Cleaner jailed for 22 years after murdering elderly employer in fierce attack

When Papanicolaou heard the alarm, she unplugged the medical alert base station and stole the landline phone, fleeing the house by jumping the back fence and taking the phone and a bloody kitchen knife.

The base station had a battery backup and an operator was able to call an ambulance after hearing Ms Welsh shout “help” and “please help me”.

Papanicolaou later claimed to police that Ms Welsh was the one who attacked her first.

In his sentencing remarks on Friday, Judge Robertson Wright said Ms Welsh, who had hearing aids and a pacemaker, kept about $1,600 in a drawer in her house and usually paid Papanicolaou in cash.

He said he was satisfied that Papanicolaou had gone to Ms Welsh’s home to steal money after her gambling losses, and that the ensuing murder was “unplanned and impulsive”.

Judge Wright said the nature of the attack, which used three different weapons and took place over a period of time, left no doubt that Papanicolaou intended to murder Ms Welsh rather than to hurt her.

It had been submitted on behalf of Papanicolaou that she was suffering from a major depressive order at the time, but Judge Wright did not accept this. He found that she had symptoms of anxiety and depression, but they were unrelated to the murder.


Judge Wright imprisoned Papanicolaou for 22 years with a 15-year period without parole, noting that her subjective circumstances, including being taken into custody after her attack on Ms Welsh attracted media attention during her trial in January.

He admitted Papanicolaou felt genuine remorse when she told the court she prayed to God for forgiveness “five times a day” and was unlikely to reoffend.

Judge Wright said the murder had caused “considerable grief, prejudice and distress” to Ms Welsh’s family, expressing the court’s “very sincere sympathy” for the loss.

‘Ms Welsh’s death was a human and personal tragedy and should not be treated solely as the subject of a criminal trial,’ he said. “The evidence in this case confirmed that she was a loving and caring mother and friend; an outspoken, creative, and compassionate woman endowed with the wisdom of years and the love of her family.

Papanicolaou, who has been in custody since January 2019, will be eligible for parole in 2034.

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