Murdered woman’s dying words
"I CAN'T breathe."
A Cairns jury was told the alleged last words of Cooktown mum Donna Steele hours before her killer pleaded guilty to her murder.
Moorobool father, Matthew Ross White, pleaded guilty after lunch on the second day of his Cairns Supreme Court trial - his 27th birthday.
The plea followed a morning during which the jury was played audio and video interviews between White and detective Sergeant John Scott McGrath.
Seven months after finding Ms Steele's body floating in the Endeavour River, detectives knocked on the door of White's Mooroobool house at 10pm on March 3, 2018.
An audio recording of the interview between Sgt McGrath and White revealed what allegedly happened to Donna Steele in August 2017.
"I was the one that done it," White said in an alleged bedroom confession.
In the hours that followed at his home and later in a second video recorded interview, the dishevelled-looking defendant outlined a desperate plan that culminated in driving to Cooktown in a borrowed car and allegedly lying in wait under Ms Steele's bed.
The court heard he told police he expected to extort $20,000 from those in the Cooktown "drug scene".
"I knew she wouldn't have much money, but I knew her dealers would have money," White told Sgt McGrath.
"She wasn't the target or anything …. I thought I would be all right - that they wouldn't contact police and say 'someone came and took my drugs'."
The court heard White told officers he would use red twine to "control" Ms Steele by wrapping it around her neck. "I was going to take the breath from her, tell her to calm down, that I would let her go."
Things allegedly went awry when Ms Steele fought back, ripping the stocking mask from the defendant's head.
White said he grabbed a silk scarf and choked her.
The Crown alleged Ms Steele died as a result of this strangulation, or by suffocation or drowning when she was allegedly submerged in the waters of the Endeavour River.
White has been remanded into custody to await sentencing.