As part of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step programme to recovery, people have to admit their wrongs.
The Supreme Court was told today that this was what prompted a woman taking part in the AA programme to walk into Melbourne's St Kilda Road police headquarters on May 3, 2008, holding a two-page handwritten letter confessing to her involvement in the killing of Roy Nicol six years earlier.
The woman, 56, who has pleaded guilty to one charge of manslaughter, told police: "I don't like what I've done. It's not right."
Nicol, 58, died on Anzac Day, 2002, from injuries he suffered during a violent bashing two months earlier.
Crown prosecutor Diana Piekusis told the court that without the woman's confession, she would never have been charged.
Piekusis said the woman and her 15-year-old son had attacked Nicol in the garden of her Clayton home on February 23, 2002.
Nicol was dragged into the garage and tied up.
The woman, who had been in a violent and abusive relationship with Nicol for more than 10 years, admitted hitting him with a baseball bat, burning him with a cigarette, dousing him with petrol and threatening to set him on fire.
She ran away from the house the next day while Nicol was being held hostage because she claimed she was afraid of what her son was going to do with him.
The woman's son and some friends then spray-painted Nicol's face and hit him repeatedly with a baseball bat and a sock containing a golf ball, caving his head in.
A seriously injured Nicol was kept tied up in the garage until the following Saturday before he was dumped on a nearby driveway and taken to hospital. He died on April 25, 2002.
The woman's son was later charged with murder but was acquitted.
Defence barrister Saul Holt, SC, told the court the woman, a mother of three, had lived a life marred by physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
Her parents had been alcoholics and she was encouraged to drink spirits from the age of 13.
She and her older sister were sexually abused by her father before she began a relationship with a career criminal. He kicked her so violently one day that she suffered a fractured eye socket, and on another occasion he tore an earring off her ear.
When the criminal died in 1991, she took up with his enforcer and standover man Roy Nicol, and they were together on and off for the next decade. They were both alcoholics.
Holt said the woman had a "pervasive fear" of Nicol, who always kept weapons in the house and raped her repeatedly, bashed her with an iron bar and once stabbed her in the leg with a carving knife.
The woman took out five intervention orders against Nicol over the years and tried to hide from him in women's refuges but he always tracked her down.
Holt said the woman lost all faith in the ability of the authorities to protect her and her children from Nicol. She was admitted into psychiatric care eight times.
Nicol once even threatened to blow up the woman's daughter's school bus if she did not have sex with him.
Holt said that when the woman took part in the attack on Nicol "she was incredibly angry at the things he had done to her".
When she went back to check on him on Saturday, March 2, she claimed he tried to grab her so she hit him over the head with a set of weights.
Piekusis said Nicol had died an horrific death, but because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the case, including the history of domestic violence and the fact she would never have been charged if she had not confessed, the Crown accepted a wholly suspended jail term was within Justice Terry Forrest's sentencing range.
The woman will be sentenced on Thursday.
- The Age