Cleaner lost $430 on pokies before fatal assault on client,92,court told

A “charming” cleaner who had only ever shown “kindness” to her 92-year-old client lost $430 on the pokies and had just $11 left in her bank account before turning up at the woman’s home and launching a fatal assault,a Sydney court has been told.

Hanny Papanicolaou,38,had a “close relationship” with Marjorie Welsh,whose home in the inner-west suburb of Ashbury she cleaned once a week until January 2,2019,when she allegedly beat Mrs Welsh with her own walking sticks and decorative ceramics,and stabbed her with a kitchen knife.

Mrs Welsh died from her extensive injuries in hospital six weeks after the alleged assault,and Ms Papanicolaou was charged with her murder. She has pleaded not guilty.

Hanny Papanicolaou is on trial for the murder of 92-year-old Marjorie Welsh.

Hanny Papanicolaou is on trial for the murder of 92-year-old Marjorie Welsh.Facebook

In his opening address to the NSW Supreme Court trial on Monday,Crown prosecutor Christopher Taylor said despite her injuries – which included multiple fractures to her face and limbs,multiple deep lacerations and a collapsed lung – Mrs Welsh was “conscious and lucid”,and able to tell first responders that she was attacked by her cleaner.

What she couldn’t understand,however,was why.

“She’s always been charming ... I thought we were good friends,” Mrs Welsh told police when they arrived at the scene,finding her lying bloodied by her front door,Mr Taylor told the court.

He said she told police she had “never seen anything but kindness” from Ms Papanicolaou,who “greeted me as she usually does,most affectionately” before suddenly turning into a “dynamo”,beating her with sticks and then pieces of china.

“She was utterly ferocious,” Mrs Welsh allegedly told police. “It went on and on,she aimed mostly for my head.”

Mr Taylor told the jury that Mrs Welsh had no idea why Ms Papanicolaou attacked her,but that they would hear she had previously “shocked” the cleaner when she disclosed that,before moving to Sydney’s inner suburbs to be near her daughter,she had sold an acreage at Box Hill for $8 million.

“You’ll hear evidence that the accused was a regular gambler,most often playing poker machines at[a] nearby RSL club,” Mr Taylor said.

On the morning of the assault,he said,Ms Papanicolaou went to the RSL club shortly after 9am,played the poker machines for about 50 minutes and lost $430.

After making several withdrawals from her bank account,she was left with $11,he said.

Ms Papanicolaou then drove to a park behind Mrs Welsh’s house and entered her property from the back fence. About 10.15am,she allegedly surprised Mrs Welsh inside the house and “immediately began to attack” her.

Mr Taylor said the accused fled after Mrs Welsh activated the emergency alarm she was wearing around her neck – taking with her the knife she had used to stab her six times,and the cordless phone attached to the distress alarm.

Police found her later with the assistance of her husband,who would give evidence during the trial,Mr Taylor said.

He said Ms Papanicolaou gave police a “detailed account of what she said occurred”,claiming Mrs Welsh had accused her of stealing $50 and had attacked her first with her walking stick,and the ceramic plates had “fallen” on her during the struggle.

“The Crown position is that none of those claims was true,” he said.

The trial will hear a response from Ms Papanicolaou’s defence when it resumes on Tuesday.

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Jenny Noyes is a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald.

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