Artist Melissa Beowulf, sons to face trial accused of Red Hill murder

A prominent Australian artist and two of her sons accused of killing the family matriarch in Canberra’s inner south more than two years ago are set to fight the charges at trial.

Archibald Prize finalist Melissa Beowulf, 60, and her sons Bjorn Toren Beowulf, 29, and Thorsten Halley Beowulf, 31, were each charged with murder in August over the death of her elderly mother-in-law in 2015.


Artist Melissa Beowulf, 60, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her elderly mother-in-law in Red Hill.

They pleaded not guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court.

Police were called to the Red Hill home of Katherine Helene Panin, 81, following a report a woman had fallen down stairs on October 12 in 2015.


Melissa Beowulf's painting of Nancy Wake hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

She later died in hospital.

The alleged murder came only months after the death of Ms Beowulf’s husband Thorhammer “Thor” Beowulf, a sculptor and bonsai artist, in August that year.

Sydney-raised Ms Beowulf, whose specialties were portraiture and sculpture, had once divided her time between the couple’s shared studio in Canberra and her studio in Queen Street, Woollahra.

Her portrait of fellow artist Ken Done was a finalist in the Archibald Prize in 2000 and her 2001 portrait of Nancy Wake hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

Police said they launched an investigation into Ms Panin’s death and searched two Canberra properties and three vehicles in June 2016.

Prosecutors froze assets belonging to the three defendants in the ACT Supreme Court in September.

They faced court last month, when a magistrate expressed concern the three had not been committed for trial five months after they had been charged and put behind bars.

Lawyers for the three accused had urged pressure be put on the prosecution, who had asked for the case to be adjourned as they awaited further financial documents relevant to the case, to progress the matter.

The Beowulf three returned to the court’s family violence list on Tuesday. A large number of supporters were in the public gallery for the case’s brief mention.

The defendants, who wore grey prison tracksuits, sat side-by-side and each nodded as Magistrate Bernadette Boss committed them to stand trial in the Supreme Court.

A 60-page police statement of facts, outlining the allegations against the three accused, has not yet been tendered in court.

They have not applied for bail.

The case will be mentioned in the Supreme Court for the first time on February 1 next year.