Stephen John Armitage.
Stephen John Armitage. File

Esky murder, torture convicts go to appeal court

THERE is little doubt Shaun Barker's final moments, or days, were horrendously painful.

His remains were found in Toolara Forest in April 2014.

Police alleged Mr Barker was kidnapped from the Gold Coast months earlier, then held hostage in an esky after being accused of stealing drugs.

After two trials, three Tin Can Bay fishermen were convicted of his murder.

But Stephen John Armitage and his son Matthew Leslie Armitage have appealed against their convictions.

They and William Francis Dean were also found guilty of torture and of interfering with a corpse.

On Thursday, Matthew Armitage's counsel Michael Copley said jurors were misdirected at a trial last year.

Mr Copley said jurors were effectively told Matthew was guilty of murder, or nothing.

Stephen Armitage's counsel Saul Holt told Queensland Court of Appeal it was unclear if Mr Barker died from a direct blow or from lack of sustenance.

Mr Holt said it was unknown who was present when Mr Barker died and the corpse interference verdict was unreasonable.

He said "the only anchors" the Crown had were "five extraordinarily unreliable witnesses".

Crown prosecutor Danny Boyle said the Crown murder case was "obviously circumstantial" but there was evidence the Armitages wanted information from Mr Barker about "drug issues".

Police previously alleged Mr Barker was tortured by having honey poured on his genitals to attract ants.

Justice Philip McMurdo said "we don't know the facts, the awful mechanics" of how Mr Barker died but he perished after an incident of "escalating violence".

"There is evidence he was deprived of water and was crying out for help," Justice Walter Sofronoff said.

Justice Sofronoff said Mr Barker was "imprisoned in a coffin-like structure" but asked what evidence of "intention" to cause death or grievous bodily harm existed.

Mr Boyle referred to allegations one of Mr Barker's fingers was cut off.

The trial last year heard Stephen Armitage, 48 told a witness: "We smashed his kneecaps in, broke his fingers ... smashed his face in. You wouldn't even recognise him."

The appeal court reserved its decision. -NewsRegional



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