Cafferkey’s killer loses appeal against life sentence

Noelle Dickson was worried her daughter’s murderer might one day be free to kill a third woman.

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But to her great relief, a Victorian court found Steven James Hunter is as dangerous now as when he first killed 27 years ago, and upheld his life sentence with no chance of parole.

Hunter, 47, admitted killing Ms Dickson’s 22-year-old daughter Sarah Cafferkey at his Bacchus Marsh home in November last year, then stuffing her body in a bin before filling it with concrete.

The Victorian Court of Appeal on Thursday dismissed Hunter’s appeal for a minimum prison term to be set, so he will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Ms Dickson said she felt relieved the matter had finally been put to rest.

“I finally have faith in the justice system,” she told reporters outside the court.

“Today has been the worst day of my life and I’m glad it’s over.”

In sentencing Hunter in August, Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bell said Ms Cafferkey’s murder was a brutal attack on a helpless victim and fitted into the worst category of the most serious crime.

But lawyers for Hunter had argued he deserved to be given a chance to apply for parole in 30 to 35 years because of his early guilty plea.

Court of Appeal President Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Paul Coghlan upheld Justice Bell’s view that Hunter would continue to pose a threat to the community.

“The commission of two brutal murders, separated by 26 years, demonstrates that the process of maturing has done nothing to reduce the risk to the community which the applicant (Hunter) represents,” the judges said in published reasons.

“He is as dangerous at 47 as he was at 20.”

Hunter killed his colleague Jacqueline Mathews in 1986 before temporarily escaping from Pentridge Prison while serving his sentence.

Appeal Court Justice Phillip Priest held a dissenting view, and said he would have imposed a non-parole period of 35 years because of Hunter’s guilty plea, which allowed Ms Cafferkey’s family to be spared a criminal trial.

“He deserved, but did not receive, credit for that,” Justice Priest said.