Sharon Fulton inquest hears she feared her husband would kill her and their children

A woman who vanished without a trace in Western Australia 36 years ago voiced concerns in the weeks before her disappearance that her husband would try to murder her and that she would end up “six feet under”, the Perth Coroner’s Court has been told.

An inquest is examining the disappearance of Sharon Fulton who was last seen when she was 39 years old on March 18, 1986.

The last person who claimed to have seen her was her husband Robert who, after reporting her missing four days later, told police he had dropped her with an overnight bag at the East Perth train station.

In an opening address to the inquest, counsel assisting the inquiry Sarah Tyler described the couple’s marriage as volatile, saying there was evidence from the Family Court Mrs Fulton had seriously contemplated separating from her husband and seeking sole custody of their four young children.

Ms Tyler said the couple received counselling from a psychiatrist, now deceased, who had told police Mrs Fulton had said she was afraid of her husband, believed he would try to murder her and their children and that she would end up “six feet under”.

Life insurance policy taken out

The court heard Mrs Fulton’s stepmother, who had also since died, had provided a statement to police in which she claimed her daughter had suggested her husband was considering paying someone to harm her.

Calculator and pen on sheets of paper.
Robert Fulton took out a life insurance just before Sharon Fulton went missing.(Pixabay/Edar)

The inquest was told that in the weeks before his wife vanished, Mr Fulton took out a $120,000 life insurance policy covering both of them and naming him as the sole beneficiary.

He was paid the money in 1995 after court proceedings in which he swore an affidavit saying he believed Mrs Fulton was deceased.

Friend suspected Robert Fulton

One of the first witnesses at the inquest was Narelle Harrison who was a close friend of Mrs Fulton and said she would confide in her about her problems.

She testified that when she was told Mrs Fulton had disappeared, she suspected Robert Fulton may have harmed her.

Ms Harrison said she particularly remembered one occasion when the Fultons were going on a family holiday and Sharon told her “I think Robert is going to kill us all on the road.”

Public Transport Centre, East Perth
Robert Fulton claimed he last saw his wife Sharon when he dropped her at the East Perth train station in March 1986.(ABC News: Jessica Strutt)

“She had all her documents with her … and said could you please hang on to them in case anything happens?” Ms Harrison told the inquest.

“I was scared, she was petrified, she didn’t want to go.” 

Ms Harrison said at one point she helped Mrs Fulton get advice from a lawyer about leaving her husband, but she never carried it through.

“She was probably sort of being mentally abused. That’s my opinion,” Ms Harrison said.

Sharon Fulton ‘was terrified’

The inquest heard that the day before her disappearance, Mrs Fulton telephoned Ms Harrison.

“She was so upset. I begged her not to go home … to stay at our place.”

“She was terrified … she just thought her life was in danger, her children were in danger.”

The back of a women looking down a dark hallway in shadows
The court heard Sharon Fulton was “terrified” of her husband Robert.(ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan)

However, Ms Harrison said she could not convince her friend to leave her husband.

“She just didn’t have enough confidence. In the end she just sort of wanted to stay,” she said.

Ms Harrison said after Mrs Fulton disappeared, she went around to the family home and Mr Fulton said to her: “she’s gone away, she’s having time out.”

She also testified she noticed that the garden had been “redone”.

“I suggested to police that they dig that up just in case Sharon may be buried there,” Ms Harrison said.

“Which they did … and of course Sharon wasn’t there.”

Police initially dismissed homicide theory

Ms Harrison and another friend Norma King gave evidence that Mrs Fulton would never leave her children, whom she idolised.

Ms King said the youngest child was Mrs Fulton’s “pride and joy” and she believed she “would never have left him behind.”

A young woman is clutching at a teddy bear.
The inquest heard Sharon Fulton idolised her children and would never have willingly left them.(ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines)

Ann Kennedy, who worked in the office of the psychiatrist who was counselling the couple, described Mr Fulton as a “cold person” who was “distant” and “not very communicative”.

She also recounted an occasion when her boss came out of her office and appeared concerned about security in the building.

Ms Kennedy said the psychiatrist then told her “Robert had said he knew how to get rid of a person and no one would ever find the body”.

The inquest heard that the initial police investigation failed to identify any evidence to support a suspected homicide despite those concerns being raised by Mrs Fulton’s mother and stepmother.

That changed in 2006 when officers from the Special Crime Squad concluded there were suspicious circumstances in the case.

It was not until 2017 that the matter was reviewed again, and police interviewed Mr Fulton.

Husband denied murder

Ms Tyler said he told them he had Alzheimer’s disease and suffered confusion and memory lapses meaning he could not remember events from 1986.

However, he denied killing his wife.

Police provided a report to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, but it was decided there was insufficient evidence to support any charges being laid against anyone, including Mr Fulton.

He is listed as a witness at the inquest, but Ms Tyler said his appearance is “still to be finally determined.”

Leave a Comment