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Vic: Killer "trapped" in dysfunctional relationship:court

By Melissa Iaria
27 May 2009 6:05 PM

MELBOURNE, May 27 AAP - A man who strangled his de facto wife then buried her in their backyard after years of emotional abuse had become trapped in a controlling and dysfunctional relationship, a jury has heard.

The jury in Anthony Sherna's Victorian Supreme Court trial has heard he snapped in February last year after years of abuse from Susanne Wild who used to call him a "low life" and a "weak little bastard".

Sherna, 42, admits killing Wild, 53, but has pleaded not guilty to murder, with his counsel suggesting he acted in self defence.

Sherna has told the jury Wild cut him off from contact with friends and family, was "unpredictable", would control their money and constantly put him down.

He strangled her with a dressing gown cord when she woke his dog after he had rocked it to sleep. He buried her body in their Tarneit backyard, in Melbourne's southwest.

Forensic psychologist Jeffrey Cummins, who interviewed Sherna in custody earlier this month, said he had felt trapped in a "significant pathological relationship".

"He felt intimidated, overwhelmed, controlled, put down and in turn he became more depressed, his self-esteem deteriorated and he became more socially isolated," he told the court on Wednesday.

Mr Cummins diagnosed Sherna with a depressive disorder and said he probably had psychological problems before getting involved with Wild.

He said Sherna was raised in a dysfunctional family where his father was a violent alcoholic and that likely had a significant effect on him.

Mr Cummins said it was significant Sherna had tolerated Wild openly cheating on him earlier in their relationship.

"He really did not do much at all to complain about that situation," he said.

Mr Cummins said that in order to make his relationship more tolerable, Sherna almost became a workaholic and was alcohol dependant.

Prosecutor Maitland Lincoln questioned Cummins over whether Sherna had given him a truthful account during their interview.

Mr Lincoln also said many people suffered ups and downs but got through.

"Life is not meant to be easy, is it?" he said.

Mr Cummins agreed he had only interviewed Sherna once and depended on his answers to help form his assessment.

Meanwhile, a neighbour of the couple testified Wild often abused him and other neighbours.

He said she dobbed him in to the local council and to water authorities for wasting water.

At one stage he put his house up for sale because he had "had enough", he said.

He also told Sherna he needed to put Wild "on a leash", he said.

The trial continues on Thursday.