When a Dunedin man went missing, his sister thought the worst case scenario was that he was on “a bender” with mates.
The truth was far more sinister.
Brent Andrew Bacon’s battered body had been crammed by those friends into a sleeping bag and dumped beside a tree by the side of the road in Seacliff where it remained for two weeks.
John Kenneth Collins (39) is on trial before the High Court at Dunedin accused of the murder of the 45-year-old.
At the outset of proceedings this morning, he pleaded guilty to interfering with a body and unlawfully taking a vehicle.
Defence counsel Len Andersen QC told the jury of six men and six women that there was no dispute Collins had beaten the victim to death with a cricket bat at a Lock St unit on February 4, 2019.
However, he said the actions were self-defence, that there was no murderous intent.
Bacon’s sister Lia Bezett said she had agreed to house her brother after a desperate plea he made by text messages in 2018.
His move to Dunedin, however, was followed soon after by Collins and his wife Aleisha Dawson (32), whom he had met in Christchurch.
Bacon spoke fondly of the couple, Ms Bezett said, and admired their efforts to get their lives on track.
She and her husband Sam hosted the pair for a roast and said they were open about their drug problems.
They gave Collins work, painting an office and their bedroom in a bid to give him a leg-up but Ms Bezett felt they were “unravelling” when the man tried to get payment for the job before completing it.
She told the jury there seemed to be desperation about the defendant and Bacon had described them as becoming increasingly volatile.
On February 5, Bacon failed to show up for work with Mr Bezett.
Bank and CCTV records showed that the night before, the victim had withdrawn money and made transactions at a service station alongside Collins and Dawson.
The only version of events from that evening was given to police by Collins.
In a police interview, he said Bacon had been paranoid.
He said they were back at 47 Lock St – his and Dawson’s flat – when the victim came at him, fist raised and looking angry.
Collins said he swung a cricket bat overarm “like swinging an axe” but did not intend to hit Bacon.
When the man was on the ground on his stomach, the defendant told police he hit him again in the back of the head.
There may have been a third blow but he said he “blacked out”.
Crown prosecutor Pip Norman said ESR staff found blood on the walls, floor, ceiling and furniture.
Bacon suffered fractures to his skull and face, as well as broken bones in his hands which she said were consistent with defensive injuries.
“The Crown says the nature of the injuries, their location and the force and number of blows all indicate an assault that amounted to murder rather than self-defence,” Norman said.
Ms Bezett reported her brother missing on February 5, thinking he may have been using methamphetamine with the couple, but 12 days later the grisly truth became clear.
Her husband kicked down the door at Lock St and found the bloody scene.
In the midst of it was Bacon’s distinctive jandals.
Meanwhile, Collins and Dawson had driven to Blenheim, sold the victim’s Toyota for $250, taken a ferry to Wellington and taken a bus to Rotorua where they were found by police.
The trial continues.
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