A SURFING friend of Adrian Basham’s, the man accused of the murder of his estranged wife, Samantha Fraser, was so alarmed at the aggressive nature of conversations he’d had with Mr Basham early in 2017, that he wrote a letter to police outlining his concerns on July 25, 2017.
Peter Matthews, one of 12 witnesses called to give testimony in the Phillip Island murder trial on Wednesday, March 30, wrote the letter fully 12 months before Ms Fraser was found hanged in the garage of her Cowes’ home on July 23, 2018.
However, as the Supreme Court heard this week, Mr Matthews paid for his efforts at intervention.
Adrian Basham had somehow found out about the letter and Mr Matthews’ involvement in it and during a surfing session at Cat Bay, only weeks before Ms Fraser was allegedly murdered, he aggressively challenged Matthews about it.
“You don’t know how much trouble you’ve caused for me?” Mr Basham is alleged to have said during “an absolute barrage of questioning”, yelling and aggressive harassment while the pair were out in the water paddling waves.
It was only after another surfer called the behaviour out that the tirade ceased.
Matthews had earlier told the court what Basham had said to him at the beach, when they met to go surfing, and during numerous phone calls before the pair ultimately fell out, not long after Mr Basham and Ms Fraser split up.
“He also made really alarming comments about potentially what he would like to do to Sam, or how he would treat her. He talked about that he would cripple her financially and take the house and the savings and anything that was of value… which I felt really confronted and really alarmed by. He also talked and alluded to making her pay in other ways, were his exact words.”
Mr Matthews agreed that Basham had also said he felt entitled to keep all the money because he’d earned it.
“But my counsel to him was to have a break, you know, pack up his surfboards, get his truck and go somewhere else for his own wellbeing but also for Samantha’s and the family’s.”
Mr Matthews said Basham rejected the idea and continued his criticisms of his estranged wife, among other things, for forcing him into counselling and legal expense, for taking out an intervention order that initially stopped him from visiting “my beaches” on Phillip Island and from seeing his children.
Day 8 of the Phillip Island murder trial in the Melbourne Supreme Court, on Wednesday, March 30, was a long day.
As well as the former surfing mate of the accused man, the court heard from neighbours Dane and Rachael Lewis, and two women with whom Mr Basham had started relationships after splitting with his estranged wife.
Both relationships had started with introductions via Tinder, one lasting seven months, from July 2017 to February 2018 and the other potentially ongoing from May 2018, after Mr Basham returned from a snowboarding holiday in New Zealand on July 19, 2018, four days before Ms Fraser’s death.
The court heard from local hairdresser Ashlee Bowen, also a resident of the Seagrove Estate where Samantha Fraser and Adrian Basham lived. Ms Bowen likely saw Mr Basham in Seagrove Way on the morning of Sam’s death as she and her mother left to go shopping in Wonthaggi. While Ms Bowen said she had previously cut Mr Basham’s hair, as well as Samantha’s, she didn’t recognise the man from behind, with a hood over his head and hands in his pockets.
Kathy Vincent, another resident of the Seagrove Estate at the time, also gave evidence on Wednesday that she may also have seen Mr Basham that day, but she didn’t see his face, nor could she see his hands to tell if he was carrying anything.
Australian Border Force senior operations officer Przemyslaw Jaskulski was also called to give evidence in relation to Mr Basham’s return from holidaying in New Zealand and a photo taken of Mr Basham by an overhead camera at the electronic self-process arrival gates.
This photo, the prosecution claims, clearly shows the accused man without the scratch on his face they say appeared four days later after he attacked and allegedly murdered Ms Fraser.
Kristii Slatter, a specialist family violence case manager at Salvocare East based in Leongatha in May 2017, gave detailed evidence about how she helped Ms Fraser develop a safety plan while also providing her with a new mobile phone.
“We discussed Samantha talking to her parents about the safety plan, identifying an exit, a room to go to, to call the police, or to call Triple 0, also to make sure that she had a charged mobile phone and to have the car keys somewhere that are accessible.”
Ms Slatter said she also made a ‘Safer in the Home’ referral for Samantha whereby risks and remedies are identified for victims of family violence; involving a security audit on the property, checking windows, doors, and also checking for spyware and technology.
“Yes, I did, and I identified that her phone was connected to Adrian’s iCloud account. She was not aware of this.”
It was also recommended that Ms Fraser back into the driveway when arriving home, not simply park in the garage, as a safety precaution.
Other witnesses included Mathew Dengerink, a senior constable of police, stationed at the Cardinia highway patrol, and formerly a resident of Phillip Island when he was working at San Remo and Wonthaggi, married to Rebecca McFarlane, a friend of Samantha’s.
Daniel Campbell, a Phillip Island plumber, who had the same 4-wheel drive car as Mr Basham, a Landcruiser Twin Cab ute and shared an interest in four-wheel driving with him, was also called as a witness.
Mr Campbell told the court that during an accidental call to Mr Basham in June 2018 he sounded “quite desperate, frustrated and upset with the situation” of not being able to see his children.
And finally, the court heard from Wayne Galea, a resident of Phillip Island, a fly-in fly-out worker who had for a time worked with Adrian Basham at Barrow Island in WA and who shared a friendship with him.
His former wife Jodie had also been a friend of Samantha’s, with their children the same age.
Basham allegedly told Galea that he was able to track Samantha on the phone and that Mr Galea should start doing the same thing with his wife, but he told him he didn’t want to.
The defence counsel for Mr Basham, Amelia Beech, tried to challenge Mr Galea’s evidence, claiming he had grown to dislike his former friend.
“So, it’s fair to say, isn’t it, Mr Galea, that you’re giving evidence in circumstances where you obviously don’t like Mr Basham?” Ms Beech said.
“No, that’s not it at all,” Mr Galea replied.
“On July 25, 2018, after you found out that Ms Fraser had passed away, you sent the second message to Mr Basham, didn’t you? This is a message at 6.49pm that reads, “You are a c—sucker. If I find out where you are, I will fix you up. That’s the message you sent to Mr Basham?”
“Correct,” said Mr Galea.
But he explained to the court that he was simply trying to goad Basham into responding, to find out what happened, that he actually still considered himself to be a friend of Basham’s.
After being delayed a week when a member of the jury came down with COVID-19 last week, the defence lawyer Ashley Halphen was out of action on Wednesday after a member of his family had tested positive for coronavirus. Mr Halphen attended via video link but played no role in proceedings.
The trial, in its eighth day, is set to run for six weeks.