Dark past of luxury family property at centre of Charlise Mutten murder

Dark past of luxury family property at centre of Charlise Mutten murder
Dark past of luxury family property at centre of Charlise Mutten murder

The luxury family estate where nine-year-old Charlise Mutten was allegedly murdered overnight on January 11 has a past marred by a long running neighbourhood feud, a $7.6 million embezzlement case and a bitter divorce.

The five hectare property - one of the many with stately mansions and sweeping gardens in the wealthy Mount Wilson enclave - has had an unhappy history leading up to the tragic death of the schoolgirl on its elegant grounds just 12 days ago.

That history included the property unwittingly playing host to a woman who siphoned millions from the National Australia Bank to fund her addiction to diamonds, designer clothes and handbags, expensive antiques and  vintage champagne.

The bad luck associated with the Stein family and the property has taken place over two decades before the grisly discovery of Charlise's remains in a barrel, which police allege was dumped by Justin Stein after he killed his girlfriend's daughter.

The multimillion-dollar country home enjoyed a brief respite from its jinxed history as the go to wedding destination for the nuptials of everyone from AFL star Buddy Franklin and his model wife, former Miss Universe Jesinta Campbell, to Sky Racing reporter Julie Snook and actor Hugo Johnstone-Burt.

Jesinta and Buddy Franklin after their marriage in the grounds of Wildenstein which had become a successful  wedding venue until Charlise Mutten's alleged murder there halted the business

Jesinta and Buddy Franklin after their marriage in the grounds of Wildenstein which had become a successful  wedding venue until Charlise Mutten's alleged murder there halted the business

The view from the verandah of Wildenstein, with its tables set for a wedding, the location from which tragic schoolgirl Charlise Mutten was  reported to have vanished before her remains were found in a barrel

The view from the verandah of Wildenstein, with its tables set for a wedding, the location from which tragic schoolgirl Charlise Mutten was  reported to have vanished before her remains were found in a barrel

The mansion built by the Stein family on Wildenstein, the sprawling estate with an unlucky history of links to $7.6m fraud case, a neighbourhood feud, and now the alleged murder of Charlise Mutten

The mansion built by the Stein family on Wildenstein, the sprawling estate with an unlucky history of links to $7.6m fraud case, a neighbourhood feud, and now the alleged murder of Charlise Mutten

The lavish venue, which boasts sprawling park-like gardens decorated urns, bronze and stone sculptures by antiques dealer James Stein Sr, was run by his interior designer and event planner son James Stein Jr.

The younger Stein turned Wildenstein into a successful wedding venue after his own marriage there to husband, radio announcer Keegan Buzza there in 2015.

Celebrities and others who saw the couple's wedding pictures started asking if they  hired the property out for events and Wildenstein's grand and intimate spaces, hedged garden rooms, incredible views and majestic trees became the backdrop of a thriving business.

The couple described their business as 'a company built on the love of two men', but since the alleged murder of Charlise Mutten there its website has been taken down, as James Stein's official event planner Instagram page. 

James Stein Jr and Keegan Buzza's own marriage at Wildenstein in 2015 was the impetus for their celebrity-driven wedding business which was interrupted by nine-year-old Charlise's  alleged murder on the property

James Stein Jr and Keegan Buzza's own marriage at Wildenstein in 2015 was the impetus for their celebrity-driven wedding business which was interrupted by nine-year-old Charlise's  alleged murder on the property

James Stein Jr adjusts a table setting inside the wedding tent of Wildenstein  in 2018

Sky Racing reporter Julie Snook and actor Hugo Johnstone-Burt a9bove) were marriage in the garden of Wildenstein.

James Stein Jr adjusts a table setting inside the wedding tent of Wildenstein in 2018 (above, left) where Sky Racing reporter Julie Snook and actor Hugo Johnstone-Burt were married last year

If James' younger brother Justin goes to trial for murder and it is found that Charlise died die on the property, it is hard to imagine how the wedding venue would recover.

The Stein family's association with the ill-fated began in 1989 when James Stein Sr took his wife Annemie and then young son James up to Mount Wilson just weeks after arriving in Sydney from Perth.

Justin Stein would not be born until the following year.

James Stein Sr, a keen amateur gardener who ran an antiques business with Annemie, later told Australian Country Magazine 'every green finger started twitching' when he saw the property.

Mr Stein found that Mount Wilson, where pastoralists and moneyed city folk spent weekends and holidays,  had 'the most wonderful volcanic soil ... and the most incredibly pure water'.

Charlise Mutten (above) is believed to have left her fulltime carer grandparents on December 21 to holiday with her mother and Kallista Mutten's new fiance Justin Stein, who police alleged murdered the schoolgirl

Charlise Mutten (above) is believed to have left her fulltime carer grandparents on December 21 to holiday with her mother and Kallista Mutten's new fiance Justin Stein, who police alleged murdered the schoolgirl

Detectives and uniformed officers walk down the driveway to Wildenstein last week on the day before Charlise Mutten's body inside a barrel was located 65km away near the Colo River

Detectives and uniformed officers walk down the driveway to Wildenstein last week on the day before Charlise Mutten's body inside a barrel was located 65km away near the Colo River

Kallista Mutten (above) took her daughter up to Wildenstein on a holiday that ended in tragedy

Justin Stein has been charged with the nine-year-old's murder at Wildenstein

Kallista Mutten (above, left) took her daughter up to Wildenstein on a holiday that ended in tragedy when Charlise died and Kallista's fiance Justin Stein was charged with the nine-year-old

The sleepy hamlet was dotted with grand houses with fancy names, including the childhood home of author Patrick White who lived at Withycombe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Wealthy families considered it a 'hill station' escape from Sydney's summer over which they held garden and tennis parties and the children rode ponies and went lyrebird and wombat spotting.

When the Steins bought the property, it had only a small shack on it, possibly the same shack where accused killer Justin Stein is known to have occupied in recent years.

James Stein Sr  designed and built the garden and Annemie Stein designed the now palatial home from whose verandah Charlise Mutten was reportedly last seen when police were first alerted that the little girl was missing.

Hedged gardens and stunning landscapes are a feature of Wildenstein (above) favoured by couples planning their weddings, but the  picturesque venue is now at the centre of a murder investigation

Hedged gardens and stunning landscapes are a feature of Wildenstein (above) favoured by couples planning their weddings, but the  picturesque venue is now at the centre of a murder investigation

Kallista Mutten (above) seen at Wildenstein after having a 'medical episode' which resulted in  her being taken to Katoomba Hopsital where she remains as police wait to formally interview her about her daughter Charlise's death

Kallista Mutten (above) seen at Wildenstein after having a 'medical episode' which resulted in  her being taken to Katoomba Hopsital where she remains as police wait to formally interview her about her daughter Charlise's death 

As a 'bewitched' James Stein Sr spent weekends planting and working the 'giant canvas on which to build his dreams', he and Annemie Stein operated a successful business, Martin & Stein Antiques in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.

The couple bought a house in Woollahra, in Sydney's eastern suburbs and their sons attended the exclusive boys' school, Cranbrook.

In 2001, when Justin Stein was ten years old, his parents antiques business was mentioned during a high profile court case involving Heather Kathleen Power. 

Power was Martin & Stein Antiques' best customer, in a business specialising in antique jewellery and decorative arts, with pieces sourced internationally from the UK, USA and Europe. 

Power drove a BMW, leased a harbour apartment, drank vintage champagne, hired stretch limousines, accumulated Australia's largest collection of diamond jewellery, had a collection of Cartier handbags, wore Thierry Mugler perfume and dined at expensive restaurants.

She was feted by Sydney's finest stores and boutiques, and received invitations to their special events, but it would emerge that she was living a fantasy double life. 

James Stein Sr, above with casings he claimed were from his neighbour John Haitzler's firearm, after the pair had a dispute over alleged shooting on Wildenstein's shared fenceline

James Stein Sr, above with casings he claimed were from his neighbour John Haitzler's firearm, after the pair had a dispute over alleged shooting on Wildenstein's shared fenceline

Martin & Stein Antiques (above) in the QVB was bank clerk Heather Power's favourite shop where she bought 200 items including jewellery during her three year fantasy high life

Martin & Stein Antiques (above) in the QVB was bank clerk Heather Power's favourite shop where she bought 200 items including jewellery during her three year fantasy high life 

 On one spree, she bought an 18-carat diamond-encrusted leopard brooch straight out of the Cartier boutique's window. 

In late 1996,  the then 45-year-old Power met Justin Stein Sr and his employee Chriss Smith at Martin & Stein Antiques.

Within three years, she would have bought 200 items from the shop, was taken out  to smart restaurants by Mr Smith and Mr Stein, and stayed at the Stein family home at Mount Wilson.

Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting the Steins nor their antique business  had anything to do with Power's dishonest actions as she spent the money

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