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R v Playford


[2017] QSC 337





R v Playford [2017] QSC 337


PLAYFORD, Stephen Phillip


SC No 1727 of 2017


Trial Division


Sentence ex tempore


20 December 2017




20 December 2017


Boddice J


  1. On count 1, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  2. On count 2, convicted and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
  3. Convictions recorded on each count.
  4. Each offence is recorded as a domestic violence offence.
  5. Sentences of imprisonment be served concurrently.
  6. Declare the 835 days served in custody between 7 September 2015 and 19 December 2017 as time served in respect of those sentences of imprisonment.


CRIMINAL LAW – SENTENCE – RELEVANT FACTORS – NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF OFFENCE – GENERALLY – where the offender pleaded guilty to the offence of murder of his six year old daughter and to the attempted murder of his eight year old daughter – where the pleas of guilty have saved the community time and money and represent cooperation with the administration of justice – where three expert forensic psychiatrists concluded the offender was suffering from a mild to moderate depressive illness at the time of the offences – where there was no defence for the offender’s reprehensible conduct – where there is only punishment that can be imposed in respect of the offence of murder


MB Lehane of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (Queensland) for the Crown

J Briggs of Legal Aid Queensland for the defendant

  1. HIS HONOUR:  Stephen Phillip Playford, you are to be sentenced today for two offences involving the most unimaginable criminal conduct.  The first offence is the murder of your six year old daughter.  The second offence is the attempted murder of your eight year old daughter.  Both offences were committed on or about 7 September 2015.
  2. To your credit, you pleaded guilty to those offences when arraigned before me on 15 November 2017.  Those pleas of guilty saved your wife and daughter the trauma of having to give evidence at a trial.  You also saved them from the trauma of hearing other graphic details, which, no doubt, would have been required to be led in the course of that trial.  Your pleas of guilty have saved the community time and money.  They represent cooperation with the administration of justice.  That cooperation is a relevant factor I take into account in your favour on sentence.
  3. These horrendous offences, committed by you methodically and with a degree of precision, occurred against a backdrop of financial and personal despair.  Until early 2014, you held senior positions of responsibility in the mining industry.  You were compensated well for that employment.  You lived a lifestyle consistent with that income.
  4. In February 2014, you resigned your last position.  From that date until the offences, the family lived off every dwindling savings.  You continued to live beyond your means, a fact not disclosed to your wife.  You unsuccessfully sought only high paying positions in the belief that all would be fine.
  5. That deteriorating situation led to a sense of isolation and remoteness from your wife and children.  As a consequence, in March 2015 your wife informed you she wanted a divorce.  You told her that if she left the house you would keep the children.  Your wife remained in the marriage, making efforts to repair and restore your relationship.  Despite those efforts, the relationship did not improve, no doubt because of the crushing financial plight which continued to worsen.
  6. By August 2015, you could not pay the children’s school fees.  In August 2015, you began to think about suicide.  You researched that topic on the internet.  You purchased a number of nitrogen gas cylinders, regulators and masks.  A life insurance policy was taken out in your wife’s name for $1.25 million.  Between August 2015 and the date of these offences, the financial problems continued to mount and a logical, practical solution became more remote in your eyes.
  7. On 5 September 2015, your younger daughter celebrated her sixth birthday.  You celebrated as a family.  The following day was Father’s Day.  Again, there was a celebration.  That night the world changed forever.
  8. During that evening, your wife asked you if you really would have taken the children if the two of you had separated.  You replied that you did not know and that at the time you were angry and hurt about your wife asking for a divorce.  Your wife said she loved you and had remained with you because you were the father of her children.  Inexplicably, you seemed to have interpreted that comment as meaning separation or divorce was still an active thought in your wife’s mind.
  9. As a consequence, you decided that the solution to what would be the end of your marriage and the loss of your children, in the context of deteriorating financial problems was a triple murder suicide.  That way, in your mind, the family could be together.  If you killed only yourself, the family would not be able to cope without you.
  10. Later that night, after your wife and children went to bed, you wrote emails which were, essentially, goodbye messages.  You did not send those emails.  You then went upstairs and brought your younger daughter downstairs into the lounge room.  While she remained asleep, you obtained one of the gas cylinders.  You applied it to her.  When that did not work, you smothered her with a cushion.  You continued despite her protests and resistance.  When she was no longer moving, you applied the gas cylinder by a mask over her face for a short time before returning her lifeless body back to her bed.
  11. Next, you took your older daughter downstairs.  She was half awake.  You told her to put the mask on and to take deep breaths.  She told you she wanted to go back to bed.  Ultimately, you returned to bed with her.  You decided a cushion would not work with her because she was too big and strong.  You placed her in a chokehold.  She struggled and screamed and managed to release herself, showing incredible bravery.
  12. The commotion woke your wife.  She came into the room and found your elder daughter crying and upset.  Your daughter told your wife you had tried to choke her.  You told your wife she had had a nightmare.  The daughter went to sleep with your wife in your own bedroom.
  13. You left the home with the gas cylinders and drove to a National Park.  You placed the mask on your face and turned on the cylinders.  When that did not work, you tied tubing around your neck.  You were found by passers-by leaning against the outside of the motor vehicle.  The tubing was still around your neck.
  14. On 7 September 2015, you were interviewed by police.  You made full admissions to the murder of your younger daughter and the attempted murder of your older daughter.  You were extremely upset and remorseful.  You told police about your plan for a triple murder suicide.
  15. You were subsequently psychiatrically examined by three expert forensic psychiatrists.  All concluded you were suffering from a mild to moderate depressive illness at the time of the offences.  There was, however, no defence to your reprehensible conduct.
  16. Your wife and surviving daughter have to live with the consequences of that night.  Your wife has provided a victim impact statement.  It speaks of the devastation in their lives as a consequence of your conduct on that fateful night.  Your wife struggles to cope with the events and with her tragic loss.  She will do so for the rest of her life.
  17. Your older daughter, not surprisingly, has developed an extreme level of stress associated with her recollection of what occurred on that night and the loss of her beloved only sibling.  No one can begin to understand how hard it will be for her as she lives with the consequences of your actions.
  18. Your wife and daughter will forever struggle with the concept that a man who was by all accounts a kind, loving and devoted father could engage in such a premeditated act of physical violence to the two girls he loved the most in this world.  Your conduct truly involved despicable acts.
  19. You will have to live with the consequences of your actions for the rest of your life.  To your great credit, you accept full responsibility for your actions.  You do not seek to blame your wife or your daughters.
  20. Mr Playford, there is only one punishment that can be imposed in respect of the offence of murder.  That is life imprisonment.  Stephen Phillip Playford, on count 1 of the indictment, you are convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.  On count 2 of the indictment, you are convicted and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.  I record convictions for each count.  I record that each offence is a domestic violence offence.  I order that those sentences of imprisonment be served concurrently.  I declare the 835 days you have served in custody between 7 September 2015 and 19 December 2017 as time served in respect of those sentences of imprisonment.

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    R v Playford

  • Shortened Case Name:

    R v Playford

  • MNC:

    [2017] QSC 337

  • Court:


  • Judge(s):

    Boddice J

  • Date:

    20 Dec 2017

Litigation History

Event Citation or File Date Notes
Primary Judgment [2017] QSC 337 20 Dec 2017 -

Appeal Status

No Status