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30-September-2017
30-September-2017

Photographs supplied by Peter F Williams

The plaque was erected to commemorate the memorial service which was held in 1998 in honour of missing person Bernadette Donaldson. An inquest found that Mrs Donaldson was murdered by Christopher Watt who committed suicide. Her body has never been found. 

Bernadette Donaldson, mother of Victoria Cross winner Mark Donaldson, was murdered more than a decade ago by a man besotted by her, State Coroner Mary Jerram found yesterday in Glebe Coroner's Court. Ms Jerram heard that DNA testing had matched Ms Donaldson's DNA profile with blood found on her garage floor and in the car driven by the man suspected of having murdered her, Christopher Watt.

Ms Donaldson, a widow with sons Brent and Mark, had been a well-liked member of the Dorrigo community in northern New South Wales, had had a relationship with Watt, the court heard, but had not wanted it to develop.

After she disappeared on April 30, 1998, police formed the view that she had died at the hands of Watt, known to have been stalking her. But in July 1999, a Bellingen coroner returned an open verdict, unable to decide between disappearance and death. Ms Jerram reopened the inquest in October last year on the basis of new evidence.

Detective Senior Constable Patrick Gleeson, of the Unsolved Homicides Unit North Region, said that Watt, who lived in Bellingen some 30 kilometres from Dorrigo and whose wife Christine had hanged herself in March 1996, had formed a relationship with Ms Donaldson. But by 1998 life had turned sour for him. His son Jon had been rendered a paraplegic in a motor cycle accident and he had been disciplined at his work at the Banana Coast Credit Union.

Ms Donaldson had had told him to leave her alone but he refused. On one occasion she had got out of the shower to find him standing at her bathroom door. She had gone to an Anzac Day march in 1998 and had come home to find him mowing her lawn.

She had formed a relationship with another man, Ernest Molina but found that Watt was spying on them. He had told a friend he had "invested a lot" into the relationship and she was "cheating" on him. On April 28 was seen standing outside her home, wearing dark clothes.

On April 30, Ms Donaldson arrived to fly to Coolangatta and arranged to be picked up there. But she did not arrive and telephone calls to her home brought no result. At about the same time, Watt was seen in an apparent hurry drive home, wearing dark clothes, in bare feet. Ten minutes later, with shoes and different clothes, he had driven away.

He had then gone to Brisbane and on May 2 had taken strychnine, saying in a suicide note that he was "unable to cope anymore".

Police found blood on the floor of Ms Donaldson's garage, and a print which had been made in blood by a bare foot, and formed the view that someone had tried to clean up the crime scene with a mop and bucket. Blood was also found in the rear compartment of the Suzuki hatchback that Watt had driven. Detective Gleeson said that DNA technology had now found a positive match between the DNA profiles of that blood and the DNA profile taken from Ms Donaldson's toothbrush.

Ms Jerram found that on the balance of probabilities, Ms Donaldson died on April 30, 1998, from injuries inflicted by a person since deceased.

Mark Donaldson won his VC on a dusty plain in southern Afghanistan on September 2 last year. His brother Brent spoke briefly at yesterday's hearing, publicly thanking the police and the people of Dorrigo for their support.
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 5 August 2009.

Location

Address:Cedar & Karabin Streets, Dorrigo Heritage Gardens, Dorrigo, 2453
State:NSW
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -30.343668
Long: 152.712827
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Details

Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:People
Sub-Theme:Crime
Actual Event Start Date:30-April-1998
Actual Event End Date:30-April-1998

Dedication

Front Inscription

A Memorial Service Was Held In These Gardens
     On The 11th July 1998
           To Honour
       

BERNADETTE DONALDSON

Widow Of Greg, Mother Of Brent And Mark
Who Was Tragically Taken From
Her Family, Her Friends And The Dorrigo Community
On 30th April 1998

Sadly Missed By All Who Knew Her

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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