COOKTOWN mother Donna Steele was murdered in a robbery gone wrong by a young footballer who lay in wait in her house, detectives will allege.

Matthew Ross White, 25, allegedly broke into Ms Steele's home, ambushed the mother-of-two, killed her and then dumped her body at a creek at Leggett's Crossing about 15km away from her home.

Detectives will allege they have DNA linking White to the scene where Ms Steele, 42, was found.

Murder accused Matthew Ross White. Picture: Supplied
Murder accused Matthew Ross White. Picture: Supplied

White, who was arrested in Cairns on Friday night, grew up in Cooktown and still has family there.

The Courier-Mail understands his mother lives close to Ms Steele and the families know each other.

White was arrested at his Cairns home a week after police offered a $250,000 reward for information that helped lead to a conviction.

White had been an Australian rules football player in earlier years and was described by people who knew him at the time as "quiet" and "pleasant".

Matthew White has been charged over the murder of Donna Steele.
Matthew White has been charged over the murder of Donna Steele.

A friend yesterday said White was a stay-at-home father-of-two and they were shocked to hear of his arrest.

"He doesn't like or do drugs, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol," the friend said.

The murder arrest came after an intensive investigation by detectives in the Far North and the Homicide Squad.

Cooktown woman Donna Steele, 42.
Cooktown woman Donna Steele, 42.

Ms Steele was last seen at Cooktown's IGA supermarket on August 2.

Her two young sons, eight and 10, arrived home to the Poison Creek Rd property and spent the night alone.

Her husband Tony Brown, who was away at the time, contacted police the next day.

Ms Steele's wrapped body was found on August 6.

Detective Inspector Geoff Marsh said Mr Brown and his wife's brother Jason were relieved when told of the arrest.

"Mr Brown is also extremely relieved that he can now tell his sons what happened to their mother and they can move on," he said.

During the search of where Ms Steele was found, police found a number of items at the creek including a shoe.

Following his interview with police, White was charged with murder, interfering with a corpse and enter dwelling with intent.

He has been remanded in custody to re-appear in court on May 2.


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