‘Perceived’ affair provoked husband to kill, court told

ERIN Margach, 8, had promised to read a bedtime story to her little sister, Bree. When her mother called from the kitchen for help, Erin went to answer.
She found her father, Paul, with her mother, Tina, who was bleeding to death from multiple stab wounds. The moments that followed were captured on a taped 000 call that was played yesterday in the Supreme Court.
“Put that eight-year-old on the phone!” the operator barked at Paul Margach, who was begging for help for his wife but crying so hard he seemed unable to take in the operator’s instructions.
Erin, who had been screaming in the background, took the call. “You keep quiet. You listen to me if you want to help your mum,” the operator commanded. “Go and get a towel, quickly! Put the towel where your mum’s bleeding.”
The operator tried to keep Erin focused while the child swung between calm and hysteria. At one point Erin screamed, “Mum, Mum, oh please!”
“Come on, you have to hurry!” said the operator. “Are you doing the right thing?”
“Yes, I’m doing it,” the child said.
As the tape was played yesterday, Paul Jason Margach sat sobbing in court. An engineer formerly of Hurtle Street, Ascot Vale, he has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife on October 15, 2004.
The Margachs had met when Tina was 16 and married when she was 21. The marriage had begun to unravel, the court was told.
Prosecutor Boris Kayser said Mrs Margach, 36, had gone to Swan Hill with girlfriends the weekend before her murder. There she had met a man with whom she danced and chatted, but there was no sexual contact.
Margach, 38, had been suspicious about his wife. He installed a recording device on their home telephone. He accused his wife of having an affair with the man. Mrs Margach denied this and said she did not want the marriage to end.
In a conversation taped from the home phone that was played in court yesterday – “a voice from the dead”, said the prosecutor – Mrs Margach said: “I can’t communicate with Paul. It’s like we have hit a stalemate . . . It’s just humdrum, boring, I can’t be bothered and he feels rejected.”
She said she was “a bit flirtatious” with the man in Swan Hill but it had gone no further. Of her husband, she said, “I love him to death.”
Mrs Margach said she was bewildered by the intensity of her husband’s anger.
According to the prosecutor, on the night of the killing, Mrs Margach had found her husband weeping in Erin’s bedroom and telling the child about the marriage break-up. Mrs Margach remonstrated with him “for talking like that to an eight-year-old”.
Margach followed her to the kitchen. He later told police that his wife had said the marriage was over, saying “I don’t want a baby, I want a man!”
He said his wife picked up a knife and they struggled over it, and that she told him, ‘I did f— him and I enjoyed it’.
He told police he stabbed her because he found out she was having an affair.
Margach’s lawyer, Christopher Dane, QC, said his client had not intended to kill his wife because only moments earlier he had told her she could stay in the house and that he would move out.
Mr Dane said there was no claim that Mrs Margach had actually had an affair in Swan Hill, but that the case centred on provocation and perceptions of infidelity: “Is there a difference, in a degenerating relationship, between actual and perceived (infidelity)? If you believe it, then that’s what’s driving you. If you have got it wrong, does it matter?”
Mr Dane said Margach was guilty of manslaughter, not murder.
The case continues.

First published in The Age.