THE day after police were called to the site of a frightening attack on two South Gippsland Shire Council staff members, at a remote rural property in May last year, a witness came forward with claims of a potentially more damaging nature.
At a committal hearing in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday, details about those claims were revealed.
In a police summary of the 19 charges laid against Jonas Black, 45, of Turton’s Creek, it is alleged that two people looking for a camp site in an area located near the accused man’s property came across what police are now calling a grave site.
“On Tuesday the 26th of May, 2015 [the witness] had been driving with a friend, looking for a potential camp site. After attending an area, approximately 4km from the accused’s property, [the witness] located a camp site. During his inspection of the site, he observed a large pile of dirt about 10-15 metres into the bush.
“Upon closer inspection, he observed an excavation site which he described as being approximately 2 metres long, 600mm wide and 500mm deep, describing it as a ‘perfect rectangle shape’. [The witness] then reported this to police.”
Together with evidence collected by police from the site of the assaults the day before, the accounts of the victims and information received since; police will seek to prove that what took place at Turton’s Creek on the morning of May 25 wasn’t just a terrible assault “in circumstances of gross violence” but actually attempted murder.
In their summary, they have alleged that during a search of the property, police located the accused man’s car and “observed that there was a tarpaulin laid out across the rear section and over the back seat.”
“There was a piece of scaffolding pipe and a bloodied spade. On the back seat of the vehicle, there were two bags of hydrated lime. There was also a long handled spade and a mattock, both of which exhibited deposits of fresh, damp clay.”
During his testimony in court last week, the informant in the case, Detective Leading Senior Constable Peter Johnston, said that an expert’s report on the soil samples taken from the spade, mattock and also from Black’s boots had only just been received by police but would be included in evidence.
They claim Black made sinister preparations ahead of the planned building inspection by the shire officers on May 25 last year, allegedly telling the two men, after he had assaulted them with a metal pipe that “no one’s going to find your bodies”.
He also allegedly told the victims, as he was chasing them during an attempt to escape, that he had a gun in the car and was going to shoot them both.
At last week’s committal hearing, the victims of the assault, Manager of Regulatory Services at the shire, Matthew Paterson, and Local Laws Enforcement Officer, Justin Eades, were required to relive the incident in graphic detail.
They were each called as witnesses in a hearing to decide whether there was enough evidence to commit the matter to trial.
At the end of the two-hour hearing, Magistrate Charles Tan said he was satisfied that the evidence presented had sufficient weight and he remanded Mr Black in custody for a Directions Hearing in the Supreme Court in Melbourne on Monday, April 4, 2016.
It is expected that the trial will take two weeks.
As well as the two counts of attempted murder, two of unlawful imprisonment and various assault charges, Mr Black has also been charged with “intent to pervert the course of public justice” after he made a phone call to a friend from prison on July 15 last year asking the person to dispose of an item of his property, namely a pair of black boots, that the accused allegedly wore on the day of the assault.
Police say the boots may offer some forensic evidence in the case and have since seized them from the property office at the Melbourne Remand Centre.
Mr Black was present in court when Mr Patterson, Mr Eades and the informant gave their evidence. He sat passively in the dock and appeared to be taking notes while the witnesses spoke.
The two shire officers were taken through their accounts of what had happened when they arrived at the accused’s property. They were there at a pre-arranged time to inspect buildings which had been the subject of a dispute since the council received public complaints in 2013, and which were the subject of a demolition order.
The men were allegedly assaulted by Black, wielding a metal scaffolding pipe, Patterson needing six stitches to a gash in his head and Eades receiving more serious head injuries.
The accused man was represented in court by defence barrister, Justin Hannebery, and the Office of Public Prosecutions by barrister, Kevin Doyle.