An elderly man who murdered his wife on Christmas Day after she tried to stop him eating alcoholic jelly shots has been spared jail in Australia.
Edward Rowen, 84, admitted to police that he “flew into a rage” on the night of December 25, 2019, following a family gathering where his wife, Rosalie Rowen, 78, stopped him eating the jelly shots that had been prepared by the couple’s granddaughter, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The Victorian Supreme Court heard that Edward also told police, as well as his neighbours and a passer-by, that he had killed his wife in the lounge room by hitting her over the head with a small wooden elephant statue.
Rosalie died in hospital after suffering severe head injuries caused by blunt force trauma. The elephant statue was found in the pair’s kitchen on the night of the murder.
Edward was previously deemed unfit to stand trial, with the court hearing in March that the father of four had been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease – most likely Alzheimer’s – and that a clinical psychologist had said he was not well enough to hold a conversation.
This week, however, following evidence from a number of witnesses including Rosalie’s daughter, Supreme Court Justice Lesley Taylor ruled there was enough evidence to prove that Edward killed his wife of more than 50 years.
Edward’s mental condition was taken into account and he was spared jail after being found responsible for Rosalie’s murder under the Crimes and Mental Impairment Act. Justice Taylor can now order Rowen to undergo supervision in a mental health facility, or allow him unconditional release.
Both his lawyers and the prosecutors acknowledged that Edward’s sudden outburst and subsequent act of murder was hard to explain – and prosecutor David Glynn noted that the defendant’s “current mental state is of course going to have a large bearing on the supervision the court imposes.”
“It remains the case that Mr Rowen has killed a person, killed his wife, with whom he was residing for reasons which can’t be explained, which probably couldn’t be explained at the time and certainly can’t be explained now,” Glynn said. “He presents as a person who, in the interest of the community, requires supervision.”
Edward was remanded in custody, while the court ordered the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a report into the available services that could look after him. This will include a report into his mental state.
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