A former senior university lecturer has broken down sobbing as details of how he stabbed his wife to death were read to a court.
Adam Brown, 40, faced the Supreme Court of Victoria on Friday after pleading guilty to the murder of Chen Cheng, 35, on April 30 last year.
Brown, a senior lecturer in digital media at Deakin University, sat with his head bowed and sobbing in the dock – to his left was more than a dozen friends and family.
The court was told the couple had married in 2017 and welcomed a son, Luke, three years later.
Ms Chen, a Chinese national who moved to Australia and completed a masters degree in construction management, was found in a pool of blood in the rear yard of their Croydon North home shortly after 10pm.
Deakin University lecturer Adam Brown murdered his wife Chen Cheng. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Ascui
Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers SC said worried neighbours had rushed onto the street about 15 minutes earlier after hearing a female voice screaming, crying and begging Brown to stop.
She said one neighbour knocked on the couple’s front door at 10.02pm to hear Ms Chen yell: “Help me. Help me. He’s trying to kill me”.
The court was told the fight moved into the backyard of the property before the screaming began to die down.
A few minutes later, Brown opened the garage door and let neighbours, including a registered nurse, rush inside.
They found Ms Chen unresponsive on grass and began CPR.
By 10.24pm, police arrived after both Brown and neighbours called triple-0.
During an 11-minute call to emergency services, Brown said he’d “never seen her like this”.
“He said they had an argument and his partner attacked him,” Ms Rogers said.
“She had come at him with a knife and they both had stabbed each other.”
Chen Cheng was described as a ‘model’ for younger members of her family. Picture: FacebookThe pair met in 2016. Picture: Facebook
The court was told Brown told police after his arrest that he and Ms Chen had begun arguing about future childcare arrangements for Luke, and things escalated when she spat in his face.
“He stated they moved downstairs and once in the kitchen the deceased armed herself with a knife, resulting in him doing the same,” Ms Rogers said.
“Both ended up on the floor in a struggle.”
During the interview, Ms Rogers said, Brown could not explain how she had been stabbed.
A post-mortem examination found Ms Chen had suffered three stab wounds, including a 9cm deep cut to her neck that cut the jugular vein, and 11 incision wounds.
Brown had bruising on his chest and arms, a possible bite to his forearm and cuts to his hands.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Ms Chen’s mother, Min Liu, said she had visited Australia in early 2020 to care for her daughter during Luke’s birth.
She said she saw arguments between the pair, with Brown raising his voice and speaking in a “fierce manner” while Ms Chen would remain silent.
“My only darling daughter, like a flower, was killed by her husband. Why,” she said.
“This whole tragedy was like a fatal blow to my heart. If Adam didn’t love her they could have separated or divorced.”
Brown’s barrister told the court he was ‘deeply remorseful’ for Ms Chen’s murder. Picture: Supplied
Brown’s barrister, David Hallowes, told the court that his client was deeply sorry and was still struggling to understand what he had done.
“His actions on that day were so different to how he views himself,” he said.
“Every waking moment he wishes he could take back the actions that day but can’t.”
He told the court that Brown was receiving counselling for stress and grief prior to the murder after the traumatic birth of their son and a breakdown in the family unit.
“It’s quite clear Mr Brown has some significant stressors in his life and he was struggling to cope,” he said.
“The catastrophic actions that took place on the day of the murder need to be viewed in that background in that light.
“That said, we don’t seek to excuse or justify the actions of Mr Brown and he doesn’t want us to. He wants her memory preserved and respected.”
Justice John Champion told the court it was difficult to view the offending as anything other than a “pretty savage attack” given the disparity in injuries between Brown and Ms Chen.
The hearing continues.