter sentence. Finally, he rather gallingly suggested that his sentence was too severe for what he described as an "ordinary domestic murder".

Needless to say, the Appeal Court rejected all these points. They found there was little to be said in favour of Mr Whitmore. He clearly intended to kill Colleen, merely to vent his rage, and had shown no remorse for his actions. Furthermore, the judge had infact taken his age into account by setting a lower than normal non-parole period. Finally, the suggestion that it was an "ordinary domestic murder" was rejected out of hand.

Arthur Whitmore is due for release on the 30 April, 2011.

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