De facto stuffed nurse's body in fridge

Last updated 16:04 07/04/2014

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It was supposed to be a heart-breaking but routine door-knock for police one Sunday afternoon.

Officers had come to Denise Suplina's townhouse on a quiet, bushy Chatswood street to deliver the tragic news that her de facto partner had been killed in a crash.

But something did not seem right.

Ms Suplina was not home. She had not shown up for her rostered shift at the Mater Hospital the day before and her sister had not heard from her in four days after a bizarre text message from her partner to her friends saying that she had urgently flown to Brisbane without her phone.

Fearing something was amiss, police and firemen knocked the door down and made a grisly discovery.

There were large amounts of blood around the townhouse and, after an extensive search, Ms Suplina's body was found with fatal head and neck injuries, stuffed in the fridge.

More than two years later, a coroner formally ruled on Monday that David Wardell, 52, killed his long-term partner Ms Suplina, 48, in their bedroom and, three or four days later, killed himself by driving his motorbike into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer on the Great Western Highway near Bathurst.

Ms Suplina was the sole breadwinner who had bought the Chatswood home herself 15 years before.

In the weeks leading up to her death, she had become frustrated that Mr Wardell was not contributing to the household expenses, an inquest at Glebe Coroner's Court heard.

She was a dedicated midwife who had worked at the Mater Hospital for 20 years, while he was unemployed.

Colleagues had noticed she was not her "normally bubbly self" at work and she confided to a friend that she and Mr Wardell had been arguing over money.

On February 1, 2012, the day before Ms Suplina's body was found, Mr Wardell played his regular Saturday game of squash and commented to his playing partner that Ms Suplina had taken away his squash money.

The next day, her sister Lidia, who lived just a few streets away in Chatswood, went to her sister's home because she was concerned about her leaving for Brisbane in the way Mr Wardell described.

He was evasive when she asked questions and didn't let her inside the townhouse, the inquest heard.

CCTV captured Mr Wardell withdrawing $800 from Ms Suplina's account on February 2 and a further $800 on February 3.

The next day, he hopped on his motorbike and rode for several hours along the Great Western Highway until he purposely veered on to the wrong side of the road on a sweeping right-hand bend at Glanmire.

He was incinerated when his motorbike and the semi-trailer both erupted in flames.

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The truck driver was not injured and he provided statements to police.

The inquest was told that no one will ever know exactly what happened inside the Chatswood townhouse between January 31 and February 1, 2012, but lead investigator Detective Sergeant Siobhan Munro said the "traumatic injury" inflicted in the bedroom would have caused death swiftly.

Ms Suplina's two older sisters, Lidia Suplina and Michelle Stegic, wept uncontrollably in the Coroner's Court as they spoke about losing their baby sister.

"I just want to say she was our little sister and we loved her," Lidia told the court.

"She was just a good person and we will miss her for the rest of our lives. We will never understand how this happened."

There were intense scenes as Heather, a friend of Mr Wardell, spoke on behalf of his family and apologised to Ms Suplina's sisters and brother for what transpired.

"I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry. There's nothing we can do to bring her back," Heather said.

"I know, I know," Lidia replied.

"I know David liked her and I know she loved him and it should never ever have happened," Heather said.

Mr Wardell was not known to police and there had never been disturbances at the townhouse.

Neighbours would often see Ms Suplina walking in the mornings and Mr Wardell firing up his motorbike.

Deputy State Coroner Sharon Freund ruled that Ms Suplina died from head and neck injuries and Mr Wardell's death was a "deliberate act to take his own life".

Ms Stegic told Fairfax Media outside the court that her sister was "a great nurse, a great midwife and a great friend".

"She was always there when people needed her," she said. "There was nothing she wouldn't do and we will miss her forever."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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