Man cleaned car after killing

Seamus Matthew Smith is taken into court at an earlier appearance in relation to the murder of man picked up from beside the highway at Curra.
Seamus Matthew Smith is taken into court at an earlier appearance in relation to the murder of man picked up from beside the highway at Curra.

A MAN accused of helping his friend hide the body of a dead hitch-hiker later was found cleaning his vehicle with bleach, a prosecutor alleged yesterday.

Seamus Matthew Smith has denied being an accessory to murder but pleaded guilty to accessory to manslaughter, after he and John Patrick Peterson allegedly were involved in the death of Stephen John Ward.

The partially mummified and badly decomposed body of 62-year-old Mr Ward was found about seven kilometres from Smith's house, on a fire break in the Bauple State Forest on September 21, 2008.

In the second day of the men's trial at Supreme Court in Maryborough yesterday, police witness Detective Senior Constable Ron Vandersteen said Mr Ward was last seen on August 4, 2008, getting into a Toyota 4Runner that stopped near the Matilda Service Station at Curra.

After Mr Ward's body was found, witnesses described the vehicle and a police search led to Smith's home on Imhoff Rd, Glenwood, where Det Snr Const Vandersteen saw Smith cleaning the four-wheel drive with a bucket and a rag.

"He said the kids had made a mess in the car so he was cleaning it," Det Snr Const Vandersteen said.

"He mentioned he had picked up a hitch-hiker, but said he dropped him off at a truck stop."

Presumptive tests by police allegedly found traces of blood in the vehicle.

The detective said Smith made a statement at Gympie police station, then took the investigating officers to a truck stop near Arborten Rd at Glenwood where Mr Ward was allegedly attacked by Peterson.

"He then took us about 16km down a dirt road at the back of nowhere, that was about 10 metres from where the body was located," Det Snr Const Vandersteen said.

The court heard on Tuesday that Peterson had allegedly beaten Mr Ward 20 to 30 times, after Mr Ward made a homosexual advance.

The co-accused men initially gave wildly different statements to police about what happened that night, but later admitted they were both in the car when they picked up Mr Ward, and Smith drove Peterson away from the scene of the alleged attack.

Prosecutor Ben Power told the court the men later returned to move Mr Ward to the remote track, where his body was later found by trail bike rider Darren Cruse, who was walking home after his bike broke down.

Smith's co-accused Peterson pleaded not guilty to murder, but accepted the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The trial continues today.

Topics:  court death manslaughter

Gympie Times

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