The Queen v Keli Lane (2011) H&FLR 2014-16

Supreme Court of New South Wales

15 April 2011

Coram: Whealy J

Appearing for the Crown: Mark Tedeschi SC (instructed by the Solicitor for Public Prosecutions)
Appearing for the Defendant: Keith Chapple SC (instructed by Archbold Legal)

Catchwords: New South Wales – murder – newborn – circumstantial – water polo – Olympics – sentencing – mother – premeditated

Facts: The defendant was convicted of the murder of her newborn daughter on or about 14 September 1996. Earlier that day (then aged 21 years) she had been discharged from Auburn Hospital with her daughter but later that day arrived home without her. She had concealed both the pregnancy and birth from her associates. The child’s body has never been located and the Crown’s case was entirely circumstantial. Lane pleaded not guilty and maintained at trial that she had given the child to her (the child’s) father to raise and not seen it since.

At the time of the offence the defendant was a sports enthusiast and semi-professional athlete, as were many of her friends and family members. The Crown argued at trial that the murder was prompted by the defendant’s wish not to have a child interfere with her goal of representing Australia in water polo at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Held: Whealy J sentenced the defendant (by then aged 35 years) to 18 years imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 13 years and five months. He did not take the option of imposing a sentence of life imprisonment. Relevant to the sentencing decision were the factors that –

1. The killing of a child by its mother is “tore asunder the natural relationship between mother and daughter”

2. The offence had been premeditated for a short period.

3. Aggravating factors were the age of the victim and that the murder involved abuse of a position of trust.

4. The Court accepted that she had murdered her daughter “in a situation of desperation … [from which] from her perception there was simply no way out”. His Honour accepted that Lane was unlikely to reoffend and presented no risk to the community.

The defendant’s (perhaps excessive) passion for sports appears not to have been an aggravating factor.


Whealy J’s sentencing remarks are restricted. This report has been prepared based on reports prepared by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Sydney Morning Herald.

An appeal against conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal was dismissed: Lane v R [2013] NSWCCA 317. It appears no attempt was made to appeal to the High Court of Australia.