Murder was Donna Fitchett’s ‘greatest act of betrayal’ not love

Fitchett being led to court during an earlier appearance

Donna Fitchett called the murder of her two boys her “greatest act of love”, but in sentencing today Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Curtain told her it was her “greatest act of betrayal”.

Fitchett drugged, smothered and strangled Thomas Fitchett, 11, and his brother Matthew, 9, at their Balwyn home in September 2005.

The court heard she was depressed at the breakdown of her marriage and wanted to commit suicide and take the boys with her.

Her defence argued she was mentally impaired at the time of the killings and thought what she was doing was right.

But Justice Curtain rejected that argument because Fitchett had written a note detailing the crime.

“You knew exactly what you were doing because you contemplated, planned and wrote about it. You understood your actions and thought you too would be dead,” she said.

“It is a terrible thing to contemplate suicide, but it is a tragedy of profound magnitude that in doing so you chose to murder your sons.”

Justice Curtain sentenced Fitchett to 27 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 18 years.

‘Unfathomable self-interest’

Justice Curtain told Fitchett her crime was “utterly inexplicable”.

“They were innocent and you were their mother. Your job was to nurture, care for, love and protect them. In your greatest act of betrayal you robbed them of their lives,” she said.

“It shows an unfathomable self-interest. Your crimes are truly appalling and offensive to civilised society.”

Justice Curtain did acknowledge Fitchett continued to suffer depression and would be a suicide risk for “all time”.

“You have an enduring desire to be dead,” she said.

The court heard Fitchett is treated with “disdain and absolute revulsion” by her fellow prisoners and has been assaulted seven times, twice seriously.

She is isolated at the Dame Phyllis Frost correctional centre in Melbourne’s west and is unable to participate in prison programs because of the safety risk.

Fitchett has tried to take her life several times since being incarcerated.

Justice Curtain told Fitchett she realised the retrial had also generated significant anxiety and fear for her.

Fitchett stood between three female prison guards, looking down and wiping her eyes with a tissue during today’s hearings.

She began shaking as her sentence was read out and then she was led away.

picture of Matthew, 9 and Thomas, 11


Her former husband and the father of the boys, David Fitchett, found his sons’ bodies and was in court today with his family and supporters.

He previously had to be restrained in court as his ex-wife was led past by prison guards, but today he remained silent, leaning forward in his seat as the sentence was read out.

Outside the court Mr Fitchett thanked the Crown for pursuing the case, but said he was disappointed by the sentence.

“Today’s sentence, that has been extended from the first one, [is] in my mind nowhere near enough. Life by two is the only thing that would satisfy me, but it’s better than what it was last time,” he said.

Mr Fitchett said the retrial had taken an enormous toll on him and his family.

“Having been through the ordeal twice and seeking what I thought was justice for my boys…. has been an absolute nightmare, a horrendous time in my life. To live it again has just been unbelievable. Thomas and Matthew deserve justice,” he said.

“My boys, I love them and I miss them and I can’t say anything more.”

It is the second trial for 51-year-old Fitchett. Her first conviction and sentence of 24 years was overturned when she won a retrial last year from the Court of Appeal on a legal technicality.

This time the prosecution was calling for life imprisonment.

It was a factor taken into consideration by Justice Curtain, but she found it was not appropriate on a matter of policy because it was a retrial and Fitchett had won an appeal.

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