A NSW man who murdered his 23-year-old fiancee Clare Weston and dumped her body by the Hunter River has been sentenced to 19 years’ jail.
A NSW man who murdered his fiancee and dumped her near-naked body on a riverbank has been jailed until 2027 at the earliest.
Clare Weston, 23, met George Robert Ballantyne during a visit to Rutherford from Queensland, and within three months became engaged to the man who would go on to drag her along the Hunter River and choke her to death.
The 31-year-old, from Greta near Maitland, would later tell police he killed her “out of rage”.
“(This case) involved the taking of the life of a young woman in quite horrific circumstances and callously leaving her semi-naked body face down by the riverside,” NSW Supreme Court Justice Robert Hulme said as he sentenced Ballantyne to 19 years behind bars on Thursday.
“I accept that he is sad and regretful but in all the circumstances I am not prepared to find that he is genuinely remorseful.”
Justice Hulme said the couple had argued on a daily basis during their time together, and by early March 2013 Ms Weston was confiding in her stepsister that Ballantyne was moody and abusive and she was thinking of leaving him.
By March 9 last year, the relationship had reached breaking point.
That night, Ballantyne came to Ms Weston’s mother’s home so they could talk it out.
“She sat in his car and they talked for about an hour. He then drove her to Aberglassyn, about 20km away and stopped beside the Hunter River,” Justice Hulme said.
The pair talked some more, but when Ms Weston said she wanted to go home, Ballantyne threw her over one shoulder, carried her down to the river and choked her to death.
Justice Hulme added that Ballantyne probably raped Ms Weston that night, but he could not be satisfied of this beyond reasonable doubt.
The young victim’s body was discovered the following morning by dogwalkers, nearly naked and lying face down in a shallow pool of water by the side of the river.
Ballantyne later told a friend: “I just lost it … I am not a bad guy. I just made a f****n terrible mistake.”
Yet it was not the first time Ballantyne had been violent towards a partner.
In 2008 he was convicted of offences including assault occasioning actual bodily harm after he threatened his then-girlfriend and forced a pillow down over her face until she struggled to breathe.
Ballantyne will serve a non-parole period of 14 years and three months.