The “disturbingly bizarre” behaviour of a man who lived with the body of his partner for weeks before abandoning it in a skip bin and lying to her family has been admitted in a Queensland court.
Jason Cooper, 46, pleaded guilty to interfering with a corpse and fraud relating to the death of his partner Shae Francis, who was 35 when she died in October 2018. Her body has not been found.
The pair were in the grip of alcohol dependence and living together in a Hervey Bay apartment before Ms Francis died, the Brisbane District Court was told on Friday.
He will serve no further time in prison after 896 days were declared as time served, having been taken into custody in June 2019.
Ms Francis’ mother said there was “no justice” with Cooper being released.
“I am just in shock. I am numb,” Cheryl-Lee Francis said outside court.
“I want to get my daughter home, to respect her and give her the dignity that she deserves.”
Cooper denies any involvement in the death of Ms Francis, telling police he woke one morning to find her dead and her body remained in their apartment for “about three weeks” before he disposed of it.
He wrapped the body in a sleeping bag and intended to bury it at the beach “which is what she wished for”, but panicked when he saw a police car and dumped it in a skip bin, the court was told.
He told police he returned to the skip a few hours later, but the body was gone.
Neighbours reported a bad smell coming from Cooper’s room in late October, and police later visited his apartment but found no evidence of a crime.
He was later evicted, and the room was cleaned and painted.
Cooper repeatedly told family members Ms Francis was still alive but no longer living in Hervey Bay. Her disappearance sparked a number of search efforts after she was reported missing in March 2019.
He had been using her bank card and racked up more than $9000 worth of transactions before he was tracked down by police in Victoria in 2019.
After Cooper eventually told police his version of events, a search of a Queensland landfill site was attempted in March 2020, but failed to find the body .
Cooper was originally charged with manslaughter, but the prosecution only proceeded with the two charges he pleaded guilty to.
“It must be made clear that you’re not being sentenced on the basis that you are responsible for the death of the deceased,” Judge William Everson said on Friday.
Ms Francis had a documented history of alcohol dependence that resulted in seizures and was hospitalised not long before her death, the court was told.
Cooper’s alcohol dependence had progressed to the point of drinking four litres of wine a day, and he has been receiving anti-psychotic treatment while in jail.
He was convicted and sentenced to 896 days for interference with a corpse and received a 12-month sentence for fraud, served concurrently.