Belfast Telegraph

Victoria told me husband had tried to strangle her, victim's lover reveals to murder trial

By Claire McNeilly

A Northern Irish woman stabbed to death in Australia told her lover that her husband had strangled her, a court has heard.

Victoria Comrie Cullen, from Bangor, was found slumped in a "Muslim prayer position" with her throat cut in the car park of a fishing club in Taren Point, Sydney, on January 22 last year.

The 39-year-old - who had been living in New South Wales for several years - had suffered 18 separate knife wounds, including deep cuts to her neck as well as extreme bruising and other injuries.

A man walking his dog discovered Ms Cullen's bloodied body, which he initially mistook for a rolled-up piece of carpet.

Her former lover Nick Baastrup told the New South Wales Supreme Court that Ms Cullen - who moved in with him for two months - told him her husband was violent towards her.

He was giving evidence at the murder trial of the Co Down victim's husband Christopher Cullen (51).

The carpenter, who is originally from Liverpool, claims he "lost it" when his estranged wife taunted him about her sex life.

Cullen, who was found by police at the crime scene, has already admitted to manslaughter on the basis of self-defence and provocation, but denies murder.

The court was told Mr Baastrup (24) first met the victim at a Cronulla nightclub called Sting one night in September 2013.

He said the married beauty therapist went home with him that night, and the pair subsequently began a two-month affair. The court heard the mother-of-three moved in with him for a short time after the accused kicked her out of their house in October 2013.

Mr Baastrup said the victim told him Cullen was violent towards her.

He added: "She told me that her husband had strangled her."

Under cross-examination from defence barrister Winston Terracini, SC, Mr Baastrup acknowledged it appeared Ms Cullen was trying to keep their relationship a secret.

He also said that when they would go out together, both of them would pay for cafe and restaurant bills.

Earlier, the court heard from domestic violence support worker Penelope Ardren,​ who said Ms Cullen told her she did not have $2 (£1) to her name, and was provided with furniture and other items by the domestic violence service.

Ms Ardren said Ms Cullen alleged a history of domestic violence in their marriage, and was distressed during their appointments.

Ms Cullen's friend, Neke Rezitis, said he had overheard Mr Cullen calling his wife "fat", "ugly" and a "slut" when a group of friends were at a pub together.

Ms Rezitis said that when the Cullens broke up, Ms Cullen "had to leave for her safety... she was fearing for her life".

Several of Ms Cullen's friends told the court she was not having an affair, and they had no knowledge of a boyfriend.

One of Ms Cullen's clients at the beauty salon, Margaret Jackson, said she talked about Mr Cullen's violence and their crumbling marriage.

"She just said that she'd been out with some girls and got home a bit late and that her husband wasn't very happy," Ms Jackson said.

"And he thought she had a boyfriend, which she said she didn't, and that's when... he pushed her against the wall and he went for her neck and she had to leave."

Ms Jackson said she saw Ms Cullen in the salon the day before she died, and Ms Cullen had said "it would all turn out OK".

The trial continues before Justice Ian Harrison at New South Wales Supreme Court today.

Belfast Telegraph


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