A woman who admitted to burning her husband alive while he relaxed on the front porch has been handed a plea deal that will see her avoid a murder conviction.
Former Tupperware saleswoman Angela Surtees, 34, of Geelong, appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Thursday where she pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter.
The matter had been listed to go to trial up until just a few days ago when Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd, QC made the extraordinary offer to drop the murder charge.
Angela Surtees (pictured) worked as a Tupperware lady before she allegedly set her husband on fire as he sat on a couch outside their front door
Police were called to the couple’s Boundary Road home around 8.30pm where they found the father with severe burns. Pictured above are the charred remains of the armchair where Mr Surtees is alleged to have been sitting
The pair, who were married for four years with five children, had been reportedly involved in a ‘petty argument’ before Mr Surtees’ death
Justice Andrew Tinney, who was a top prosecutor in his day, appeared shocked by the move.
The court heard Surtees had admitted to dousing her husband Daniel in petrol and igniting a lighter as he relaxed in a chair on the porch of their Geelong home in January last year.
The father of five was engulfed in flames as he was incinerated on the spot.
Surtees had earlier pleaded not guilty to murder and had long denied she had even lit the blaze that killed her husband.
Despite the deal from prosecutors, the court heard Surtees’ barristers were still not satisfied with the wording of the charge.
Jarrod Williams, for Surtees, told Justice Tinney his client still did not accept that she deliberately set her husband on fire.
‘I don’t know whether it can be resolved today … or at all,’ he said.
Moments earlier, Justice Tinney said Surtees would stand to be sentenced at the highest level a person who pleaded guilty to manslaughter could be.
‘I invite the parties to give very thoughtful care to this case. It would seem to me to be inappropriate to embark on a plea if the parties are so fundamentally at issue about such an important matter,’ he warned.
‘It seems clear enough if … the foundation is it was deliberate to set him on fire, that would be an instance of manslaughter at the very top of the range.’
‘There are some manslaughters that are right up, to just below a murder, and I would have thought it’s up at that category.’
Angela Surtees had been a frequent contributor to her Facebook page, encouraging people to raise money for bushfire victims
The mother and sister of Angela Surtees are pursued by media as they leave the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court last year. They made no comment
Crown prosecutor Ray Gibson said the manslaughter plea would only be accepted if Surtees accepted the act to spark the lighter was deliberate.
‘We don’t accept it was an accident, but lacked the relevant murderous intent,’ he said.
‘We reject the contention it was an accident. That he lunged at her. We say he was seated in the chair when he was doused with fuel and set alight.’
In offering the plea, the Crown accepted Surtees did not mean to kill her husband when she lit the lighter, despite bringing out the fuel can, dousing her husband with fuel and activating it.
‘It was an unlawful and dangerous act,’ Mr Gibson said.
No reason has been given as to why Surtees did what she did.
She appeared in court on Thursday from her prison cell at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre maximum security prison, where she has been kept since the attack.
While silent in the prison dock, Surtees had enjoyed a vocal presence on social media where just a few years ago she proudly showed off her wedding ring.
‘So I got married,’ she proudly shrieked in a YouTube video posted after her wedding three years ago. ‘This song is what was supposed to be our first dance but somebody hijacked our playlist.’
Surtees is seen breaking out into a rendition of Celine Dion’s Tale As Old As Time from Disney’s Beauty and The Beast.
It is one of many covers the alleged killer posted on social media before the horrific turn of events.
A neighbour told the local news station she had previously heard sounds of a verbal altercation coming from the Surtees’ home
Footage of the scene showed the blaze reached the walls and ceiling, damaging the interior of the home
Angela Surtees, 34, of Geelong, appeared in court (above) charged with setting her husband on fire while he slept on an armchair
Other renditions included When Doves Cry, by Prince, Stay, by Rihanna, Someone Like You, by Adele, and My Precious Child, by Karen Taylor-Good.
Neighbours described Mr Surtees as a friendly person who would go out of his way to mow the lawns of his elderly neighbour.
After the attack, a half-finished can of Jim Beam remained beside the seat where Mr Surtees was allegedly sleeping when he was set ablaze.
The couch was positioned just outside the front door of the couple’s family home.
It was reported the pair could be heard arguing on shortly before the incident happened.
‘I had heard yelling, screaming, but I thought nothing of it because it’s just Geelong,’ a neighbour told 9News at the time. ‘I feel sorry for the kids.’
According to social media, Surtees and her husband met in 2012 and had a photography business in Geelong.
She had recently shared numerous posts about providing aid to bushfire victims and urged friends to donate to the cause.
The young mum had a strong social media presence and frequently took to Facebook to post angry rants.
She described herself as a ‘selfish b**ch’ with a ‘short fuse’ in one post.
Angela Surtees said she would not be a slave to any man
Angela Surtees, her husband Daniel and family in happier times
In 2013 she posted: ‘Has come to the conclusion that harnessing my hurt pain and sorrow and turning it into anger is making my normally short fuse paper thin.’
A year later she she warned people about the consequences of ‘talking s**’ about her.
Surtees continued her rants in 2016, telling the world she would not be forced to live in the kitchen ‘serving her husband’.
‘Happy wife, happy life. Unhappy wife and you bet your ass s**t is going to hit the fan. A king will take care of her king, a slave will pray the day he dies.’
Ms Surtees has revealed her husband was a hard working chef who had done time in Italian restaurants and as a baker.
She regularly posted about her struggle to find work and over the years had done everything from selling Tupperware to bar tending.
At one stage, she even attempted to get on the hit cooking show Masterchef.
Surtees rated herself as a working artist and photographer, who was doing her best to remain off welfare payments to survive.
‘I am who I am,’ she posted in 2016. ‘I’ll be who I’ll be. I’ll never apologise for simply being me.’
Tupperware mum charged with burning her husband alive avoids murder charge