Aunt-killer Jessie Moore gets 18 years for fatal ‘forceful attack’

When police arrived at the home of Karen Leek last year to find the greyhound trainer had been bashed to death, her great-niece told them she didn’t have a clue who would want to hurt her aunt.

Ms Leek didn’t get along with some people at the best of times, the woman told detectives, but nothing serious enough to prompt something like this.

Karen Leek was a well-known member of Victoria’s greyhound racing community.Credit:GOTBA Victoria

It was a brazen lie.

Less than 24 hours before, as Ms Leek settled in to watch her favourite television show Home and Away, her great-niece Jessie Moore put on a pair of rubber gloves and hit the greyhound trainer in the face and neck 12 times with a hammer before putting a plastic bag over her head. A pathologist later described the estimated number of blows as conservative.

In the Supreme Court of Victoria on Wednesday, Moore was sentenced to 18 years in prison with a non-parole period of 13 years for the murder.

In sentencing, Justice Paul Coghlan said it was a crime that had left an entire family grieving and in distress.

Jessie Moore after her arrest last year.Credit:Nine News

“A crime of murder is traumatic for victims but when the crime occurs within a family it is particularly so,” he said. “When one family member murders another, the grief of the whole family is heightened and often causes stress and conflict, as appears to be the case here.”

Ms Leek was an entirely innocent victim who had been generous to Moore and her daughter and had provided them with a home, Justice Coghlan said.

“It was submitted that this was a particularly brutal and forceful attack with a weapon on an unarmed woman in her own home where she was entitled to feel safe.”

The court heard Moore and her five-year-old daughter had moved in with Ms Leek in 2018.

The pair had a strong relationship at first, but Moore was hiding a secret ice habit and placing more and more child-minding responsibilities on her great-aunt. The relationship soured and there was constant tension.

On May 25 last year, at Ms Leek’s Devon Meadows property, south-east of Melbourne, the pair argued over the young woman’s plans to live with her boyfriend and what would happen to Moore’s daughter and unborn child, as she was then eight months pregnant.

Moore’s daughter was watching videos on her iPad in another room, but heard the pair yelling and screaming.

Moore, who was 25 at the time, then used a hammer to strike Ms Leek. An autopsy later found Ms Leek died from blunt force head injuries. It was unable to determine whether she was still alive when a plastic bag was placed over her mouth and nose.

After the attack, Moore put the hammer and gloves in a bag, and took Ms Leek’s car keys and wallet, before fleeing the home and returning to a house where she lived with her partner.

She “behaved as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened”, Justice Coghlan said on Wednesday, and went with her daughter and partner for KFC.

Just after 10am the next day, she drove back to Ms Leek’s home with her daughter, where she pretended to “discover” her great-aunt’s body lying on the floor.

Questioned by officers, she denied being involved, lying about the pair’s relationship and creating a fake story about the events leading up to the murder. She was released without charge later that night.

But during a cleanout of the room Moore occupied at her great-aunt’s home, police found her diary, which revealed a “hatred and animosity” towards Ms Leek and other members of her family.

She was arrested and remanded on June 7 and the next day gave birth to a second daughter, but authorities took the baby from her hours afterwards.

Police later found a reusable BIG W bag at Moore’s home that contained a hammer with blood stains, green and yellow rubber gloves, and Ms Leek’s belongings.

Dirt and leaves on the outside of the bag led police to the garden, where a disturbed area of soil indicated to them that Moore had hidden the items before bringing them inside.

On Wednesday, Justice Coghlan said Moore had a difficult and unstable upbringing, was bullied at school and had been in several violent relationships.

He said a forensic psychiatrist opined that Moore had mood, post-traumatic stress and personality disorders that pointed to a degree of impairment when she murdered her great-aunt.

Justice Coghlan said he was satisfied Moore’s psychiatric conditions and dysfunctional upbringing were linked to her offending.

He said Moore had a history of poor coping skills and managed conflict through avoidance and denial, which would have led her to be increasingly stressed in the lead-up to the murder.

Incarceration would weigh more heavily on Moore given her mental disorder, he added, and separation from her two daughters during their formative years will be a “particularly heavy burden you will have to bear”.

“You clearly regret what you’ve done,” he said.

With Adam Cooper

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