QLD_CP_OPINION_VOXIES_31OCT17
QLD_CP_OPINION_VOXIES_31OCT17

Baby-faced killer calmly hid a dark secret

YOU wouldn't know it to look at him, but a couple of months before this photo was taken, this man choked the life out of a Cooktown mum and left her submerged body wrapped in a doona to be eaten by crocodiles.

This week convicted for murder and jailed for life, Matthew Ross White would tell police that in the months since he strangled Ms Steele, her last breaths would come to haunt him.

 

 

 

SERT officers with machine guns keep watch for crocodiles as police divers search Isabella Creek at Leggett's Crossing near Cooktown as part of the ongoing investigation into the suspected murder of Donna Steele. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
SERT officers with machine guns keep watch for crocodiles as police divers search Isabella Creek at Leggett's Crossing near Cooktown as part of the ongoing investigation into the suspected murder of Donna Steele. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

But, despite the cold weight of his crime, White was comfortable enough to chat about Cairns, at lunchtime just outside the Cairns CBD in October 2017.

"I used to live at Cooktown and came to Cairns in 2008 to play AFL for Cairns City Lions," White, a self-described labourer said at McLeod Street.

"Cooktown will always be home, but there are so many more opportunities here in Cairns."

White smothered his heinous crime with a veneer of normality and rubbed shoulders with locals at popular swimming holes and camping spots.

 

Matthew Ross White (right) confesses to the murder of Cooktown mum Donna Louise Steele.
Matthew Ross White (right) confesses to the murder of Cooktown mum Donna Louise Steele.

"In my spare time, I love going tenpin bowling or swimming at any of the freshwater spots, such as Crystal Cascades," he said.

"I don't tend to go fishing often, but have been camping a fair few times. Ross and Locke is a particularly good spot."

Matt White gave his views to the Cairns Post. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Matt White gave his views to the Cairns Post. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

Tragically for his two children, White will not, for the foreseeable future, enjoy the city with his family.

"It's a great place to be raising children, he said. "There are fantastic schools and daycare options in Cairns."

 

Action from the AFL Cairns match between the Cairns City Lions and the Port Douglas Crocs, held at Holloways Beach. Lions' Matt White handballs. Picture: Brendan Radke.
Action from the AFL Cairns match between the Cairns City Lions and the Port Douglas Crocs, held at Holloways Beach. Lions' Matt White handballs. Picture: Brendan Radke.

Chillingly, he was able to mull over the early childhood education options for his kids with the memory that on August 2, he had deprived Donna Steele's sons - Brayden, 10, and Flynn, 8 - of their mum.

He killed Ms Steele as his plan to extort $20,000 from players of the Cooktown ice scene went awry.

The father had hoped to use the money to gain custody of his youngest child and "take off somewhere".

Donna Steele's Poison Creek Road property where police continue their investigation into her suspected murder, Cooktown. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Donna Steele's Poison Creek Road property where police continue their investigation into her suspected murder, Cooktown. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

When sentencing White, Justice Jim Henry said the killer had "forever altered the life of two innocent children, now deprived of the comfort, guidance and love of their mother".

White, calling himself Matt, had some talent for AFL; he was one of only two Lions players to be selected for the 2015 Cairns All Stars team.

Former Lions president Wayne Keygan said the on-baller was "a very quiet young man".

"He kept to himself. He didn't drink, take drugs or socialise much," Mr Keygan said.

 

Donna Steele as a younger woman. Picture: Supplied.
Donna Steele as a younger woman. Picture: Supplied.

 

Donna Steele, 42, whose body was found in a creek west of Cooktown.
Donna Steele, 42, whose body was found in a creek west of Cooktown.

 

"He was a good player - not good enough to play professionally but he could have been one of the leading players in the competition.

"He finished as best and fairest player for a couple of years."

Mr Keygan said he was in shock at the news of White's arrest in March 2018.

"I would assume that the reaction would be the same at the club," he said.

"I think everybody would have been pretty gobsmacked by it, that's for sure."