Man subjected to ‘long brutal beating’, court hears

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Four men brutally murdered a North Otago man after travelling to his house with the intention of stealing a motorbike and drugs, the High Court at Dunedin was told yesterday.

Crown counsel Lisa Preston told the court Justin Conrad McFarlane (35) died after the four subjected him to “a long brutal beating” at his Elderslie house, inland from Oamaru.

In the September 2013 incident, a fellow worker at Elderslie Dairy Farms Ltd, concerned when Mr McFarlane failed to turn up for work, found him dead in his Pine Hill Rd house.

Robert James Cummings (23), of Oamaru, Steven Kenneth Boskell (19), of Palmerston, Ryan Warren Geary-Smart (24), of Oamaru, and Jacob Christopher Geary-Smart (23), also of Oamaru, had earlier pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder over the death.

Stephanie Rose Lawrence (27), of Oamaru, also known as McCormack, pleaded not guilty over a charge of being an accessory after the fact of murder.

Ms Preston said the four, whom she described as part of a self-described “skinhead” criminal group, were driven by Lawrence to Mr McFarlane’s house as part of a drug and alcohol-fuelled plan to steal his cannabis and a motorbike.

After driving “some distance” through the countryside on a “stormy night”, the four subjected him to “a long brutal beating”, she told the court.

McFarlane, who was tied up using an electrical cord and had his face covered in a sheet, was beaten by the four using a fire poker, a golf club and a beer bottle, and was also stomped on.

During the assault, Jacob Christopher Geary-Smart threw a television at Mr McFarlane because he was “looking at him”.

A post-mortem revealed the attack left him with 11 blunt force injuries to his head, three fractures to his face and numerous other injuries, including shoe-print bruises to his back.

Ms Preston said he was hit with such force the fire poker broke.

The attack began and escalated while he was in or near his La-Z-Boy chair and finished with him laying dead or “as good as dead” near his kitchen, she said.

In the hours following the attack, the four, aided by Lawrence, attempted to get rid of evidence which could link them to the crime.

The trial, expected to last six weeks, got off to a slow start as the court struggled to fill the 12 jury spots after two pulled out yesterday morning.

Court officials yesterday spun the ballot box of jurors’ names more than 10 times and 13 jurors were excused before the trial began at 12.40pm.

More than 100 potential jurors, packed both in and outside the court room, were forced to wait until a jury of seven women and five men was finalised.

The trial before Justice David Gendall is expected to hear evidence from about 130 witnesses, including police, pathologists, sports shoe company employees, scientists and a prison doctor.

APNZ