Supplied Editorial Police handout image of Cooktown homicide of Donna Louise Steele
Supplied Editorial Police handout image of Cooktown homicide of Donna Louise Steele

How the pressure of a murder got a bit too much for these friends

THE murder of Cooktown mum Donna Steele split the coastal Cape York community in more ways than one.

A bystander also needed stitches after he was slashed in the hand with a pocket knife.

Roslyn Gay Avard, 47, sank her teeth into the arm of a former friend after the woman grabbed Avard's shopping trolley and pinned her in place at the Cooktown IGA in May last year. A bystander tried to restrain Avard, but she accidentally slashed him when she fished a pocket knife from her bag and lunged back at the woman.

Cairns District Court yesterday heard Avard and the complainant woman were once friends of 20 years but had quarrelled about the murdered mum in 2016 and had not reconciled. "They had a falling out over their friendship with Donna and were not able to resolve their differences," Rachelle Logan, defending, said.

She told the court her client had suffered ongoing traumas from her childhood and from the investigation of Ms Steele's murder.

Ms Steele's body was found at Leggett's Crossing, near Cooktown, on August 6, 2017.

"It divided the town of Cooktown. (Avard) was once considered a suspect," Ms Logan told the court.

Avard's time under police suspicion lasted until the arrest of Mooroobool footy star and dad Matthew Ross White in April last year.

Ms Logan said Avard had been traumatised by the investigation.

The grocery store fracas occurred about one month after Mr White's arrest.

The court heard that Avard had moved to Cairns, exiled from Cooktown as part of her bail conditions following the IGA incident. The dental nurse and pastoralist was later forced to sell her 28-ha property and rehome her livestock.

Avard pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding and assault occasioning bodily harm.

Judge Dean Morzone sentenced Avard to probation for two years and did not record a conviction.

"You have had to suffer under the pressure of being wrongly accused and suspected of murder," he said.