On paper she looks like a femme fatal from a pulp thriller but, beneath the surface, convicted murderer Wendie-Sue Dent is a greedy, lazy junkie and a liar.
On paper she looks like a femme fatal from a pulp thriller but, beneath the surface, convicted murderer Wendie-Sue Dent is a greedy, lazy junkie and a liar.

Black widow poisoner in the cheap nightie

In crime novels and film noir, the femme fatale meets police at her penthouse door - clad only in a revealing designer negligee - and utters an innuendo-laden greeting.

When SA Police called on Wendie-Sue Dent in February 2017, she met them at the bin next to her motor home - clad only in a cheap, ill-fitting nightie - and croaked: "You know about the asbestosis?"

On the surface, the murder of David Lawrence has the hallmarks of a pulp thriller - a mystery woman, a shock poisoning, counterfeit wills and secret phone taps.

Beneath that razor-thin veneer, however, squats an opportunistic junkie whose long history of habitual lying finally - but only temporarily - sated her greedy indolence.

Wendie Dent in screen shots from a police interview video. Picture: 7 News/SA Police
Wendie Dent in screen shots from a police interview video. Picture: 7 News/SA Police

BONE LAZY

Throughout her life, Dent was eager for the world to see her as someone special.

She claimed to have worked as a Flinders Medical Centre nursing unit manager, an international art courier and a rock band manager.

Her supposed romantic past included an engagement to "the heir of Johnston and Johnston" pharmaceuticals which, she emphasised, "was in Florida".

Dent's most persistent claim was that she was disabled, completely unable to use her left arm having been "electrocuted" in her dingy southern suburbs flat.

Dent liked to tell people she was someone special. Picture: Facebook.
Dent liked to tell people she was someone special. Picture: Facebook.

This claim brought her into the world of David Lawrence - retired Mitsubishi worker and neighbourhood handyman with a $300,000 estate.

Still mourning the loss of his long-time partner, David - by his close-knit family's reckoning - became "obsessed" with Dent.

He told them he had "rescued" her "from a rat-infested house" and moved her into his Morphett Vale home to serve as her carer.

Though he was nominally in control of Dent's medications - to ease both her pain and her addictions - it quickly seemed like she had taken charge.

David began spending far more money than he habitually would, and almost all of it on Dent - who always carried her Chihuahua with her left arm.

While he reassured his siblings Dent was just his "boarder", she was telling neighbours they were in love, engaged, living as husband and wife.

She had no time for the Lawrence clan and quickly eroded their patience for her - they labelled her, and her family, "bone lazy".

 

dead in bed

In December 2015, on the weekend of his 63rd birthday, David Lawrence died in his bed.

His was an ugly passing, as he had been poisoned with the equivalent of 20, 100mg morphine tablets and left unattended for hours.

Dent's emotions shifted wildly - one moment she was throwing herself onto David's body, screaming and begging for him to "not leave" her.

The next, she was waving David's purported handwritten will in the Lawrences' faces and coolly announcing they had been disinherited.

"You can ask me anything," she told them, "I didn't kill him."

David's brother, Philip, refused to accept that, declaring: "Whoever's written this will is a f---wit."

Without hesitation, she roared: "Are you calling my sister a f---wit?"

 

David Lawrence’s alleged hand-written will. Source: Supreme Court.
David Lawrence’s alleged hand-written will. Source: Supreme Court.

smell of death

A legal battle erupted, during which Dent even sued to block David's funeral and take possession of his body.

She had written notations on the back of his prized artwork, in which "David" left her each piece because "I'm so in love with her, it hurts".

"I have a feeling my time is almost up and I would hate for the mob to get their greedy hands on them," one notation reads.

SA Police, meanwhile, began conducting inquiries of their own and tapped Dent's phone calls with covert listening devices.

Over the next year, she told anyone who would listen that David had been so badly "riddled with "asbestosis" that his "bowel had been eaten away".

She based her diagnosis on her expertise with autopsies, many of which she said she had conducted alongside her close, personal friend, State Coroner Mark Johns.

"I know what the smell of death is like," she assured them.

 

NOT SHARP

In February 2017, Major Crime detectives travelled to Dent's family home in Dapto, NSW, to formally accuse her of murder - much to her apparent horror.

"Murder? Why would I murder the best thing that's ever happened to me?" she asked as she sat in the motor home purchased with David's money.

She denied having killed him with a solution of her medication mixed into an orange drink found on his bedside table.

David, she insisted, had asked her for the pills in order to ease his crippling back and bowel pain - and must have taken them himself.

Her claims bore no resemblance to forensic evidence, which showed David did not have asbestosis nor any other chronic condition.

Dent returned to Mr Lawrence’s home one last time, alongside jurors, during the trial view of the crime scene. Picture: AAP/Sam Wundke.
Dent returned to Mr Lawrence’s home one last time, alongside jurors, during the trial view of the crime scene. Picture: AAP/Sam Wundke.

There was also no trace of his DNA on the packets that had contained the ultimately fatal pills.

And, in pre-trial legal argument, Dent was forced to concede she was not a nurse, had never conducted an autopsy and had never even met the coroner.

Caught out in her many lies, Dent pivoted once the jury was empanelled - now insisting the Lawrences were lying in order to convict her.

Jurors deliberated on that, and the evidence, for six hours and then rejected Dent's claims wholesale, finding her guilty.

After almost five years, Wendie-Sue Dent finally stood revealed as a liar and a greed-driven murderer.

But in the end, the best description of Dent comes from the woman herself.

"Can I ask you something?" she snapped at the prosecution during pre-trial argument.

"You said to me I was 'sharp' - do I look sharp? I'm not sharp."

Originally published as Black widow poisoner in the cheap nightie

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.

David Lawrence was murdered by Dent in December 2015.
David Lawrence was murdered by Dent in December 2015.
Dent following her arrest. Picture: Nine News.
Dent following her arrest. Picture: Nine News.