Gladstone man committed to stand trial over wife's death

UPDATE 5.00PM: Gladstone man James Andrew Beale will have to convince a jury that he did not unlawfully kill his wife, Tracy Ann Beale, when he appears in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton.

Beale, 37, was acquitted of a murder charge but will be forced to stand trial at a later date on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Magistrate Russell Warfield found the Crown case was not strong enough for a jury to find Beale guilty of murdering his wife on January 21.

Proceedings lasted less than two hours on Friday morning, as the prosecution presented its final submissions as to why Beale should stand trial for murder.

Mag Warfield deliberated for nearly an hour before he announced his decision to a packed courtroom.

Police Prosecutor Nina Sulzer argued Beale's actions on the night of his wife's death had proven causation and intention to kill his wife but Mr Warfield was not convinced.

He said the prosecution had not proven the element of intent strongly enough to see Beale tried for murder.

Mr Warfield noted the lack of evidence of previous altercations between Beale and his wife did not assist the Crown case for murder.

"Evidence of witnesses at its highest supports acrimony in the marriage, but it's insufficient evidence to support the argument the defendant intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm," he said.

The magistrate decided that when it came to deciphering whether Beale killed his wife unlawfully, it was a question for a jury to answer.

"There is a prima facie case of unlawful killing of the deceased by the defendant," Mr Warfield said.

"A jury could not convict the defendant of murder, but they could for unlawful killing," he said when committing Beale to stand trial for manslaughter.

Defence barrister Andrew Boe admitted there was no contest as to the cause of death, which he said was prima facie accepted as being caused by his client placing Tracy in a neck hold.

However he argued it was only an offence when the death was caused unlawfully.

Mr Boe argued that the court had not heard a submission from the prosecution on the subject of unlawfulness.

Mr Boe said a jury could never conclude that Beale acted with lethal intent on the night of his wife's death.

Police Prosecutor Nina Sulzer argued that Beale had intended to kill his wife, as evidenced by his choice to place his wife in a choke hold.

"While a jury may believe that the defendant's actions were unintentional, the court must consider that another inference a jury could well take from the defendant's actions here is that he did intend to kill his wife," she said.

Beale was released on Supreme Court bail.

He will face trial for manslaughter in Rockhampton at a later date.

UPDATE 11.40AM: James Andrew Beale will go to trial for the unlawful killing of his wife Tracy Ann Beale in Gladstone in January.

The 35-year-old was acquitted of the murder charge but will face a jury on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Magistrate Russell Warfield delivered his decision just after 11am on Friday morning in Gladstone Magistrates Court.

Beale was released on bail.

He will appear in the Rockhampton Supreme Court at a later date.

Earlier: The first day of the committal hearing for a Gladstone man accused of murdering his wife got underway in Gladstone Magistrates Court on Thursday.

James Andrew Beale appeared with his legal team, as 14 witnesses took to the stand as the process of determining whether Beale had a case to answer on charges of both murder and manslaughter began.

Barrister Andrew Boe argued the Crown case against his client was not strong enough for a jury to ever find that Beale had intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm to his wife, Tracy Ann Beale, on the night of her death, in the early hours of January 21 this year.

Mr Boe argued in his no-case submission that his client should be acquitted of the murder charge and a potential manslaughter charge if the prosecution attempted to have Beale charged with a lesser offence.

"Forensic evidence corroborates Jamie's (James Beale) story," Mr Boe said.

"Tracy's death was tragic and unusual but the totality of the case here is that a jury could never return a verdict that is guilty."

Prior to the no-case submission, the court had heard expert testimony from Dr Alex Olumbe, who performed the autopsy on Mrs Beale and found that no more than mild to moderate force had been used when Beale had placed his wife in a neck hold, as he fought her off during a physical altercation immediately prior to her death.

Dr Olumbe found the victim had a pre-existing heart condition, possibly caused by alcohol abuse or genetic or viral reasons.

He found that in this case alcohol abuse was most likely to have contributed to her heart condition and ultimately her death, which resulted from neck compression, aided by a pre-existing dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dr Olumbe found that the most likely cause of death was due to the application of mild to moderate pressure on the vaso-vagal nerve, located in the carotid artery, which can cause death almost immediately with less than extensive force.

Witnesses appeared over almost four hours, giving statements that supported the character of both the accused and the victim.

Some were on the verge of tears as they faced cross-examination, as the victim's elder sons also appeared to give evidence.

The hearing was adjourned until Friday morning, when the prosecution will argue its case for a Supreme Court trial.

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