‘Suffer, you dog’: The moment a man who killed the mother of his children was sentenced to 25 years

Warning: This report contains disturbing content

Just months before Benjamin Coman murdered Michelle Darragh, the mother of his children, she had saved his life as he was attempting suicide.

Michelle Darragh was killed by her former partner Benjamin Coman.

Wracked with guilt over a tumultuous relationship he had worsened by visiting brothels, drug use, spending too much time with friends and working at his cabinet business, Coman was saved by Darragh, who, despite it all, continued to love him.

One afternoon in October 2021, when their relationship was finally coming to an end and Darragh came over to collect some of her things, Coman took a carving knife, plunged it into her back, stabbed her twice more, and drove it into his own stomach.

She and the unborn baby Coman had encouraged her to abort died on the floor. Coman survived.

On Friday, Coman, 31, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to killing Darragh inside the home they once shared with their children in Bayswater North.

At the Supreme Court on Friday, small orange ribbons were carefully affixed to the lapel of about 20 supporters commemorating the death of Darragh at just 32. Orange was her favourite colour.

Coman remained impassive for much of Justice Andrew Tinney’s 1½-hour sentencing. He occasionally looked down and shook his head as supporters dabbed away tears and stole glances of the man who killed their daughter, sister, family member and friend.

Michelle’s mother, Dianne Darragh, who had injured her knee after a fall during a hearing seven weeks ago and was confined to a wheelchair, sobbed outside the court, flanked by supporters, comforted by justice but still mourning her loss. She and her husband, Ashley, are now raising Darragh’s two young boys.

“I will raise her boys the way she wanted them to be raised,” Dianne said. “One thing she always said was ‘I want my boys to respect women a lot more than their father did’.”

“He is showing no remorse whatsoever and thank God he got a just sentence,” Ashley Darragh said, his arms resting on Dianne’s shoulders. “No sentence, no period of time is long enough for what he did to her. She’s such a gorgeous girl, and so unsuspecting. No amount of time is long enough, but it’s a very just sentence.”

As Coman was walked out of court, a supporter told him to “suffer, you dog”. Another supporter thanked Tinney for the sentence.

Coman had developed an incorrect paranoia that Darragh was cheating on him with a friend, Tinney found, which, combined with Coman’s mental state, his insecurities and sadness over her leaving him, caused him to murder her.

“Your attack on Michelle, who was entirely unsuspecting and helpless, was a violent unforgivable one, which not only took away her young life, but deprived her children of the care and love of their mother, destroyed her unborn child and devastated her family,” Tinney found.

Coman pleaded guilty to Michelle Darragh’s murder.Credit:Facebook

He said spousal homicide had become a type of crime that was “distressingly familiar”.

The ex-couple had an on-and-off relationship.

Darragh was staying with her parents when she went to the house on October 9 to collect some belongings. Her father became concerned when she didn’t return home to her children, so he drove to the house, where he found his daughter’s body.

Coman, a regular methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis user, claimed there was a struggle with a kitchen knife before he stabbed Darragh to death and then turned the blade on himself, a version of events that Tinney rejected. He was taken to hospital with stomach injuries.

His mental health had deteriorated in the weeks before the murder and he was admitted to Maroondah mental health ward in mid-September of 2021 for psychiatric help after he tried to take his own life.

Tinney found Coman’s sentence was reduced by his good prospects of rehabilitation, demonstrations of remorse and his early plea. Coman had served 538 days of pre-sentence detention.

He will be eligible for parole after serving 20 years.

If you or anyone you know needs support, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline 13 11 14.

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