A teenager has been found guilty of the murder of a central Victorian man with disability, but a co-accused teenager has been found not guilty.
- John Bourke was killed inside his central Victorian home in July 2018
- Two teenage boys, aged 15 and 17 a the time, were charged with murder over the killing
- The court heard Mr Bourke was stomped on and kicked, causing his death
The jury could not reach a verdict on an alternative charge of manslaughter for the older teenager and it was discharged.
The two were on trial accused of the murder of John Bourke, who was found dead and bloodied inside his home in July 2018 by a neighbour.
The prosecution alleged the teens — aged 15 and 17 at the time — went to Mr Bourke’s home believing the person living there had sexually assaulted a friend of theirs.
The court was told they punched and stomped on him, causing his death.
‘Manslaughter, not murder’
A defence lawyer for the boy who was 15 at the time opened the trial by telling the court “it was manslaughter, but wasn’t murder”, saying there was no intent to kill.
Lawyers for his co-defendant told the jury there was reasonable doubt and not to convict him of either murder or manslaughter, saying he only punched Mr Bourke twice and stomped on his legs until he heard Mr Bourke yell: “Stop, stop, stop.”
Both teenagers were accused of punching and kicking the man.
Prosecutors alleged there was intent to cause serious harm, and that the pair had an understanding that someone would be seriously injured.
The court heard that Mr Bourke, known as Little John, confronted the two in front of his house, while leaning against one of his crutches.
Mr Bourke had osteogenesis imperfecta (known as brittle bone syndrome), as well as possible kidney disease from being an insulin-dependent diabetic.
He suffered more than 400 bone breaks during his life and spent four of his school years in hospital.
The court heard the co-defendants were at Mr Bourke’s house after the then 17-year-old followed the then 15-year-old because “he was going off” about someone being a paedophile.
Jurors heard a friend of the 15-year-old’s had told him some years earlier that she was sexually assaulted by her father, who had lived on the same street as Mr Bourke.
The accused had been to the father’s house before, they were told.
They heard that on the night of the killing, the teenagers were at a party with friends and drinking beer.
Witnesses recounted how the 15-year-old got into an argument with a girl and was later seen punching a fence and placing his head in his arms.
One witness said she realised the 15-year-old and 17-year-old were missing and went to the front yard, where she heard crashing and banging coming from a couple of houses down the road.
Neighbours also recounted a sound like a house being “ransacked”.
‘We got the wrong house’
The witness recalled seeing the pair walking back towards the party, and said she overheard the 17-year-old say to the 15-year-old: “I couldn’t do it anymore. You’re going away for it, not me.”
Several witnesses told the court the teens then began telling people at the party about how they had gotten into a fight.
One said he overheard the 17-year-old say he “had killed someone”, and that the 15-year-old told him: “I think I hurt someone. I kicked down his door and bashed his guts in.”
Another witness recalled him saying: “I think the dude is dead.”
Several witnesses said that the next morning the 17-year-old was overheard saying to the other teen: “We got the wrong house.”
Medical experts told the court that Mr Bourke sustained at least three blows to his head.
The attack had caused his skull to cave in and restrict his breathing, killing him.
The prosecution said the injuries to Mr Bourke’s head were consistent with being stomped on, a claim backed by medical experts’ testimony.
Defence lawyers argued witness accounts were not credible as they had been drinking alcohol and, based on the level of talk in the following days, they could not be trusted to tell the jury what they knew, but rather what they had been told.
Victorian law prevents the ABC from identifying the two teens or witnesses in the Supreme Court trial.
The teenager found guilty of murder will next face pre-sentencing hearing at the Supreme Court.
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