Outback axe murderer lodges appeal

AN outback axe murderer serving life in jail for the grog-fuelled killing of his wife has filed an appeal, claiming his trial judge botched a routine direction to the jury.

A Supreme Court spokesman confirmed lawyers for Robert Morton, of Ampilatwatja about 180km northwest of Ti Tree, had filed an appeal claiming Justice Trevor Riley "erred in directions that were given to the Jury bearing on the burden and standard of proof". No further details of the appeal or Justice Riley's alleged error were released.

Morton, then aged 41, murdered his wife while "charged up" on grog at Alpurrurulam near the Queensland-Northern Territory border in August 2015 and was sentenced earlier this year to life in jail with a 20-year non-parole period.

He pleaded not guilty to murder before a six-day trial in Alice Springs, claiming his drunken state meant there was doubt over his level of intent.

His lawyers argued he should be found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder.

Justice Riley, in sentencing, described the attack as "ferocious" and the ensuing murder as "nasty".

"It must have been a terrifying and extremely painful experience for her and, of course, it resulted in her death," he said.

A forensic pathologist told Moreton's trial that there were 28 blows to Morton's wife's body, inflicted with an axe and a knife, and that she died as a result of blood loss and oxygen deprivation, which was brought on by the sheer pain of the attack.

Justice Riley said Morton's murder of his wife was "a sad reflection of the violence which is all too common in some communities" and that it was probably not possible for Morton to explain his actions.

Morton had two distant convictions for assaulting his wife, one of which was with a weapon.

If successful, the appeal, which will be heard before a panel of three Supreme Court judges sitting on the Court of Criminal Appeal, will see Morton face a retrial, likely at some point in late 2018 or early 2019.

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