Grieving brothers’ heartache as Donna Steele’s killer jailed
MOOROOBOOL father Matthew Ross White has been jailed for life for the murder of Donna Louise Steele.
In an unexpected development, White yesterday pleaded guilty to the crime after Cairns Supreme Court was played video of his confession to Detective Sergeant Scott John McGrath.
Justice Jim Henry said White had displayed an "egocentric naivety and shallowness of thought" in his approach to the crime.
"A trait I perceived in your odd approach to the crime," Justice Henry said.
Wearing a crumpled and untucked business shirt, White, 27, sat in the dock as Donna Steele's brother Jason told the court of the trauma the death of his sister "Daisy" had caused their family.
His brother Brendan stood by his shoulder, staring at the man who beat, strangled and dumped for dead their little sister, 42.
"We were three peas in a pod," Mr Steele said.
"Donna's lively personality was infectious, she made lifelong friends everywhere she went.
"You have taken a big part of our family's futures; they were devastated by what you did the day you took her sister away.
"You dumped my sister in a creek and went on with living life; you brought shame and accusation to the good people of Cooktown."
The two brothers were in no rush to return to the gallery, both deliberately looking into the face of their sister's killer as they filed past the glass walled dock.
The trial - originally anticipated to run as long as into next week - heard White had concocted an ill thought and desperate plan to extort $20,000 from the Cooktown "drug scene" in August 2017.
The money was intended to allow him to gain custody of his child from an ex partner and "go somewhere."
He drove 300km north in a borrowed Rav4 and lay in wait to ambush Ms Steele in her home.
When she unexpectedly resisted, he strangled and beat her until he was satisfied she had stopped breathing.
White wrapped her body in a doona, weighted it with rocks and submerged it in the Endeavour River.
She was found, bloated and floating, four days later.
Queensland Police found items belonging to Ms Steele in the bushes and in the river near her body, including a length of red twine used to tie her hands.
On the twine was traces of unknown male DNA.
Detectives - helped by 200 voluntary DNA samples from Cooktown - narrowed the traces to Matthew White's family.
Thanks to court-ordered access of a 'heel prick' blood test taken at Brisbane' Royal Women's Hospital at White's birth, detectives identified the defendant.
Seven months after Ms Steele was located, he made full confessions to police.