Murder conviction over pamper party death


For a group of female friends laughing and getting their nails and eyelashes done at a girls’ day out in a Te Atatu home last October, Anna Browne was the party guest from hell.
Drinking heavily, she would abuse and scuffle with other guests before suddenly grabbing a large kitchen knife and plunging it deep into the face of a woman.
That woman, Carly Stewart, would be left hunched over and pressing a towel to her face as blood poured from her mouth and her panicked friends dialled 111 and rushed their children clear.
Ms Stewart would die 15 minutes after paramedics arrived.
Yesterday, an Auckland jury took five hours to convict Browne of murder.
When the verdict was read out there was a gasp from the packed public gallery.
Browne looked stunned for a moment and then stared on.
During the trial, prosecutor Nick Webby described Browne as an unstable woman suffering from anti-social and attention deficit disorders and a long history of substance abuse.
Medical experts had testified she could become increasingly violent and emotional when she drank heavily, he said.
On October 15, these extreme emotions were triggered when Ms Stewart restrained Browne in a hallway to stop her scuffling with the Te Atatu home’s owner, he said.
Witnesses described Ms Stewart dominating, intimidating and making Browne scared, as she told her “You f disrespectful b, my nieces are f here”.
Once the pair were separated, Ms Stewart went to the lounge trying to put the dispute behind her, while Browne walked into the kitchen.
There Browne grabbed a large knife, before walking straight for Ms Stewart in an almost trance-like, focused state, according to one witness.
Keeping the knife concealed behind her back to maintain the element of surprise, she struck one “carefully-directed” blow into Ms Stewart’s face in an attack that caught everyone off guard, Mr Webby said.
“Can you really infer any other intention but an intention to kill,” he said as he appealed to the jury to return a verdict of murder.
Browne’s defence team accepted she killed Ms Stewart, but said she should not be convicted of murder because she had not intended to kill her.
Lawyer Marie Dyhrberg said Browne’s blow had not been planned or premeditated and clearly not thought through because she delivered it in front of a room filled with witnesses.
She also stayed at the scene after she stabbed Ms Stewart another unusual action for an alleged murderer, Ms Dyhrberg said.
Instead, Browne was heavily drunk and possibly on drugs, which had contributed to clouding her judgement and making her act in an uncharacteristic way , she said.
Ms Dyhrberg also criticised a police officer for not keeping the contents of a plastic cup Browne had been drinking from so it could be tested for the possibility it had been spiked with drugs.
The sentence date has been set for September 29. NZN

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