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Sunday, January 3, 2016
Millionaire stabbed to death in Bahamas home led an idyllic lifestyle but was all as it seemed?
Respected podiatrist Phillip Vasyli was at the top of his game when he was found stabbed to death in his luxury home in the Caribbean.
Australian Phillip, 59, was a leader in his field. Over 30 years, he’d run several podiatry clinics, and he’d also founded an orthotic footwear company which sold shoes in the UK and across America. His website boasted the fact he’d treated over 50,000 people during his career.
Who would want to kill a man who’d devoted his life to helping people? And how had the killer entered an exclusive gated community and taken the life of a much-loved family man? No one expected the events that unfolded next.
The charismatic businessman was married to Donna, 54, who he’d met when they were both teenagers. And the couple had two grown-up children: son Aron and daughter Lauren. Phillip and Donna had started the Vasyli Foundation; a charity that gave health support to the underprivileged.
Donna was referred to as a ‘kind soul’ with a ‘bright spirit’. She was glamorous and smart – a perfect match for an ambitious man like Phillip.
Phillip was worth millions and lived a life full of private planes and extravagance. The couple had lived in their luxury home in Old Fort Bay in the Bahamas for 15 years. With white sands and turquoise waters, it was paradise, and Phillip often shared idyllic pictures online of beach scenes and sunsets.
His last post on social media was a picture of a sunset with the acronym TGIF – Thank God It’s Friday.
On March 24, 2015, a worker found Phillip in the dining room at his home with multiple stab wounds. Authorities determined he’d been dead for seven hours.
Donna was found at the scene, crying and shaking in a bedroom. "We had a fight last night," she told an officer, before she was taken into custody. Police found a kitchen knife at the scene which they believed to be the weapon.
Suddenly Donna was thrown very publicly into the limelight and not in the positive way she had been all her life. While Phillip’s organisation announced his tragic death, a scandal was unfolding. Widow Donna was the prime suspect in the murder of her husband.
Later, Donna was videoed at the station denying anything to do with her husband’s death. She had marks on her hands that officers suggested were marks from when she had argued with Phillip, but she claimed they were due to laser treatments she’d recently had.
The next time the public saw Donna, she was handcuffed and surrounded by police as she was escorted into court, head bowed. Donna was officially changed with murder and refused bail as authorities believed she had the money and the connections to flee.
"I’ll be out" she cried to her supporters, blowing them kisses as she was led away in handcuffs.
News of Phillip’s death rippled around the world and associates of Donna leapt to defend her. She was described as deeply religious and kind, while rumours about Phillip began to surface. Was he battling some demons of his own?
At Donna’s trial, her high-profile lawyers said Phillip was the love of her life but claimed she’d suffered abuse at his hands. They suggested he’d been unfaithful during their marriage and had a drug and alcohol addiction, which had put a huge strain on the marriage.
A housemaid said that, on the day of his murder, Phillip had been drinking and had fallen down the stairs. The defence said that Donna’s fingerprints weren’t on the knife that had been found at the scene, and even suggested Phillip’s injuries were self-inflicted.
Security was also slack at the house. Could someone else have slipped in?
Donna, however, refused to testify, which made the prosecution accuse her of lying.
"She’s lying to cover up what she did to her husband, it’s as simple as that," they said.
Had Donna simply got tired of living a lie? She’d painted a picture of a marriage that wasn’t quite as glossy as the idyllic photos suggested.
Workers at their home denied seeing any violence from Phillip. They admitted he drank, but they hadn’t seen any evidence that he’d harmed Donna over the years or been abusive.
In October, as Donna arrived in court to hear the verdict, she was already in hysterical tears. When she was found unanimously guilty by the jury she gasped in shock and fainted, dropping to the floor.
Her supporters cried out in disbelief. "She’s innocent," some yelled, as she was helped up. Donna was heard saying she loved her husband.
Donna, 55, was sentenced to 20 years for stabbing Phillip. His death was described as a "domestic dispute gone horribly wrong".
A glamorous woman behind bars and a legacy tainted by murder – the couple’s loved ones are still reeling from the trial.
It seems there was trouble in paradise for the Vasyli couple and no amount of money could save either of them.