All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Widow Of Walcha (Audiobook) by Emma Partridge

The Widow Of Walcha
Emma Partridge
Narrated by Jo Van Es
Simon & Schuster
2022, 12hrs 20min
Purchased personal copy via Audible

Blurb {from the publisher/}: The Widow of Walcha is a shocking true story about death, love and lies in the small NSW town of Walcha.

All farmer Mathew Dunbar ever wanted was to find love and have a family of his own. That’s why, just months after meeting Natasha Darcy, the much-loved grazier didn’t hesitate to sign over his multi-million-dollar estate to her.

When Mathew died in an apparent suicide soon afterwards, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Natasha’s estranged husband – who she was once charged with trying to kill – was the first paramedic on the scene after the murder.

Journalist and author Emma Partridge travelled to the cool and misty town of Walcha in the Northern Tablelands of NSW in the months after Mathew Dunbar’s death, drawn by the town’s collective worry that Natasha was going to get away with murder. Partridge spent months researching the case, interviewing Mathew’s friends, family and Natasha herself in an attempt to uncover her sickening web of lies and crimes.

The Widow of Walcha is about one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in Australia’s history and reveals Natasha’s sickening crimes against those she claimed to love, fuelled by her obsession with money.

This was wild.

Audible recently lured me back (I swapped my Audible sub for a Kindle Unlimited sub late last year I think) by offering me 2 months with the first one being free and the 2nd for 0.99c. My favourite thing to listen to on audio is non-fiction and as soon as I saw this book, I knew it had to be the first one I’d get. I remember this case really well, mostly because I grew up a few hours east of Walcha and had one memorable trip there when I was 18, with 2 of my close friends, where we stopped there for lunch on our way to Armidale to check out the University of New England as a study prospect. One of the friends I was with ended up getting her degree there but the other one and I opted for other choices. Hearing Walcha make the news in this way was incredibly jarring and I kept an eye on the case the whole way through.

But this is just… much more than I remember reading about in the newspapers at the time of Matthew Dunbar’s death and also the trial of his partner, Natasha Darcy. Honestly, the deeper you get into this story the weirder it is and the more you wonder how the absolute heck Natasha didn’t get a longer jail sentence prior to seizing the opportunity with Matthew Dunbar, a comfortably wealthy grazier, owner of a large property by the name of ‘Pandora’. By all accounts, Matthew was shy and not successful in relationships although he longed for a family of his own, his father having died and left him the property and him being estranged from his mother. Natasha, with her three children, provided an instant solution to his longing and at first, all was well. But Natasha’s spending and mood swings soon made Matthew unhappy – and when he was found dead in his home (let’s not even get into the fact that the first responder was Natasha’s “sort of estranged” husband, the first man she attempted to dispatch), Natasha said that he’d been depressed and suffering. Had tried to kill himself before.

Not everyone was convinced.

What follows is just… incredible story. A woman who had already tried to kill one partner. Had fleeced another of his credit card and gone on a shopping spree, spending thousands. Had already had two previous stints in jail. What she said from one person to another could be the opposite. And when, later on, when Natasha was charged with the murder of Matthew Dunbar and faced trial, the crown prosecutor spent multiple hours reading out all the incriminating searches on her mobile phone: things about getting away with murder, making it look like a suicide, how to poison someone without detection, and laughably, after police visited her after Matthew’s death and indicated they’d like to see her phone, ‘can police see search history’. The answer to that Natasha, is yes. Yes, they can. And they did.

This is just such an example of how someone saw opportunity and exploited a lonely man who wanted something that it looked like she could provide. And the thing is, she could’ve had a very comfortable life with Matthew. By all reports he was a nice, generous, hardworking man with a beautiful, successful property who seemed determined to give her what he could. But she wasn’t interested in that. Quite a short time after becoming involved, she convinced Matthew to make her the sole heir to Pandora, should anything happen to him. During their relationship, she spent indiscriminately, so much so that Matthew, for the first time in his life, was suffering financial stress and wondering how he might continue to pay his bills. You got the feeling that part of her plan was for Matthew to actually take his own life and if that failed, then her plan to make it look like a suicide would be enacted.

Emma Partridge (originally a crime reporter for a NSW newspaper, who switched to reporter for TV station Channel 9 sometime during the evolution of this story) has done an amazing job here, travelling to Walcha and speaking to so many people, fleshing out history, trying to track down people from Natasha’s past and sort the truth from the lies. In fact, I listened to this in two days – it’s over 12 hours long, so that should tell you just how invested I was. With every new reveal came a new level of incredulity that Natasha was actually still walking around in society. Thankfully, now she is not.

Excellent. Highly, highly recommended.


Book #131 of 2022

As an aside: this is narrated by Jo Van Es, who as soon as I heard her start talking, I recognised as the narrator for the Australian version of the TV show “Gogglebox”. She does an absolutely fantastic job.