A Crown prosecutor has urged the NSW High Court to find that a Canberra man’s death was caused by injuries allegedly inflicted by three teenage boys rather than methamphetamine later found in his system.
- Two of the three young men accused of murdering Peter Keeley face a judges-only trial at the Supreme Court.
- The prosecution says that Mr. Keeley would not have died had he not been assaulted and restrained.
- Expert witnesses gave differing testimonies as to the cause of death, with one suggesting that drugs in Mr. Keeley’s system may have been a major factor.
The body of Peter Keeley, 56, was found in a bush in the small seaside town of Broulee in February 2020.
He had duct tape on his ankles, wrists, and head.
Three boys, then 17, were charged with her murder.
Two of them, now 19 and 20, face a judges-only trial at the Supreme Court.
Both have pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty of aggravated kidnapping.
In a police interview conducted in court, one of the defendants said that he thought Mr. Keeley was a paedophile.
Disagreement about the cause of death.
In her closing speech, Crown Prosecutor Nerrisa Keay acknowledged that there was disagreement over the cause of death between the two forensic pathologists who gave evidence during the trial.
But he urged the court to rely on the analysis of Bernard I’Ons, who found that Keeley died of suffocation and a brain injury sustained during the attack.
The other expert witness called by the defence, Johan Duflou, testified that it did not seem plausible to him that Mr. Keeley could have died from suffocation and head trauma.
But Ms Keay said Dr Duflou did not acknowledge new research suggesting the type of head injury Mr Keeley sustained could in fact cause his death, saying he had changed his mind about the possibility of suffocation during the course of the statement.
An autopsy revealed that Mr. Keeley had 0.42 grams of methamphetamine in his blood at the time of his death.
The court heard that he had been using the drug regularly over a period of years.
Ms Keay told the court that it was unreasonable to suggest that it was the methamphetamine in Mr Keeley’s system, and not the assault itself, that caused his death.
“He died with methamphetamine in his system,” he said.
Ms. Keay also pointed to the court Dr. I’Ons’ earlier testimony, in which he said that even if Mr. Keeley had been found unharmed, he would have been cautious in saying that he died of methamphetamine intoxication.
“If Peter Keeley hadn’t been assaulted and restrained, he would probably still be alive,” Keay said.
But defense attorneys for the two boys argued that the drugs in Mr. Keeley’s system contributed significantly to his death.
The court heard one of the accused told police that Mr Keeley was covered in dirt but groaning and breathing before the three left the scene, and that there was “no intention to kill him”.
Defense attorney Clive Steirn will present closing arguments on Monday.