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‘Free as a f–king bird’: Dennis French’s chilling Facebook post after killing former partner Cheryl Ardler

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A NSW man sentenced to a decade behind bars for killing his former partner before dumping her body in bushland, posted to Facebook suggesting he was looking for a new partner.

Sydney woman Cheryl Ardler’s skeletal remains were found in bushland near her home in Cranebrook in May 2018, more than five years after she was last seen.

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Dennis Andrew French, 41, was arrested in February 2019 and charged with murdering Ms Ardler, 41, in December 2012.

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He pleaded not guilty to murder in the NSW Supreme Court last year but later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and to wilfully burying a dead body.

The Supreme Court was told neighbours had witnessed French verbally and physically abusing Ms Ardler after the couple moved in together just months after their relationship started in June 2012.

“The offender was jealous and controlling toward the deceased,” Justice Hament Dhanji SC told the court.

French physically abused Ardler on several occasions leading up to her death, including one incident in September 2012. Ms Ardler told her sister he had “king hit her” which resulted in her being rushed to hospital.

Two months later the couple was spotted in a nature reserve near their Cranebrook home where French punched her and hit her over the head with a stick, the court was told.

But it was on the evening of December 12, 2012 that detectives believed Ms Ardler was killed.

The court heard the pair was seen arguing again at the same nature reserve before French kicked Ms Ardler in the head. She attempted to escape down a nearby laneway but French chased her before stabbing her in the face with a fork.

An image from the recovery of Cheryl Ardler’s body. NSW Police
Camera IconAn image from the recovery of Cheryl Ardler’s body. NSW Police Credit: Supplied

She spoke to a neighbour and told them she didn’t want to call police.

About 9.30pm that same evening, French was seen burning items of clothing.

Neighbours heard him yell: “Come get your shit you sl-t, I’m burning it.”

Justice Dhanji said sometime after that, he struck Ms Ardler again, including a blow to her head which broke her jaw, from which she died as a result.

The court was told French then dumped her body in a nearby creek bed.

A week later, he posted to Facebook saying: “Single and ready to mingle, free as a f—king bird” and that he was looking for a “lover who would not drive him crazy”.

While handing down his sentence in the Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Dhanji said French was interviewed by police the following year, during which he told them there was no physical violence in their relationship and that he had not seen Ms Ardler since she left him.

The coroner later found she was killed by a person, or persons unknown.

Missing Cranebrook woman Cheryl Ardler.
Camera IconMissing Cranebrook woman Cheryl Ardler. Credit: Supplied

In 2017, French’s brother asked him what happened to Ms Ardler and he responded truthfully, the court was told.

“The offender told his brother he had whacked her and buried her on the side of a riverbank,” Justice Dhanji said.

Justice Dhanji acknowledged French did show some remorse for his actions, which included writing a note in 2018 which suggested he was going to take his own life.

“(He) acknowledge the pain and suffering he had caused,” Justice Dhanji said.

“The note written in 2018 was indicative of remorse. But his feelings had not been consistent.”

French was sentenced to 10 years’ jail, with a non-parole period of seven years. He has already served close to three years of his sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2026.

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