Wendy Robinson’s world came crashing down when she discovered her brother had shot her parents dead in their own home in 2014 – but her nightmare didn’t end there, as she found out just months later that he was still entitled to half of their inheritance.
Ian and Margaret Settree were found dead on December 3, 2014, in a tragedy that shocked Australia. Their son Scott had been living with them at their home in Cobar, NSW, at the time after divorcing from his wife.
Now his older sister and mum-of-three Wendy, 57, has recalled in an exclusive interview with Starts at 60 the devastating chain of events that led to her once sweet and innocent younger brother killing the couple following an argument over a bottle of wine.
“We were very close as children,” she recalled. “He [Scott] got on really well with our parents back then too, it’s only been in more recent years that he became so nasty and hateful and horrible to them.”
Wendy and Scott first began to drift apart when she moved out of home and got married. While she was enjoying the early stages of motherhood, Scott was heading down a completely different path and began mixing with the wrong crowds. However, they always remained in touch.
Scott went on to marry and have two children of his own, but the marriage sadly lasted just five years before he divorced in 2000.
After eventually moving back to Cobar, Wendy said her brother struggled to pay his rent or look after himself alone so moved back in with his parents – and that’s when the family’s troubles truly began.
Noticing some worrying traits in her brother, which included him lashing out and even suffering delusions where he became convinced he was dating huge movie stars such as Penelope Cruz and Olivia Newton-John, Wendy tried repeatedly to persuade him to get help – before eventually signing him up to a rehab programme. He lasted there just 10 months, before checking himself out.
“I used to say to my children, it’s like he’s got two personalities,” Wendy explained. “All the counselling he had, he was only ever told he had depression which I find bizarre.”
While Wendy felt concerned about her brother, his changing behaviour had a devastating effect on their parents in particular.
“Mum used to wonder where she went wrong – many a tear was shed,” Wendy recalled. “And dad, at the end, had had enough. Little comments were coming from him like how he felt like a prisoner in his own home.”
Wendy became particularly concerned just days before her parents’ deaths while talking to a relative over the phone, as she recalled telling them: “I’ve got this terrible feeling something bad is going to happen.” However, she admitted while she was worried, she could never have imagined him killing them.
“Towards the end he didn’t have any friends, he’d just sit in the pub all day staring at people. So many people talk about his scary, lost eyes,” she said.
Recalling the night of their deaths, Wendy said she had considered visiting her parents earlier in the evening but instead had an early night at home. However, just 10 minutes after falling asleep she was woken to her doorbell ringing.
“I jumped up and looked out my bedroom window and could see the police vehicle,” she said. “I ran to the door and said, ‘Please don’t tell me it’s my children’. She [the policewoman] said, ‘Where are your children?’ I said, ‘Canada, USA and Perth’.
“She said, ‘No, it’s not your children, it’s your parents’. Immediately I said, ‘What’s Scott done?’ and she said, ‘He’s shot them’.
“Well I just went to pieces. After that it’s really strange, it’s like your whole world caves in on you, your heart’s ripped out. I was pacing up and down my lounge room and it was blurry, it was the strangest feeling.
“I ended up on my hands and knees on the floor just crying. I must have thought at one stage that they were still alive because I asked, ‘Are they in hospital?’ And she said, ‘No I’m sorry, they’re gone’. It was terrible.”
The funeral for her parents was held shortly afterwards, and it’s one of Wendy’s hardest memories as she watched her children carry the coffins.
“As I say this, tears are rolling from my eyes as I remember two coffins being carried on each side of the pool,” she said.
It was a week after their deaths before Wendy discovered exactly what happened, as the police investigated the incident and worked on getting a confession from her brother – something that only happened several weeks down the line.
Wendy was told the tragedy had been sparked by an argument over an expensive bottle of wine that her brother had stolen from his parents – just the latest in a long line of things he had apparently taken without permission.
“Dad had been swimming and when he got back he said to Scott, ‘Now that bottle of wine you took, I want you to pay for it’. They had an argument over it and Scott tried to choke dad over it,” Wendy claimed.
“At the same time mum came out and apparently said something like, ‘That’s it, I’ve had enough, pack your bags and get out of here’. He went to his room … Unbeknownst to us he had a loaded gun. And he got it out and as he turned, mum was standing there and he shot her.
“Then apparently dad came in and saw what happened and he turned and pointed the gun on Dad. The neighbours heard dad shout out, ‘No, no no’, and the next thing he shot dad. In Scott’s interview he said it would have been about 10 seconds between.”
Wendy eventually chose to watch each of her brother’s police interviews herself, to try to work out if he was telling the truth.
“The police asked him, ‘How did you feel after that?’ and he said, ‘I felt relieved and free’,” she recalled. “I had to sit there and watch all that … He always described his life as not having freedom, always having to do what Mum and Dad wanted him to do, but that is totally not correct.”
It sparked a lengthy murder trial in which two psychiatrists declared Settree a paranoid schizophrenic. As a result, he was found “not guilty by reason of mental illness” – despite admitting in an official admissions form that he fatally shot his parents.
Throughout the court battle, Wendy began to learn that – should her brother get that particular verdict – he could still be entitled to half of his parents’ estate, as he’d escaped a criminal conviction.
Sure enough, just months after her brother was sentenced to remain in a correctional centre of mental health, Wendy had to return to court once again to try to have her brother taken off their parents’ will.
While she won the case eventually, she was also ordered to pay the defence’s legal fees and was billed a total of $250,000, with some of the estate going to her brother for his “maintenance, education and advancement in life”.
Wendy is now fighting for a change to the law so the words “not guilty by mental illness” are changed to “guilty by mental illness”. She has been in talks with NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman for months and is hopeful for a positive outcome later this year.
“We understand the mental illness side, we get that, but they’re still guilty of the crime – no one else did it,” Wendy insisted.
Speakman has confirmed he’s working on changing the wording and, in a statement to Starts at 60, a spokesperson said: “The Attorney General has spoken with Ms Robinson on at least one occasion about the wording of the verdict, ‘not guilty by reason of mental illness’.
“Consultation is continuing on the most appropriate means of describing a verdict for a criminal act by a person with a mental illness. It is expected that this revised verdict will better recognise that the defendant engaged in the offending conduct.”
Speakman previously added in a statement: “The wording of the verdict will be changed to acknowledge the defendant carried out the act, but because of the serious effect of their cognitive or mental health impairment, they are not criminally responsible.”
Wendy also hopes to keep campaigning so people like her brother will also get a criminal record, as well as pushing for changes to be made to Section 11 of the Forfeiture Rule to make it easier to have someone forfeit their rights to an inheritance.
She hasn’t seen her brother since August 2016 when the trial finished – and has no intention to.
To find out more about Wendy’s legal fight and her campaign for a change to the law, see her change.org page here.