Barbara Eckersley, who is on trial for the murder of her mother in a southern highlands nursing home, has told the Goulburn court she never discussed euthanasia in the context of her mother. 

Key points:

  • Barbara Eckersley is charged with murdering her mother by mixing sedative drugs into her food at an aged care facility
  • Ms Eckersley denies the charge and says she only used the drugs to ease her mother’s pain, not to euthanase her
  • The court heard the family did not believe mother Mary White was dying, but Ms Eckerlsey believed she had no quality of life

Acclaimed scientist Dr Mary White died in August 2018.

The day before her death, Ms Eckersley had laced her food with crushed temazepam tablets and on the day of her death she put so-called “green dream” barbiturate sedatives, left over from when she was a wildlife carer, in her food.

Dr White died four hours later.

Under close questioning by the prosecution today, Ms Eckersley conceded her mother was in a distressed state.

“She had no quality of life … in my opinion and in the opinion of many others,” Ms Eckersley said.

Prosecutor Paul Kerr pressed her on whether that had influenced her actions.

“Is that why you ended her life?” Mr Kerr asked.

“I did not end her life,” Ms Eckersley replied.

“You certainly contributed,” Mr Kerr said.

“I may have,” Ms Eckersley replied.

Ms Eckersley stood by her claim she did not intend to kill her mother, but wanted to ease her suffering.

A close-up shot of Mary White, wearing glasses, as she speaks and looks off camera.

Former scientist Dr Mary White died hours after being fed barbiturates by her daughter.(

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A small stone mortar and pestle used to crush the tablets was passed around the jury along with a takeaway sauce container that had been used to transport the green dream drugs, which are used by vets to euthanase animals.

Ms Eckersley denied putting the drugs in the container to avoid detection by the staff.

Family told Dr White was not at end of life stage

Mr Kerr quizzed Ms Eckersley on why she had not told police about the drugs in her first interview.

She told the court she had been deeply depressed at the time and was not thinking rationally.

She described the feeling as an out-of-body experience.

The court also heard details of tensions between the staff at the nursing home and the family.

Dr White was being moved to a new home away from Ms Eckersley because the family had been concerned not enough was being done to ease her suffering. 

Weeks earlier there had been a discussion with the staff about how Dr White was not at the end of life stage.

Ms Eckersley said there may have been some misunderstanding between the staff and the family over how Dr White’s health should be managed.

But she told the court at no stage did she or her husband discuss euthanasia in the context of her mother.

Woman who fed elderly mother ‘green dream’ drugs tells court she never discussed euthanasia
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