A woman who admitted to burning her husband alive while he was relaxing on the porch has been given a plea that will prevent her from being convicted of murder.
Former Tupperware saleswoman Angela Surtees, 34, of Geelong, appeared before the Victoria Supreme Court on Thursday, where she pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter.
The case was on the list to go to trial until a few days ago when Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd, QC, made the extraordinary offer to drop the murder charges.
Angela Surtees (pictured) worked as a Tupperware lady before allegedly setting her husband on fire while sitting on a bench outside their front door
Police were called to the Boundary Road couple’s home around 8:30 p.m., where they found the father with severe burns. Above are the charred remains of the armchair where Mr Surtees is said to have sat
The couple, who had been married for four years and had five children, had reportedly been involved in a “minor feud” before Mr Surtees’ death.
Judge Andrew Tinney, who was a top prosecutor in his day, appeared shocked by the move.
The court heard Surtees admitted that in January last year she doused her husband Daniel with gasoline and lit a lighter while he was relaxing in a chair on the porch of their home in Geelong.
The father of five went up in flames when he was burned on the spot.
Surtees had previously pleaded not guilty to murder and had long denied even starting the fire that killed her husband.
Despite the plaintiffs’ deal, the court heard that Surtees’ lawyers were still unhappy with the wording of the charges.
Jarrod Williams, for Surtees, told Judge Tinney that his client still did not accept that she deliberately set her husband on fire.
“I don’t know if it can be solved today…or not at all,” he said.
Moments earlier, Judge Tinney said Surtees would be sentenced at the highest level for a person who pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
‘I invite the parties to handle this case very carefully. It seems to me inappropriate to make a plea when the parties are so fundamentally in dispute on such an important issue,” he warned.
“It seems clear enough if … the foundation is that it was intentional to set him on fire, that would be a case of manslaughter at the highest level.”
“There are some homicides that are high, just below a homicide, and I would have thought it would be in that category.”
Angela Surtees was a regular contributor to her Facebook page, encouraging people to raise money for forest fire victims
Angela Surtees’ mother and sister are being haunted by the media as they exited the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court last year. They didn’t comment
Crown Prosecutor Ray Gibson said the manslaughter plea would only be accepted if Surtees accepted that the lighter had been deliberately lit.
“We don’t accept that it was an accident, but it lacked the relevant murderous intent,” he said.
“We reject the claim that it was an accident. That he lunged at her. We say he was in the chair when he was doused with fuel and set on fire.”
In presenting the plea, the Crown accepted that Surtees had no intention of killing her husband as she lit the lighter despite extracting the fuel can, dousing her husband with fuel and activating it.
“It was an illegal and dangerous act,” Gibson said.
No reason was given as to why Surtees did what she did.
She appeared in court on Thursday from her jail cell at the Dame Phyliss Frost Center, where she has been held since her brutal attack.
While quiet in prison, Surtees had enjoyed a vocal presence on social media, where she proudly showed off her wedding ring a few years ago.
“So I’m married,” she proudly screamed in a YouTube video posted three years ago after her wedding. “This song was supposed to be our first dance, but someone hijacked our playlist.”
Surtees breaks out in Celine Dion’s terrible rendition Age-old story from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
It is one of several covers of the alleged killer posted on social media before the horrific turn of events.
A neighbor told the local news station that she had previously heard sounds of a verbal altercation coming from the house
Footage from the scene showed the fire reaching the walls and ceiling, damaging the interior of the house
Angela Surtees, 34, from Geelong, appeared in court (above) accused of setting her husband on fire while he was allegedly sleeping on an armchair
Other performances included Prince’s When Doves Cry, Stay, Rihanna, Adele’s Someone Like You, and Karen Taylor’s My Precious Child.
Neighbors described Mr Surtees as a friendly person who went out of his way to mow his elderly neighbour’s lawns.
After the attack, a half-full can of Jim Beam remained next to the chair where Mr Surtees reportedly slept when he was set on fire.
The couch was just outside the front door of the couple’s childhood home.
It was reported that the couple were able to argue shortly before the incident took place.
“I’d heard yelling, yelling, but I didn’t think anything of it because it’s just Geelong,” a neighbor told 9News at the time. “I feel sorry for the children.”
According to social media, Surtees and her husband met in 2012 and owned a photography business in Geelong.
She had recently shared numerous posts about providing aid to wildfire victims and urging her friends to donate to the cause.
The young mother had a strong social media presence and regularly took to Facebook to post angry diatribes.
She described herself as a “selfish b**th” in a “short fuse” post.
Angela Surtees said she wouldn’t be a slave to any man
Angela Surtees, husband Daniel and family in happier times
In 2013, she wrote, “Has come to the conclusion that using my hurt pain and sadness and turning it into anger is making my normally short fuse wafer thin.”
A year later, she warned people about the consequences of “talking 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. Unlucky woman and you bet your ass is going to hit the fan. A king will take care of her king, a slave will pray on the day he dies.’
Ms Surtees has revealed that her husband was a hard-working chef who had spent time in Italian restaurants and as a baker.
She posted regularly about her struggle to find a job and over the years had done everything from selling Tupperware to barting.
At one point, she even tried to participate in the popular cooking show Masterchef.
Surtees rated herself as a working artist and photographer, doing her best to stay off welfare in order to survive.
‘I am who I am,’ she wrote in 2016. ‘I will be who I will be. I’ll never apologize for just being me.’