A Sydney cleaner who broke into her 92-year-old client’s home before ferociously attacking the elderly woman with her own walking sticks and china, along with a kitchen knife, has been sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Hanny Papanicolaou will not be eligible for parole until January 2034.
Papanicolaou admitted assaulting Marjorie Welsh at her home in Sydney’s inner west on January 2, 2019, but had pleaded not guilty to her murder and guilty to her manslaughter.
The 39-year-old claimed she blacked out and awoke holding the kitchen knife surrounded by blood, but her NSW Supreme Court jury rejected this story after half a day of deliberations.
Welsh died six weeks later in hospital but not before giving two police interviews where she named her assailant as “Hanny the housekeeper” and described the savage attack in detail.
Papanicolaou had been working as Welsh’s house cleaner for a year before jumping her back fence after losing hundreds of dollars on the pokies that morning, the trial was told.
She then beat the older woman with her walking sticks so forcefully they broke, and smashed heavy ceramics down upon the defenceless woman.
“And I’m saying ‘why Hanny why’ … not a word. And then she went back to beating me with the stick,” Welsh told police.
“I don’t know how many times, she was utterly ferocious.”
At some point Papanicolaou used a knife from the cutlery drawer to stab Welsh six times in the lower chest and abdomen.
She then stole her cordless phone, unplugged a loud alarm system and ran back to her car.
The Crown at her sentence hearing described the savage and sustained attack by a young woman upon a much older one who was vulnerable, and had difficulty moving or seeing.
One of Welsh’s daughters Angela MacLeod outside court welcomed remarks that senior citizens deserved to feel safe within their home as a sanctuary.
Watching her video interview was confronting, she said, but also amazing she could still be herself at such a time.
“Mum was someone who could achieve anything she wanted to in life.
“Life wasn’t always perfect for Mum … but she was strong, intelligent, loving, protective, all those things that you’d want in a mum. We were always very proud of her,” she said.
ABC News reported on Friday that Justice Robertson Wright said Papanicolaou’s displays of genuine remorse and her good prospects for rehabilitation meant the maximum sentence of life in prison was not appropriate.
Outside court, Welsh’s daughters Angela and Elizabeth said they were satisfied with the 22-year sentence and 15-year non-parole period.