1. How an Adelaide woman’s smartwatch became the key evidence police needed to arrest her daughter-in-law for her murder.
When 57-year-old Myrna Nilsson was murdered at her Adelaide home in September 2016, her daughter-in-law told police they had been attacked by a group of men.
According to AAP, 26-year-old Caroline Nilsson said the men had forced their way into the home after a road rage incident, arguing with Myrna for 20 minutes before she was killed. Three hours after the reported home invasion, Caroline was found in the street by neighbours with her hands and face bound with tape.
Watch: How Myrna’s smartwatch is helping to put her killer behind bars.
But Caroline has now been charged with her mother-in-law’s murder, and at a bail hearing this week, the prosecution says data from Myrna’s smartwatch contradicts Caroline’s story.
Prosecutor Carmen Matteo told Adelaide Magistrates Court that the story she had concocted was demonstrably false and the home invasion crime scene had been fabricated.
Ms Matteo said a forensic expert had analysed the dead woman’s smartwatch and had narrowed the time from when she was attacked to when she died to a seven-minute window.
She said the data showed a burst of heavy activity, consistent with the woman being the victim of an “ambush-type” attack followed by a period of less activity when she possibly lost consciousness.
Ms Matteo said the watch stopped recording the woman’s heart rate soon after.
“The prosecution accumulates those timings and the information about energy levels, movement, heart rate, to lead to a conclusion that the deceased must have been attacked at around 6.38pm and had certainly died by 6.45pm,” she said.
The prosecutor said if those timings were accepted then it contradicted statements from the accused that her mother-in-law had been involved in an argument with her attackers for about 20 minutes.
She said it was also alleged that Nilsson used her mobile phone at 7.02pm to send a text to her husband and at 7.13pm to access eBay, despite her claims that she had also been attacked and tied up by the intruders.
Defence counsel Mark Twiggs said his client would deny the offending and asked for her to be released on home detention, telling the court she had been named as a prime suspect by police more than a year ago and had not tried to flee.
But magistrate Oliver Koehn rejected the application because of the seriousness of the charge, the strength of the prosecution case and the woman’s alleged efforts to conceal evidence.
Nilsson, who sobbed throughout the hearing, will return to court on June 13.
2. A NSW mum-of-four is accused of ‘faking’ three types of terminal cancer to raise thousands of dollars.
A NSW mother of four who spoke about her fear as she battled three types of terminal cancer has been accused of faking the disease to raise thousands of dollars, AAP reports.
Former cricketer and ex-Cricket NSW employee Melissa Quinn, 35, has been charged with fraud after allegedly telling people she had a rare form of cancer and needed to travel overseas for specialist treatment in 2014.
The following year, the Casino woman again claimed she had ovarian cancer and chronic myeloid leukaemia, NSW Police said in a statement on Thursday.
Police allege several fundraising events were held by the community and her employer where $45,000 was raised which she used to travel overseas.
Quinn, who played cricket for NSW under-19s, was charged with making and using false documents to obtain financial advantage and four counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.
She has been granted conditional bail is due to face Casino Local Court on April 18.
Casino RSM Club, where Quinn was a part-time employee, held a fundraising event for her in 2014 and raised about $20,000, a club spokesman told AAP in a statement on Thursday.
"At no stage was the Casino RSM Club aware that Ms Quinn's illness was anything but genuine," the spokesman said.
He said the club and wider community were "deeply shocked and saddened" about Quinn's arrest.
Several staff members helped Quinn by minding her children and driving to "alleged" medical appointments and chemotherapy treatments, he said.
Cricket NSW donated three signed and framed Australian shirts and the NSW State of Origin and NSW Swifts donated a jersey each for the fundraising auction, according to local media reports.
Former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke was reportedly one of those who donated signed and framed playing shirts for the auction.
A Cricket NSW spokesman told AAP they were unable to comment because the matter was before the court.
Cot death may be linked to rare genetic mutations associated with impaired breathing, research has shown, reports AAP.
British and US scientists have found the first clear evidence that genetics plays a role in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The study focused on mutations in the SCN4A gene which helps regulate the muscular control of breathing.
Defects in the gene are associated with a range of neuromuscular disorders, some potentially life-threatening, that make breathing or speaking difficult.
Typically SCN4A mutations are very rare, occurring in fewer than five people in every 100,000. But the study uncovered harmful mutant versions of the gene in four of 278 cot death victims.
Having one of the gene variants may leave some children with weaker breathing muscles, said the researchers.
Faced with extra stresses to breathing such as tobacco smoke, getting entangled in bedding, or a minor illness or airway obstruction, they may be less able to correct their breathing, cough or catch their breath.
Professor Michael Hanna, from the Medical Research Council Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases at University College London, said: "Our study is the first to link a genetic cause of weaker breathing muscles with sudden infant death syndrome, and suggests that genes controlling breathing muscle function could be important in this condition. However, more research will be needed to confirm and fully understand this link."
The scientists stressed that faulty genes are probably not the sole cause of cot death, and safe sleeping measures were still essential to ensure a baby's safety.
SIDS, defined as the unexpected death of an apparently healthy child, can be heart-breaking and traumatic for parents.
Typically, the syndrome strikes infants aged two to four months.
Although the cause of cot death is unknown, it is widely believed to be linked to breathing problems. Putting babies to sleep on their back, and not having them sleep in the same bed as a parent are both measures known to reduce the risk.
The findings were reported in The Lancet medical journal.
A number of McDonald's restaurants across Melbourne have run out of hash browns, and hungry customers have taken to social media to air their frustration.
Patrons took to social media on Thursday to share photos of signs at McDonald's drive-thrus across the state saying fries would be served in lieu of the popular breakfast staple.
The great hash brown crisis of March 2018
— rob harris (@rharris334) March 28, 2018
— rob harris (@rharris334) March 28, 2018
— Grantley D (@Specialgrant) March 28, 2018
"A small number of our restaurants ran low on hash browns this morning due to a temporary distribution issue with one of our suppliers..." a McDonald's spokesperson told AAP.
But never fear: hash browns will be back on the menu very, very soon.
"All affected restaurants will be re-stocked today."
Breakfast crisis, averted.
Daily hordes of tourists have exhausted the Thai beach made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach so it's now getting time to recover.
According to AAP, authorities have announced Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Leh island in the Andaman Sea, will be closed to all visitors for four months annually, starting this June, to allow for the recovery of the battered coral reefs and sea life.
The decision to keep visitors away was made on Wednesday by Thailand's National Parks and Wildlife Department.
"It's like someone who has been working for decades and has never stopped," said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a prominent marine scientist and member of Thailand's national strategy committee on environment development.
"Overworked and tired, all the beauty of the beach is gone. We need a time-out for the beach."
Many Thai marine national parks are closed from mid-May to mid-October, but because of tourist demand, Maya Bay has remained open year-round since a Hollywood crew set foot there in 1999 to film The Beach, the dark backpacker tale based on a novel by Alex Garland.
The beach receives an average of 200 boats and 4000 visitors each day.
Recent surveys by a team led by marine biologists found a large part of the coral reefs around the area is gone and sea life has virtually disappeared.
Thon said the temporary closing will kick-start the rehabilitation process.
When Maya Bay reopens, the department will set a daily limit of 2000 tourists, while boats will no longer be allowed to anchor there and will have to dock on the opposite side of the island.
Yesterday, 74 Australians were honoured, including Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, both of whom gave up chances to escape gunman Man Haron Monis during the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege so they could help others trapped inside, but ended up losing their own lives, as part of Australia’s annual bravery awards.
But what is it that drives ordinary people to perform acts of bravery? The answer isn't simple.
Oxford University Press last July published a review of dozens of studies focusing on bravery and concluded that both nature and nurture play a role.
Brave people were more likely to be self-confident, risk-takers, resilient, the oldest sibling in their family, as well a have a good sense of humour and a deep sense of empathy for others, the review said.
Eugene Aidman, Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Sydney and Australian Psychological Society fellow, relates many of those traits back to childhood.
He believes how brave a person is hinges on three elements: a lack of or reduced feeling of fear; their mental attitude toward protecting others; and their "fight or flight" response to stress.
Parents who allow their children to take risks are helping them develop traits that "will ultimately lead to the big bravery acts" later in life.
"Science tells us that fear is learned," he told AAP.
"So you learn from your parents to face the challenges head-on and take them as an opportunity to grow, or be fearful.
"When you are faced with real life-threatening danger you will either flee or fight, and when you fight you might be fighting for yourself or for your mates or someone else other than yourself, and only in the latter case is it a genuine case of bravery."
Hormones may also play a role: Yale University psychiatrist Deane Aikins found in 2009 that soldiers who stayed calm in challenging situations had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, meaning they weren't as scared.
Another study led by Peter Kirsch of the US-based National Institute of Mental Health in 2005 suggested that oxytocin - often dubbed the love hormone - can reduce feelings of fear.
Often after ordinary people have performed a brave act like rescuing someone from a house fire, they talk about how they felt compelled to do it instead of having made a conscious decision to act.
"If you talk to some people who have engaged in these acts of bravery they sometimes say 'I didn't even consider my own safety', or 'I didn't even really think about the fact whether I know CPR or not'," Dr Lisa A Williams, a senior lecturer at UNSW's School of Psychology, said.
"I've yet to see data that suggests that people weigh that up in any conscious way."