A Victorian man has been jailed for 25 years over the stabbing murder of his partner in front of their children.
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains the name and images of a person who has died.
- Noeline Dalzell’s three children tried to shield their mother during the fatal attack
- The court heard James Fairhall had breached an intervention order in the months before the murder
- Fairhall will be eligible for parole in 16 years
Noeline Dalzell died on a Seaford driveway, in Melbourne’s south-east, in 2020.
James Leonard Fairhall, her partner and the children’s father, was today charged in the Supreme Court of Victoria to 25 years in prison for her murder.
The 47-year-old was found guilty by a jury in December last year after a lasting trial nearly a fortnight.
He had pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, which prosecutors rejected.
“You stabbed Noeline in front of your three children while they tried to deter you and protect their mother,” the Supreme Court’s Justice Jane Dixon told Fairhall in his sentencing hearing.
He was given a non-parole period of 18.6 years. With 913 days already served, he will be eligible for parole in 16 years.
On February 4, 2020, an argument broke out in the family home between Ms Dalzell and Fairhall after he learned she was seeing another man.
The couple were separated at the time, but Fairhall had for two months been back sleeping on the couch at the Seaford home.
That was despite an intervention order issued in 2018 banning him from being there or even contacting Ms Dalzell.
He had breached that intervention order previously, in what police described as incidents of family violence.
Son pushed father away in bid to protect his mother, judge says
On the day of her death, their children, aged 13, 15 and 16 at the time, arrived home from high school to find their parents arguing.
Their father seemed drunk and angry, they testedified.
He became progressively more aggressive, following Ms Dalzell around the house carrying a pair of scissors.
Those scissors were eventually discarded and replaced by a big kitchen knife.
Ms Dalzell took refuge with her children in the bedroom of her only son as her kids screamed at their dad to stop.
“You threatened to kill Noeline and tried to get past your children to get at her,” Justice Dixon said to Fairhall during his sentencing.
Your son pushed you to try and keep you away.
“Suddenly you reached over the top of your children and stabbed Noeline once to the left side of the neck with the knife you were wielding.”
Neighbor showed ‘considerable courage’ in bid to save Ms Dalzell’s life
In Ms Dalzell’s final moments she attempted to flag down help from neighbors, who tried unsuccessfully to save her life.
Despite initially using a second knife to threaten a neighbor who tried to help, Fairhall did eventually assist with first aid, which Justice Dixon considered in deciding the length of his sentence.
“[The neighbour] was about to call triple-0, when you approached him brandishing the second knife and told him not to call the cops,” Justice Dixon said.
“He retreated into his house and locked the front door.
“Minutes later, displaying considerable courage, he went back outside to offer help in response to the unfolding commotion.”
But it was too late.
Noeline was 49.
Fairhall had a criminal history of violence and had flouted family violence intervention orders in the past.
Justice Dixon said the attack was not spontaneous.
“You were following Noeline around the house before the incident and pursued her into the bedroom, before reaching past and over your children to stab her,” she said.
She noted to ongoing impact the murder had on those children.
“Three young lives forever changed by your despicable violence,” Justice Dixon told the convicted murderer.
“There is an enormous hole left in their lives by the loss of their mother.”
At her funeral in 2020, Ms Dalzell was remembered as a proud mother and a passionate Essendon supporter.
“She was a great person, she was a great mum to these kids,” her sister-in-law Jenny Dalzell told the ABC in 2020.
“What happened to her was just tragic, it shouldn’t have happened.”