A New South Wales magistrate has found there is enough evidence for a man to stand trial for murder in relation to the death of a knife-wielding burglar in 2016.
Benjamin Batterham, 35, is accused of killing Ricky Slater-Dickson over the 2016 Easter long weekend in the Newcastle suburb of Hamilton.
It was not in dispute that Mr Slater-Dickson entered his alleged murderer’s Hamilton home and stole his wife’s handbag.
Following the burglary, Mr Batterham chased Mr Slater-Dickson down the street and a struggle ensued.
At that point Newcastle Local Court heard the alleged assailant was repeatedly told Mr Slater-Dickson would die if he did not stop choking and restraining him.
Mr Slater-Dickson lost consciousness and died in hospital after his life support was turned off.
Magistrate says homeowner crossed the line despite burglar being armed with knives
Defence barrister Winston Terracini SC argued that Mr Slater-Dickson was obese, with a pre-existing heart condition, and a lethal amount of the drug ice in his system.
And today it was revealed Mr Slater-Dickson was armed with three knives, evidence Mr Terracini said had barely been mentioned in court.
The crown argued the level of the drug was not lethal and that Mr Slater-Dickson died from strangulation.
Magistrate David Price said there was a significant amount of evidence that the accused chased the deceased to the relevant place and up until this point he did very little wrong.
But at that point the magistrate said Mr Batterham’s actions breached a threshold.
“Unfortunately it is my view the accused escalated the situation from a reasonable response to an intruder being in the home, to an angry violent situation,” Magistrate Price said.
“He was enraged … and wanted to exact some form of punishment and retribution on the deceased.
“There were numerous witnesses who said the accused was aggressive and swore and made threats.
“Witnesses did hear, ‘let me up, let me up, let me up, I can’t breathe’.”
Homeowner says he never wanted intruder to die
The court was told witnesses overheard Mr Batterham saying he wanted to kill Mr Slater-Dickson.
After being committed to stand trial for murder, Mr Batterham addressed the court, maintaining he never wanted Mr Slater-Dickson to be harmed.
“I am not guilty … I never intended to cause Mr Slater-Dickson any serious harm, ” Mr Batterham said.
“He broke into my house and broke into my daughter’s bedroom. I began to chase him.
“I was calling for him to stop, I wanted to apprehend him and get back what was stolen.
“I admit I was angry and I hit him but I was only trying to keep him from getting away … I regret that he had died and I have to live with that and will forever.”
“He was constantly struggling and fighting. He bit me on the right arm.”
Family applauds magistrate’s decision
The Slater-Dickson family applauded and cried when the magistrate said there was enough evidence for Mr Batterham to stand trial for murder.
They also expressed relief when the magistrate rejected calls by the defence to have the case proceed as a manslaughter trial.
The magistrate said the matter breached the threshold for that.
Outside court Ricky Slater-Dickson’s mother Beryl Dickson thanked her supporters and police.
“I want justice and I am going to get it,” Mrs Dickson said.
“I’m happy with the witnesses, my lawyers, my family and the support.”
Mr Batterham is expected to stand trial in the Supreme Court sometime in 2019.