A man accused of murdering his girlfriend in South Australia’s South East has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, which the prosecution has accepted. 

Cody James Edwards’ defence was due to start in his Supreme Court murder trial in Mount Gambier on Wednesday morning.

Instead, Edwards was re-arraigned and pleaded not guilty to murder again before pleading guilty to manslaughter.

The 27-year-old was accused of killing mother-of-three Synamin Bell, 26, in her house in Millicent two years ago.

Ms Bell and Edwards were in a relationship and were living together at Ms Bell’s Millicent home before she was found dead in her bedroom on March 12, 2022

Edwards was arrested immediately and pleaded not guilty to Ms Bell’s alleged murder three days later.

Ms Bell’s sisters, who left the court quickly after the plea, told the ABC the outcome was “a joke”.

Edwards’ lawyer, Steven Millsteed KC, declined to comment.

Cody Edwards pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Wednesday.(Facebook)

Self-defence claim

Last Wednesday, when the trial began, Mr Millsteed said the defence planned to argue that Edwards was acting in self-defence when he killed Ms Bell.

He said Edwards experienced a “full-blown paranoia psychosis” on the night of Ms Bell’s death after consuming psychoactive drugs.

He said Edwards, in his psychotic state, believed Ms Bell intended to kill him so used the force that resulted in her death. 

The trial was being heard in front of Supreme Court Justice Adam Kimber alone.

Justice Kimber ordered a pre-sentence report on Edwards, with particular focus on his behaviour since being taken into custody.

Edwards will return to court for sentencing submissions in September in Adelaide.

The trial was being heard in Mount Gambier in a rare sitting of the Supreme Court in the South East.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

More than 50 injuries to victim

On Tuesday, the court heard from forensic pathologist Neil Langlois, who told the court that Ms Bell died of blunt force head trauma caused by multiple blows to the left of her skull.

Dr Langlois was unable to say how many blows there were or which one killed her.

“It does appear some of the blows have been while she has been lying there but most likely unconscious,” he said.

Overall, Dr Langlois noted 54 injuries or sets of injuries during his autopsy, including some, such as stab wounds to her back, that appeared to have occurred after her death.

Some of the injuries appeared to be from the end of a baseball bat, while others seemed to be from a dumbbell bar.

“I cannot determine which weapon or weapons were used to cause the fatal head injury,” Dr Langlois said.

Synamin Bell’s house in Millicent, where her body was found.(ABC South East SA: Grace Whiteside)

The court heard a metal bar was also found across the road from Ms Bell’s house in Millicent with blood and hair on it.

Under defence cross-examination, Dr Langlois told the court other causes for blunt force trauma to Ms Bell’s arms and back could not be ruled out.

When Mr Millsteed asked Dr Langlois if the injuries could have been caused by Edwards grappling with Ms Bell on a bed, or Ms Bell falling off the bed onto an object, Dr Langlois told the court it was “possible”.

“It is very difficult — extremely difficult — from injuries themselves to say what has happened,” Dr Langlois told the court.

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