10 October 2020

Murder accused Barbara Eckersley to face trial in Goulburn next April

| Hannah Sparks
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Dr Mary White standing on front porch.

Barbara Eckersley is accused of murdering her mother, Dr Mary White (pictured), an award-winning Australian paleobotanist, in 2018. Photo: Brett Dolsen.

A woman accused of murdering her elderly mother at a nursing home in southern NSW will face trial in the supreme court at Goulburn in April 2021.

Barbara Mary Eckersley, 68, of Bundanoon, pleaded not guilty in June to murdering her 92-year-old mother, Dr Mary White, in a nursing home in the Southern Highlands in 2018.

The trial will begin on 6 April and is expected to go for four weeks.

Ms Eckersley was expected to face trial in the supreme court in Sydney, however the supreme court will be sitting in Goulburn for the trial period.

Goulburn Local Court was previously told that police were called to the Warrigal aged care facility in Bundanoon where Dr White was found dead on Sunday, 5 August, 2018, at around 9.35 pm.

The court also previously heard that Dr White had vascular dementia and was unable to speak or recognise her family. The family believed the nursing home wasn’t able to deal with her mother’s agitation and pain.

Dr White was a well known and award-winning Australian paleobotanist, lecturer and author of The Greening of Gondwana, After the Greening, Listen… Our Land is Crying and Running Down: Water in a Changing Land.

She was a consultant to the Bureau of Mineral Resources in Canberra until the 1980s, and a research associate at the Australian Museum in Sydney where she documented a plant fossil collection of 12,000 specimens.

Dr White grew up in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and completed a Masters degree in palaeobotany at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Ms Eckersley was committed to trial by Magistrate Geraldine Beattie at Goulburn Local Court on 15 April, 2020, more than a year-and-a-half after the alleged murder.

She has been granted conditional bail since her case first appeared in Goulburn Local Court on 9 August, 2018.

Bail was granted on the basis that Ms Eckersley had no prior criminal history, cooperated with police when arrested and the likelihood of a long period before her trial.

Ms Eckersley must remain in Bundanoon and can’t approach prosecution witnesses or the Warrigal aged care facility while she is on bail.

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