Gympie police take Allan Murray into custody on May 22 after Graeme Hughes was found dead in a Goomboorian bathtub.
Gympie police take Allan Murray into custody on May 22 after Graeme Hughes was found dead in a Goomboorian bathtub. Craig Warhurst

Death by 11 hammer blows

GRAEME Hughes’ body was found slumped in a bathtub at a Goomboorian farmhouse on May 22 last year. He had died as a result of a number of blows to the head, his employer Allan Murray arrested and charged with his alleged murder.

Yesterday Murray, 41, faced a committal hearing in Gympie Magistrates Court. The court was told that Mr Hughes, 53, had been hit in the head by a hammer at least 11 times.

Mr Hughes had been working for Murray for a few days before he was contracted to help clean a house at Goomboorian. He and Murray were joined by a third cleaner, Gwen Thornton, who gave evidence that there had been arguments on and off between the men during that day.

She said Mr Hughes had been angry with Murray about his pay and “didn’t like being told what to do”.

She said on the afternoon she heard strange noises coming from another part of the house and when she went to see what it was, Murray came rushing from the bathroom “in hysterics saying Graeme hit him with a hammer”.

“I took him outside and noticed he had a hammer in his hand. I took it off him and chucked it in the sink,” she said.

“We didn’t know the address so we rang the owner who rang the ambulance and police... Al was a quaking, quivering mess.”

Ms Thornton said Murray had been under stress because his ex-wife wanted the house back and was making threats against him.

The resident of the Goomboorian house in which Graeme Hughes’ body was found was called to give evidence in the committal hearing of the accused, Allan Murray.

Bruce Pearce said he had contracted Murray’s Wishy Washy Cleaning Services to clean his house in preparation for an engagement party.

He received a phone call from Murray about an altercation at the house and, thinking it was something far-less serious, he left his Gympie business and headed out to the Goomboorian home.

“When I arrived I could hear my dogs going off. (It was then) I knew something was wrong,” he said.

“Allan came over with his hands out as if to say he had nothing on him. He told me Graeme was in the bathroom (but) he didn’t know whether he was dead or alive,” he said.

“I went in to have a look... expecting to find a man lying on the floor with a bump on his head.

“At first I saw nothing (then) I saw blood on the back of the bathtub. I walked in further and... I could see clearly he was dead.”

Evidence given by the doctor who performed the autopsy on Mr Hughes revealed he died from a number of fractures to the skull.

Doctor Peter Ellis told the court Mr Hughes became unconscious quickly with death following rapidly and said he could not exclude that some of the injuries inflicted on him may have occurred after his death.

“There were so many fractures,” he said, adding that the injuries were consistent with being hit by the edge of a hammer head. “The fractures indicate... at least moderate to severe force was used.”

Ms Thornton said she had never seen Murray mistreat any of his employees in the 12 months she had been a casual employee with Wishy Washy.

“(Murray) couldn’t believe something like that happened. He said it happened so fast.”

The committal hearing continues today.

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