A man accused of killing his wife and burying her body in a shallow beach grave on the New South Wales south coast 20 years ago has been found guilty, and his chilling confession recorded by an undercover cop has been released.
After an eight-week trial in the NSW Supreme Court, it took a jury just under a day to find Steve Frank Fesus, 47, guilty of the murder of Jodie Melissa Fesus.
The body of the 18-year-old mother-of-two was found on Seven Mile Beach near Gerroa in September 1997 after an anonymous man called police with a tip-off.
Fesus said he was innocent, but the Crown argued the security guard strangled his wife to death after an argument, then drove her to the beach and buried her.
He was charged with his wife's murder in 2013 after he confessed to a police officer in the course of a police investigation.
And for the first time, parts of the conversation that took place between Fesus and the undercover officer on July 8, 2013 have been revealed.
Fesus: All right. I strangulated her OK... I know I strangled her... It wasn't vicious. No way. It wasn't nothing like that, you know, what you see in movies and shit.
Officer: What did you cover her up with?
Fesus: Scrub trees, branches, kicked it over and then got a um, fallen tree branch as a broom.
Officer: I know we touched on it before but we're being completely honest with each other now?
Fesus: I am right now, I am right now what I'm saying to you right now is it, that's it.
Later that evening when interviewed by police, Fesus said he did not tell the truth in the recorded conversation and he had not killed Ms Fesus or buried her body.
He argued his statements were the result of pressure from events during the covert operation.
Jodie Fesus' mother, Gay Williams, said the guilty verdict was a huge relief to her family.
"After 20 years it's bittersweet, it'll never bring her back but it's given our family some satisfaction that the justice system does eventually work," Ms Williams said.
"We knew within the first week that Steve was guilty but just couldn't prove it, now it's been proven to the world."
Fesus called Pizza World before claiming wife was missing
Steve and Jodie Fesus' marriage was dysfunctional, unhappy and at times violent, Crown prosecutor Greg Smith said.
He said Ms Fesus had confided in a friend she thought her husband was having an affair and said: "I've had enough, I'm leaving him."
The court was told the couple had a heated argument at the home of friends on August 11, 1997 — the last time anyone but Fesus would see Ms Fesus alive.
On August 12, the friends who witnessed the argument visited the Fesus' Shellharbour home to check if everything was OK.
It was alleged Fesus said his wife had gone missing. However, the only calls he made that day were to Pizza World and to a woman he allegedly had an affair with.
He did not contact his wife's family or the police until the following day.
The court heard that on August 25, Fesus went to find out if he could begin claiming the sole parent pension.
Mr Smith said the public servant who served Fesus asked: "Is the other parent still living?"
"[The public servant said] the accused ticked the 'no' box indicating the other parent was deceased and when [the public servant] questioned him the accused said 'oh' and then ticked the yes box."
The unsolved homicide team had reopened the investigation in 2013 as Ms Fesus' daughter appealed for information about her mother's death.
Fesus pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied involvement in her death.
In 2015, Fesus went to trial for the first time but the jury was dismissed after being unable to reach a majority verdict.
The second trial was aborted in its first week after the accused fell ill and required surgery.
Fesus' sentencing is due to begin on December 15.