A woman has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, more than six years after the death of her husband.

Susan Elizabeth Mouat appeared at the High Court in New Plymouth today, on the charge laid over an incident at the Hawera home she shared with her husband Bruce in July 2011.

The 48-year-old mountaineer and Fonterra dairy factory machine operator died in Wellington Hospital on July 27, 2011, after falling down steps at the couple's Hawera home 11 days earlier and hitting his head on concrete pavers.

Police initially investigated Mouat's death at the time "on the basis that it may have been a homicide", which was later ruled out.


In February 2012, coroner Tim Scott agreed with police findings and ruled that Mouat had died from a head injury and there was no foul play. Bruce Mouat had returned home drunk after a work function, and his wife told the coroner when she found him "paralytic" downstairs she got worked up and "started going nuts" at him.

When he said he wanted to go out again, she took his car keys and made it clear he should leave. She went back upstairs, while he went outside again.

It was believed he then fell down the steps in his drunken state, and hit his head.

During the inquest, Scott heard of a comment made to Bruce Mouat's sister at his funeral.

"Susan's sister-in-law told the police that at the funeral, Susan approached her and embraced her in a hug and then said, 'How does it feel to hug a murderer?'," Scott's report said.

Mouat told the coroner that she could not remember saying that, and if she had, it would have been black humour and not to be taken literally.

He described it as a "crazy piece of self-incrimination", that "made no sense at all" for her to make, whether she had played a role in his death or not.

Scott ruled Bruce Mouat's death was as a result of blunt-force head injury from an incident at his home.


"After a thorough investigation, the police concluded that there was no evidence that Susan was actively involved in Bruce's death and that the only evidence available to them supported her account that, in a drunken state, he had fallen from the steps, striking his head hard on the concrete paver at ground level. I agree."

However, the case was reopened and in November Susan Mouat was charged with her husband's manslaughter, four and a half years after the coroner's findings.

She initially pleaded not guilty and was remanded on bail to appear today for a trial by jury.

She entered a last minute guilty plea, after which Justice Peter Churchman remanded her on bail to reappear for sentencing on October 13.

Churchman asked for a pre-sentence report and for the option of home detention to be canvassed.

Family spokesperson Simon Harrison said they're pleased with today's result.