Christine Lyons will serve a minimum of 23 years in jail. Picture: David Crosling/AAP
Christine Lyons will serve a minimum of 23 years in jail. Picture: David Crosling/AAP

Killer renamed dead mum’s kids

"HEARTLESS and thoroughly evil."

These are the words a Victorian Supreme Court Justice used to describe killer Christine Lyons as he sentenced her to 30 years for a premeditated murder driven by jealousy.

Lyons, 47, was the architect behind the slaying of mum-of-four Samantha Kelly on January 23, 2016.

She convinced her former lover Peter Arthur and her cousin-in-law Ronald Lyons to pommel Ms Kelly with a hammer in a twisted bid to take custody of her children.

The four people lived together in Kangaroo flat, a suburb in Bendigo, 145km north of Melbourne. Lyons was infertile and could not bear children of her own.

For his part, Ronald Lyons was sentenced to 12 years and six months. Arthur was jailed last year.

Details of the case were revealed in court on Thursday. Justice Stephen Kaye said such was the obsession with stealing away Ms Kelly's children that Lyons started calling them the names of children she wanted but could not have.

Christine Lyons, jailed for 30 years. Picture: Stefan Postles/AAP
Christine Lyons, jailed for 30 years. Picture: Stefan Postles/AAP

"After Samantha Kelly's death, you, Christine Lyons, took a number of steps to further your goal of becoming established as the mother of her four children," he said.

Justice Kaye said there was evidence that Lyons had two girl's names picked out for if she had daughters of her own. He said even before Samantha died, Lyons had begun to call the two youngest children by these names.

"Significantly, in the short period after Samantha's death, her four children had become so used to the younger two being known by those names, that they reacted strongly when either of them was referred to by their correct name," he said.

The first attempt to kill Ms Kelly took place on the night of January 20, 2016, when Christine and Ronald Lyons fed her a cocktail of sedatives that included anti-nausea tablets and antihistamines.

Ronald Lyons, Christine Lyons and Peter Arthur carried out the murder of their flatmate. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Ronald Lyons, Christine Lyons and Peter Arthur carried out the murder of their flatmate. Picture: Nicole Garmston

Two nights later, Arthur went to the bungalow at the premises they all shared and, at Christine Lyons' direction, grabbed a hammer and struck Ms Kelly over the head with it at least seven times.

They purchased shovels to bury the body and then lied to police, telling them Ms Kelly went missing in the middle of the night because she "no longer wanted to care for her children".

Justice Kaye said the trio prayed on a woman and did not show her any humanity.

"Samantha Kelly was intellectually impaired. She had limited resources. Over the period during which the medication was administered to her between January 20 and January 22, she became increasingly debilitated, and the medication made her feel unwell.

"The continued administration of the medication to her by each of you was callous and ruthless. At no time did her debilitated state excite in you any human feelings of pity, remorse or sympathy."

One of the last pictures of Samantha Kelly, captured on CCTV cameras.
One of the last pictures of Samantha Kelly, captured on CCTV cameras.

He said Christine Lyons was the "key architect" and the "principle instigator" and that "if you had not directed Arthur to murder her in that manner, he would not have proceeded to have done so of his own accord".

He said the murder had taken away from four innocent children the mother who "loved and cared for them so much". The older three children had "formed a bond with their mother", but the youngest never got the chance, he said.

"The youngest child will never know her mother, and will grow up in the knowledge that, by your brutal actions, you sought to, and ultimately did, take from her that which is every child's right, namely, to be raised and loved by her own mother."

Ms Kelly's brother, Michael, and partner Danielle Stevenson - who are now raising the four children - told reporters outside court the sentences were inadequate.

Mr Kelly said "it should have been life behind bars" for Christine. "She didn't care about Samantha, she wanted her own agenda and she didn't care who she hurt in the process," Ms Stevenson said.

- with AAP