Gay advance led to death: court
A HOMOSEXUAL advance led to the bashing death of hitch-hiker Stephen John Ward, a jury heard yesterday in the Supreme Court at Maryborough.
The trial of John Patrick Petersen and Seamus Matthew Smith started yesterday, after both men were allegedly involved in the murder of the 62-year-old.
Mr Ward's badly-decomposed body was found by trail-bike rider Darren Cruse, on Deveron Rd in the Bauple State Forest in September 2008.
The itinerant man was last seen leaving Curra's Matilda Service Station on August 4, 2008, about 8pm.
Witness Ashley Petty, who worked at the service station's food counter, told the court she spoke to Mr Ward as he was getting into a four-wheel drive that had stopped to pick him up on the Bruce Highway.
"There were two men in the car," she said.
Peterson pleaded not guilty to murder, but accepted the lesser charge of manslaughter.
His alleged accomplice, Smith, denied being an accessory to murder but also conceded a lesser charge of accessory to manslaughter.
In his opening statements, Prosecutor Ben Power said after the body was found, police went to Smith's home and he admitted he was the one seen picking up Mr Ward that night.
Before being led to the police station to give a statement, Smith allegedly told his wife to get in touch with Peterson and tell him he had been taken by police.
Peterson handed himself in to a Cairns police station the next day, after discovering his friend had been questioned.
But the men's stories unravelled when Smith admitted to being in the car when Peterson allegedly hit Mr Ward, while Peterson told Cairns police he was alone.
The prosecutor told the court Peterson was angry after Mr Ward made a homosexual pass at him, and admitted to hitting the victim between 20 and 30 times.
The court heard Peterson and Smith admitted to leaving the scene and returning later to move Mr Ward, although they did not agree on whether they believed the blood-covered man was alive when they dumped him in the forest.
Peterson's defence barrister James Godbolt said his client was intoxicated and provoked by the gay come-on, because he had been abused as a teen.
Smith's defence said her client's case rested on Peterson's manslaughter plea.
"He knew his best friend was in trouble and he knew he needed to help him," she said.
The trial continues today.