Pamper party stabbing: Anna Browne guilty of murder

5:53 pm on 9 August 2017

Auckland woman Anna Browne, who stabbed her friend to death at a pamper party, has been found guilty of murder.

Entrance to the High Court in Auckland

Entrance to the High Court in Auckland Photo:

Browne, 37, has been on trial in the High Court in Auckland after she denied murdering mother-of-two Carly Stewart in October last year.

Ms Stewart died after losing massive amounts of blood when she received an 11cm stab wound to the head.

Browne accepted that she stabbed Ms Stewart and that the single blow caused her death, but had denied any murderous intent.

The courtroom's public gallery was packed with family and friends when the jury returned its unanimous verdict after five hours of deliberations.

During the trial, the jury was told the pamper party was meant to be a chance for a group of friends to catch up, have a few drinks, get their nails done and have fun.

The day took an ugly turn however, fuelled by heavy drinking.

The jury heard evidence that Browne was very intoxicated. Testing also showed she had methamphetamine in her system.

The Crown argued Browne's attack on Ms Stewart wasn't a random, drunken flail - it was a carefully directed blow to Ms Stewart's head.

Crown prosecutor Nick Webby said Browne had deliberately picked up a large kitchen knife, about 30cm long before she attacked.

He said Browne was not too drunk to know what she was doing and was able to form an intent to kill Ms Stewart. Browne tried to conceal the knife both before and after the stabbing, which the Crown argued showed she was aware of what she was doing.

After the attack, the Crown said Browne fled the scene with her handbag.

Mr Webby said Browne kept changing her story to the police about what drugs she had taken and at one point even suggested her drink had been spiked.

She also feined delirium and psychosis, and denied any knowledge of what she had done.

Mr Webby said that showed Browne had gone into damage control mode.

Browne's defence lawyer Marie Dyhrberg argued her client had been so drunk she could not have had murderous intent.

However, because tests were not carried out as soon as possible - rather, they were done some eight hours later - Ms Dyhrberg said it was not known for sure how much alcohol and other drugs were in her system.

Ms Dyhrberg said there was no evidence of ill-feeling between Ms Browne and Ms Stewart before the attack, and no one sensed something was about to go very wrong.

She said Browne and Ms Stewart were happy, laughing and having a good time.

Ms Dyhrberg said what happened was "so inexplicable, so unforseen".

Ms Dyhrberg said Browne was not in a hot rage when attacking Ms Stewart, and there no harsh words spoken: she simply whimpered.

After the stabbing, Browne was confused and she did not know what she had done.

The defence argued Browne only left the scene because the other women were yelling at her, telling her to go. She also returned to the scene and was there when police arrived.

Ms Dyhrberg said if you knew what you were doing, you wouldn't murder someone in front of a group of witnesses, nor would you go back to the scene once the police had arrived.

Summing up the case, Justice Wylie said the jury would have to consider Browne's state of mind at the time of the stabbing.

The judge said the jury would need to take into account what alcohol and drugs Browne had consumed that day, and what effect it had on her.

He said the jury would have to decide if she was capable of forming murderous intent.

That did not have to mean the attack was premeditated or planned - it could be impulsive and immediately regretted.