Steven Barker: Bronte businessman's relationship was 'unravelling' before murder charge

A businessman who allegedly murdered his wife at their multi-million dollar beach house in front of a child struggled with the breakdown of his relationship, a court has heard.

Business development manager Steven Barker, 74, was arrested around 6.15pm on Thursday and charged with one count of murder after police were called to a home on Bronte Road, Bronte, in the city’s east.

Officers found his wife Christine, 74, outside their property with critical injuries. She was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital but was unable to be revived. Police will allege the incident was related to domestic violence.

Sir. Barker was dressed in prison greens when he appeared before Waverley Local Court on Friday morning, where his legal aid lawyer Matthew Bogunovich applied for bail on his behalf.

Steven Barker, 74, has been charged with one count of murder after police were called to a home on Bronte Road, Bronte in the city’s east at around 6pm on Thursday following a welfare report concern

Police arrived at the Bronte Road home to find a woman critically injured. Pictured: Rescue workers raced to save her life

Sitting in the dock, Mr Barker appeared stone-faced and stared out into the room as Mr Bogunovich admitted the prosecution’s case was ‘strong’.

“Mr Barker was found at the scene and we have admissions detailed in the police fact sheet,” Mr Bogunovich said.

“We have blood on his clothes and his admission as to why it was there.”

‘I accept that there is a high likelihood of imprisonment given the nature of the case and the charge.’

However, Bogunovich argued that Barker should be released on bail and that he was not an “unacceptable risk” to the community as the nature of the alleged offense was due to the “unraveling of the relationship at home”.

He said his client has never been charged before and apart from his ‘long marriage’ to the alleged victim, he had a long career as a civil engineer.

Bogunovich said his client would face difficulties in custody, would need medical attention and was willing to comply with several bail conditions.

“He has no experience in prison and is vulnerable,” he said.

“In the circumstances of his case, once in custody he would be under constant medical supervision and as a possible suicidal risk.”

Due to the nature of Covid-19 restrictions, Mr Bogunovich said Mr Barker would have to undergo an initial quarantine period, which would mean being kept in isolation.

Police tape pictured around the front of the home in Bronte in Sydney’s east on Friday

Detectives searched the multi-million dollar home on Friday as officers worked the crime scene

Bogunovich also said Mr Barker was in no way a flight risk and despite having the means to travel had only ventured overseas three times – the last was more than ten years ago to Malaysia, where his passport now had expired.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Nicole McMahon said the case against Mr Barker was ‘overwhelming’ and he had made ‘full and detailed’ admissions to police officers wearing body cameras at the scene.

She said there was a witness to the alleged crime and Mr Barker admitted another witness arrived shortly afterwards.

Arguing against bail, Ms McMahon said the court should be concerned about the alleged “significant violence” that took place.

‘The court could not possibly see this person as an unacceptable risk. The court may also take into account that it was allegedly committed in front of a young person. It is extremely worrying.’

Ms McMahon said the case would only be “strengthened” by crime scene and forensic evidence. She noted that if convicted, Mr Barker could face life in prison.

‘These needs are outlined [by the defence] does not outweigh the needs of detention,’ she said.

Magistrate Clare Farnan agreed with the prosecution and refused Barker bail, saying the alleged crime was “the most serious offense known to the criminal law”.

“The charge is clearly exceptionally serious and if he is convicted it is inevitable that he will go to prison,” she said.

Magistrate Farnan said the prosecution’s case was strong and given the seriousness of the crime there was a concern he may not appear in court if released.

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Detectives and police officers are seen at the scene in Bronte on Friday morning

The multi-million dollar home (pictured) is 600 meters from the popular Bronte Beach

While she accepted that the Covid pandemic has made the prison system ‘difficult’ for inmates, she said there was no evidence that Mr Barker was suffering from a medical condition.

She added that the defense had failed to explain what specific difficulties he might face behind bars, other than those typical of a person’s first incarceration.

‘I don’t believe any of them [reasons presented by the defence] justify the cause, she said.

Bail was denied.

Barker is next due to appear at Waverley Local Court via video link on November 8.

Outside court, three of Mr Barker’s supporters – a woman and two men – appeared dejected as they left the hearing.

‘No one will comment [about Steven and Christine]said a man.

“Then please leave us alone.”

Earlier on Friday, a NSW Ambulance spokesman said the woman had suffered a cardiac arrest.

No weapon is believed to have been used in the alleged attack.

Barker was arrested at the scene and was remanded in custody pending a court appearance on Friday.

Some of Mr Barker’s supporters (pictured) attended his hearing at Waverley Local Court on Friday

A man told reporters outside court that they would not comment on the case

Pictures from the scene show the elderly man, with gray hair, a beard and glasses, being led from the house with his hands behind his back.

Blood stains were visible on the sleeve of his t-shirt and there appeared to be a bruise under his left eye.

The couple’s Californian bungalow is just 600m from Bronte Beach, where properties sell for up to $25 million.

Sir. Parker worked as a business development manager for telecommunications network installation company Schokman, according to his LinkedIn.

Police tape surrounded the home Friday as uniformed police and detectives searched the home for evidence.

Detectives later emerged from the house with brown evidence bags before loading them into the back of a police car.

Police even confiscated letters delivered by a postman on Friday.

The trio looked dejected as they sat through the proceedings. They are pictured leaving the court

A local resident said she was saddened to hear it was an alleged case of domestic violence.

“You hear about these things, but it’s shocking when it’s on your doorstep,” she told Daily Mail Australia. “It’s so tragic for her.”

Neighbor Jack McIntosh said: ‘She (the alleged victim) would always say hello to our family.

‘It was really shocking. Especially coming home to see eight or ten police cars’.

McIntosh added that the couple ‘kept to themselves’.

“I didn’t see too much of the man, but they looked like a normal family,” he said.


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