A loving family man stabbed to death in Batemans Bay has been remembered as a kind and gentle soul whose “best character trait” led to him being killed.
Daniel James Sharpe was accused of stabbing Andrew Drake, 29, at a home in Surfside late in the night of 13 April 2019.
After a near month-long trial in February, the 20-year-old was cleared of murdering Mr Drake, but a jury did find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Sharpe smiled and waved at his supporters as he entered the Queanbyean Supreme Court for his sentencing hearing on Wednesday (21 April).
On the night Mr Drake died, he and his sister Penny Drake went to Sharpe and his father’s shed and listened to music.
At one point Sharpe and Ms Drake went outside, until they heard raised voices coming from in the shed.
When they got inside, Mr Drake and Sharpe’s father were scuffling and attempts were made to separate the two.
What occurred next is unclear, as Ms Drake said she had a gap in her memory, but the next thing she recalled was calling triple-zero.
When NSW Police arrived they found Mr Drake with multiple stab wounds to his torso and he died at the scene.
Another of Mr Drake’s sisters, Lucy Wessell, wrote a statement detailing the impact the crime had on her and her family that was read to the court on Wednesday by her husband Luke, who at times could be seen to be visibly emotional.
“I will never forget falling to my knees as I heard for the first time that Andrew had been stabbed to death by our neighbour,” she said.
Ms Wessell described her brother as “a kind and gentle soul” and a world-travelling adventurer who made friends easily and was charismatic and funny.
“Andrew’s collection of saddles, Akubras, snowboards, guitars, harmonicas and cowboy boots are timely reminders of just how much Andrew had accomplished in his short 29 years of life,” she said.
She said it was difficult to process that Mr Drake’s best character trait is what led to him being killed, as he was eager to get to know people and excited to make connections.
“Knowing that Andrew went over to [Mr Sharpe’s father] and Daniel’s house feeling positive about getting to know them makes me feel even more saddened by the outcome of that night,” Ms Wessell said.
Penny Drake also told the court about the kind of person her brother was, saying he loved mountains, a good sunset, animals but most of all, he loved meeting new people.
“You, Daniel, were meant to be one of those people,” she told Sharpe, who was sitting in the court’s dock.
“He would have made you laugh until you cried. He would have encouraged you to be the best person you can be.”
During prosecutor Kate Ratcliffe’s submissions she told the court Sharpe’s crime was “a very serious example” of manslaughter as his extreme response to Mr Drake was “wholly disproportionate”.
She argued the number of stab wounds inflicted on Mr Drake was a “critical factor” because the persistence of the attacks – at least three that were significant along with stabs to the back and neck – demonstrated there was an intention to kill.
She said a psychologist’s report found Sharpe had a dysfunctional relationship with his father and had adopted a caring and protective role for him from a young age.
Sharpe’s lawyer Troy Anderson told the court the major issue was Sharpe had said he saw Mr Drake with a knife, and if the jury had not accepted that he would have been found guilty of murder.
Mr Anderson said his client “wasn’t looking for a fight” and had tried to help his father.
Ms Wessell also talked about the feelings she had for Sharpe, saying when she looked at the contrasts between the lives of him and her brother “it’s difficult to feel anything but a tragic combination of sorrow and pity for Daniel”.
“I also feel terribly frustrated for Daniel, knowing that with a better start to life and with more positive reinforcements and structures, there’s a chance he would not be spending what should be his best years in prison,” Ms Wessell said.
Ms Wessell finished her statement by talking about her brother’s last day, saying he spent the afternoon teaching his nephew how to swing off the rope underneath the Batemans Bay bridge, while his dog Jakey never left his side.
She said one of the last things Mr Drake ever did was bring their family together for home-cooked pizzas because he loved cooking for people and they spent the evening laughing and playing pool.
“I think that if Andrew could have thought up a perfect last day for himself, it would have been close to that,” she said.
Magistrate Geoffrey Bellew will hand down his sentence on Friday (23 April).