A self-styled preacher who wanted to claim his wife’s life insurance was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison for persuading her to kill herself in what a judge described as an Australian-first conviction.
Graham Morant, 69, was convicted by a Queensland state Supreme Court Jury in October on charges of counselling and aiding his wife Jennifer Morant to suicide at their Gold Coast city home in 2014.
While people have been convicted before of helping someone to suicide, usually in mercy killings, Justice Peter Davis said no one had been convicted in Australia before of persuading someone who would not otherwise have taken his or her own life to suicide.
Each conviction carried a potential life prison sentence.
The judge sentenced Morant to a total of 10 years in prison on both convictions and ordered him to serve five years before he is eligible for parole.
Jennifer Morant was suffering from chronic back pain and depression when she took her life.
Davis rejected the husband’s claim that he had acted through compassion for his 56-year-old wife, finding the motivation was to collect 1.4 million Australian dollars ($1 million) from three life insurance policies. Prosecutors told the court the husband wanted to spend the insurance on building a religious commune.
“Mrs. Morant was a vulnerable person with difficulties with her physical health,” Davis said. “You took advantage of those vulnerabilities in order to persuade her to kill herself and then assisted her to do so once she had made that decision.”
Davis said Morant had shown no remorse for his actions and his wife had died in a lonely place.