Gerard Baden-Clay’s father Nigel and mother Elaine, with the accused’s sister Olivia Walton and her husband Ian.Gerard Baden-Clay’s father Nigel and mother Elaine, with the accused’s sister Olivia Walton and her husband Ian.
Allison Baden-Clay was a “very capable woman” who became “incapacitated by a debilitating depression”, her sister-in-law has told a Brisbane court.
Mrs Baden-Clay was found dead on the muddy banks of Kholo Creek at Anstead on April 30, 2012, 10 days after she was reported missing by her husband Gerard Baden-Clay.
Mr Baden-Clay, 43, is charged with her murder but has pleaded not guilty as he stands trial in Brisbane’s Supreme Court..
His younger sister, Olivia Walton, told the court on Monday she developed a close friendship with Mrs Baden-Clay in the 10 years their families lived only three minutes away from each other in the western Brisbane suburb of Kenmore.
Ms Walton struggled to hold back tears as she spoke of her sister-in-law.
“She was very beautiful and very quietly spoken and sweet-natured,” she said.
“I looked up to her a lot, she was six years older than me. I thought she was lovely.”
Ms Walton said Mr Baden-Clay often treated Allison like a princess.
“He used to call her ‘princess’ and they were very much in love,” she said.
“Gerard was very chivalrous with her and opening doors … and protecting her and looking after her.”
But Ms Walton said she did observe a strain in their relationship in later years, as Allison and Gerard developed different parenting styles.
“My husband and I observed a strain in the relationship,” she said.
While her brother was dedicated to enforcing a strict routine with his daughters, Allison had trouble doing the same, she said.
“She had difficulty parenting and running a home and the pressures of life seemed to be too much for her,” Ms Walton said.
She said Mrs Baden-Clay confided in her about her diagnosis of clinical depression in early 2004, not long after their birth of her second daughter.
“She was a very capable woman … incapacitated by this debilitating illness,” Ms Walton said.
She said much of the responsibilities of running the household fell to her brother who established a home office so he could support Allison when she needed him.
The prosecution has alleged Mr Baden-Clay was embroiled in a long-running, illicit affair with his former employee Toni McHugh and was also under extreme financial pressure at the time of his wife’s disappearance.
Mr Baden-Clay reported Allison missing on the morning of April 20, 2012, telling police he woke to find his wife gone and assumed she had gone for her usual morning walk.
She never returned.
Ms Walton told the court she was visiting with her children from Townsville and staying with her parents in Brisbane when she learned of Allison’s disappearance early on the morning of April 20.
She said she dressed immediately and set out in her car to search for her sister-in-law along her usual walking route.
Ms Walton said she stopped a groundsman on a tractor, several women walking and a group of men exercising in the cricket nets near the Brookfield Showgrounds to ask if they had seen a woman matching Allison’s description that morning.
She found no sign of Allison.
Earlier, Mr Baden-Clay’s father, Nigel Baden-Clay, told the court he knew of Allison’s depression.
He said his daughter-in-law often wore dull colours, including black, brown and cream, which he believed to be an indication of her mood throughout the marriage.
Mr Baden-Clay Snr said he suggested his son contact a lawyer after seeing more than a dozen police officers at his house on April 20.
Criminal lawyer Darren Mahony was engaged later that day under the recommendation of family friends, he said.
Mr Baden-Clay Snr said he also advised his son to inform the insurance company, with which Allison had a life insurance policy, of her death shortly after her body was found.
He said he had arranged the “whole of life” insurance policies for his son and daughter-in-law, having been an insurance broker from 1980 to 2000.
Mr Baden-Clay Snr said he filled in the insurance claim forms, which his son later signed.
The trial before Justice John Byrne continues.