ABC Central Victoria
A woman is escorted from court by police in yellow vests.
Officers escort Kate Stone from the courtroom.(ABC Central Victoria: Adriane Reardon)

A central Victorian woman has been sentenced to a maximum of 34 years in prison for killing her partner by setting him on fire.

Kate Stone, 41, was found guilty last November of dousing 45-year-old Darren Reid in paint thinner and setting him alight at their home in the Bendigo suburb of Long Gully on December 18, 2016.

He suffered burns to 95 per cent of his body and was flown to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, but died the following day.

In the Supreme Court sitting in Bendigo on Friday, Justice Lesley Taylor sentenced Stone to a minimum of 28 years behind bars.

Justice Taylor said that while it wasn’t the worst example of murder, it was “on the top end of the scale”.

Damning sentence of ‘barbarous’ act

Justice Taylor said Stone showed no remorse for what was a barbarous and horrific act.

“It was a massive breach of trust,” Justice Taylor said.

Family of the deceased, mother Valda Webb, father Michael Auditori and sister.
The deceased’s mother Valda Webb, father Michael Auditori and his sister Janyne Auditori.(ABC Central Victoria: Beth Gibson)

In sentencing Stone, Justice Taylor said she took into account the vicious manner of the murder, the fact that it was done with children present.

“Mr Reid had a right to be safe in his own home and to be safe from violence,” Justice Taylor said.

“It was a form of death likely to be accompanied by extreme pain.”

Speaking outside the court, Mr Reid’s father Michael Auditori likened the case to an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

“Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t write a story or a movie anywhere close to this,” Mr Auditori said.

He said the family was happy with the severity of the sentence, but they would never have proper closure.

“At the end of the day it still won’t bring him back,” he said.

Dying declaration raised in trial

During the trial in November last year, the Supreme Court jury sitting in Bendigo heard evidence from the defence that three male intruders had committed the crime.

The court also heard how a dying Mr Reid told police a group of men were responsible for his injuries.

“A dying declaration is the final conscience of a dying person, who would not wish to die with a lie upon their lips,” defence barrister Peter Kilduff told jurors in his closing address.

But Crown prosecutor Melissa Mahady told the court Stone’s several versions of the event did not align with scientific evidence found at the scene, including Stone’s own DNA on the paint thinner container believed to have been used to douse the victim.

The jury ultimately found Stone guilty of murder beyond any reasonable doubt.

Justice Taylor said the fact that Stone lied about what happened and named innocent people instead was factored into her sentencing.

Precious memories
Darren Reid’s family is still coming to terms with his death.(ABC Central Victoria: Beth Gibson)

Mother, sister still traumatised

In a pre-sentence hearing last week, the court heard victim impact statements from Mr Reid’s family, including his mother Valda Webb and his sister Janyne Auditori.

In a statement read by Ms Mahady, Ms Webb recounted the last time she spoke to her son, when he told her he was in fear for his life.

Ms Webb said her son was unrecognisable when she visited him in the hospital during his death.

In a statement read by a support person, the court heard that Ms Auditori and her brother were close and talked several times a week.

“I lay with Darren and held his hand under the sheet to let him know I was there,” Ms Auditori said.

“It was the most horrific sight I have ever seen.”

The court heard Ms Auditori still had nightmares and had struggled to move on from the incident.

The defence said Ms Stone planned to appeal against her conviction.