Murray Churcher.
Murray Churcher.

Man who strangled girlfriend facing deportation

"YOU had your hands around her neck, she could easily have died. Just remember that. Just keep your hands off," a judge told Murray James Churcher when sentencing him for strangling a former girlfriend.

"It was a disgraceful, prolonged, cowardly episode of domestic violence carried out in front of a four-year-old child," Judge Terry Martin SC said.

"You have a violent disposition. If you don't pull your head in you will hurt someone very badly. Remember that or you will be spending years in jail."


VIOLENT DISPOSITION: Murray James Churcher.
VIOLENT DISPOSITION: Murray James Churcher.

His sentencing remarks came after Crown prosecutor Sandra Cupina told the District Court at Bundaberg that the 28-year-old Bundaberg man had been in a 12-week "abusive relationship" with the woman, aged 22.

Churcher, a father of three, pleaded guilty to a series of offences: unlawfully choking or strangulation in a domestic relationship on September 22; wilfully damaging a door; assaulting a woman; damaging a mobile phone; wilful damage to a wall; and damaging a window while a prisoner at the jail in Maryborough on October 5.

The New Zealand national now faces likely deportation.

Ms Cupina said the pair had argued after Churcher was drinking alcohol. When it escalated Churcher grabbed her mobile phone and threw it off a balcony.

"She locked herself in a bathroom and took a number of pills in an attempt to commit suicide. He punched a hole through the door, grabbed her around the throat and removed the pills from her mouth," Ms Cupina said.

Churcher later punched a hole in a wall, grabbed the woman and pushed her on to the floor and got on top of her.

"He began strangling her with both hands around her neck interfering with her breathing ... yelling he was going to strangle her until she dies," Ms Cupina said.

Churcher then punched the woman in her mouth causing it to bleed. The abuse was witnessed by a child who ran from the house screaming.


Murray Churcher.
Murray Churcher.

Churcher got off the woman, who said she was calling police, and he began insulting her, calling her "a dog", saying if she did he would kill her.

Ms Cupina said the injured woman grabbed a hammer and threw it at him, hitting him in his back.

While in custody at Maryborough Correctional Centre, Churcher caused $900 damage to a cell window.

The court was told Churcher's criminal history included dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, trespass, assault causing bodily harm in company and wilful exposure.

"He exposed his genitals and buttocks to a woman and children on Johnson St and was sentenced to complete 40 hours of community service," Ms Cupina said.

Defence barrister Robert East sought immediate parole for his client who had spent 312 days in custody.

"He accepts he has relevant criminal history. A sentence will expose him to a very real risk of deportation," Mr East said.

"It would expose him to hardship as he has three children in Australia, two in Bundaberg. Born in December, he has not yet seen his child in NSW."

Mr East said Churcher had done an anger management course in jail.

"It is clear you have a disposition toward violence and that history includes domestic violence," Judge Martin told Churcher.

"The risk of death or serious injury in choking another person, particularly a woman by a strong man, is just so plainly real.

"You not only choked her but you threatened to kill her.

"At the time it must have been a most frightening episode for her and the child watching on. One wonders what impact that it will have on him in the future."

Judge Martin sentenced Churcher to 2 .5 years jail, declared the 312 days as time served, and released him on supervised parole.

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