explainer

Natasha Darcy claimed her partner died by suicide. Then police seized her Google search history.

This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers. 

On June 25, 2017, a woman called Natasha Beth Darcy was standing on the sideline of a rugby game.

Just before she used the camera on her phone to film the match, she had a query to type into google. 

“How to commit murder.”

Around the same time, she had another question: "Can police see websites you visit?"

About five weeks later, on August 2, 2017, Darcy rang triple zero at 2am. She explained she had found her partner of three years, sheep farmer Mathew Dunbar, unresponsive in bed. 

In a bizarre coincidence, one of the first responders to the scene was Darcy’s ex-husband, Colin Crossman, who worked as a paramedic. 

On June 25, 2017, Darcy googled 'how to commit murder'. Image: Facebook. 

In 2009, Darcy struck Mr Crossman on the head with a hammer as he slept and days later sedated him, before burning down their house as he slept.

Darcy served time in jail for the crime. 

Less than a decade later, her estranged husband was trying to save her new partner’s life.

When paramedics arrived, they declared Mr Dunbar dead. But Darcy “screamed” at them to keep doing CPR.

According to Darcy, her partner had died by suicide. She alleged he had spoken about suicide to her before, specifically after receiving bad news from a specialist about a leg injury and telling her she would be better off without him.

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Sheep farmer Mathew Dunbar died at the hands of his partner in August 2017. Image: AAP. 

But after a 10-week trial, a NSW Supreme Court jury on Tuesday found the 46-year-old woman guilty of murder.

On the night of Mathew Dunbar’s death, Darcy was accused of sedating her live-in partner using a Nutribullet to blend a cocktail of sedatives, before moving a gas tank into his room and gassing him in his bed.

She had the callous motivation to inherit his property, prosecutors said. 

The couple met on a dating website in 2014. During trial, prosecutors alleged Darcy quickly started pushing for Mr Dunbar to change his will so she would inherit his $3.5 million property if he died.

According to Sydney Morning Herald, in April 2015, one year after meeting, she messaged Mr Dunbar: "Can you promise to do one thing for me this week? Call solicitor for appointment to sort your will.”

“OK, your silence says it all,” she sent mere minutes later, after not receiving an immediate response. 

The next month, he changed his will. 

By February 2017, she had begun searching for causes of death including poisonous spiders and “toxic plants that look like food”, until the searches progressed to, “how to commit murder”.

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During her murder trial, prosecutor Brett Hatfield said: "Mr Dunbar may have desperately wanted love and a family, but what did he get?

"A cold and calculating person who was determined to kill him and inherit his wealth."

Mr Hatfield added that Darcy had a "tendency to sedate and inflict serious harm on her domestic partners for financial gain,” referring to a $700,000 life insurance policy on her estranged husband Colin Crossman’s life.

Darcy during the police interview after murdering her partner. Image: New South Wales Police. In her police interview following Mr Dunbar’s death, Darcy told investigators that Mr Dunbar was gay and that they did not have a sexual relationship.

“That was a lot of his depression. Being a tough farmer, being gay,” she told police in what has been described as a bizarre interview. 

“Mat loves grocery shopping, that’s one of the things I love about him… loved.”

“He’d always find great bargains and everything... It must be the gay in him.”

A close friend of Mr Dunbar later testified in court: “He wasn’t gay.”

Darcy pleaded not guilty to murder, but did plead guilty to aiding and abetting Mr Dunbar's suicide.

In support of Darcy's claim that her partner had killed himself, her barrister Janet Manuel SC cited his leg injury, his depression, a suicide threat in June 2017 and his subsequent admission into a psychiatric unit.

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She also referred to his confused sexuality and the suicide death of a close friend.

But prosecutor Mr Hatfield said Darcy "exploited" Mr Dunbar's depression to kill him in a way to make it look like suicide.

Plus, despite Darcy claiming the sheep farmer had received bad news about his leg the day before his death, his orthopaedic surgeon testified to telling him he had been "extremely happy" with his improvement.

As Justice Julia Lonergan summed up the trial, she directed the jurors to entirely put out of their minds the issue of assisted suicide, reminding them of the absence of any evidence about such a scenario.

The jury was also told of a letter Darcy sent to a friend after Mr Dunbar's death, offering her $20,000 to tell lies about him that would assist her at any murder trial.

She will face a sentence hearing on October 1.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

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