Shock 'kill for hire' claim in Sharon Edwards' murder trial
WILLIAM "Billy" Mills planned on spending his life with Sharon Edwards and was "absolutely hated" by her husband, a court has heard.
John Wallace Edwards' gaze followed Mr Mills as he walked to the witness box in Coffs Harbour Supreme Court to give evidence in the trial of his lover's murder.
Mr Edwards has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife, Sharon.
Mr Mills told the court the night Mrs Edwards went missing, on March 14, 2015, she had been out with him and a friend at the Good Intent Hotel, South Grafton.
The court heard Mrs Edwards and Mr Mills had been involved in an affair in the early 1980s when he coached her touch football team in Campbelltown, Sydney.
When Mrs Edwards moved to Grafton they lost touch, until reconnecting via social media in November 2013. He said the pair regularly caught up when Mrs Edwards was in Sydney.
Mr Mills told the court he and Mrs Edwards were in love and planned to spend the rest of their lives together and retire in Forster.
"As we got together more and more, our friendship grew in every way," Mr Mills said.
"I was more than happy to go that way with her.
"She told me she loved me. She was very happy."
On the weekend Mrs Edwards disappeared, Mr Mills said he was in Coffs Harbour coaching a team in the national touch football titles. The couple spent Friday night together and caught up again on Saturday - the night Mrs Edwards disappeared.
The court heard Mr Mills, Mrs Edwards and a friend had a few drinks at the Good Intent Hotel - Mrs Edwards a couple of bourbons and himself about seven schooners of beer.
He told the court they got takeaway and returned to Mr Mills' friend's place to eat. About 10.30pm, Mrs Edwards drove Mr Mills to her Grafton home to spend the night.
"We drove up the driveway to the letterbox," he said.
"The automatic door went up, it got halfway up and there was a ute in there.
"That was the first time I'd ever heard Sharon swear, she said 's--t John's here'."
Mr Mills said he told Mrs Edwards "not to panic" and return to his friend's house in South Grafton.
"I looked back at the house, there was no lights on, nothing at all," he said.
The last time Mr Mills saw Mrs Edwards he was saying goodbye on his friend's porch.
"I held her by the hand, said thanks very much and I kissed her," Mr Mills said, choking back tears, "and I said goodbye to her."
In giving evidence, Mr Edwards' friend and former Grafton Public School colleague, Paul Farrell, told the court Mr Edwards was an admired teacher.
He told the court Mr and Mrs Edwards separated in the early 2000s after Mr Edwards had an affair but reunited.
Mr Farrell said a week after Mrs Edwards went missing he ran into the accused, who disclosed to him that he and Mrs Edwards had "a barney, a big one" the Saturday night she was last seen alive.
Several weeks later, Mr Farrell told the court he asked the accused what he thought happened to his wife.
"He said he believed she was dead - he said he was sure," he said.
"He told me he believed Sharon hired someone to kill him and that it had backfired and she had been killed instead."
Six months later, Mr Farrell said the accused told him he "absolutely hated" Mr Mills. The court heard Mr Mills was the reason for the Edwards' move to the Clarence Valley.
Defence barrister Peter O'Connor argued Mr Farrell's statement to police containing the evidence he had given was made several months after the conversations were had.
A close friend of Mrs Edwards, Diane McGavigan was given regular updates on the unfolding relationship between Mr Mills and her friend, the court heard.
In giving evidence, Ms McGavigan recalled conversations with Mrs Edwards in which she said she no longer loved her husband, the accused.
"She loved Billy, she said the flame never died, and he was her soul mate. She was very excited for the prospects of a future with him," she said.
She said Mrs Edwards had suspected the accused knew of the affair after he found her phone with a photo of Mr Mills on it.
On another occasion, the court heard Mr Edwards walked in on a phone call between Mrs Edwards and Mr Mills.
"She (Mrs Edwards) didn't want to hang up. She was going to talk whether John was there or not," Ms McGavigan said.
In cross examination, Mr O'Connor argued Mrs McGavigan had only heard one side of the story to which she agreed.
The trial continues before Justice Robert Hulme.