The young man who stabbed a loving family man to death in Batemans Bay, wounding him 11 times, including in the heart, could be released from jail in less than five years.
Daniel James Sharpe killed Andrew Drake in Surfside two years ago. After a near month-long trial in February, Sharpe was cleared of murdering the 29-year-old, but a jury did find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Justice Geoffrey Bellew sentenced the now 20-year-old in the Queanbeyan Supreme Court on Friday (23 April), saying at the end of the trial the jury had found Sharpe had stabbed Mr Drake because he thought he had to defend himself or his father, but did so with excessive force.
He said on 13 April 2019, the 18-year-old Sharpe and his father were at home in Surfside, drinking and listening to music, when their neighbours’ children, Mr Drake and Penny Drake, climbed over the back fence using a ladder and joined them in a shed.
While they started off talking, tension developed between Sharpe and his father and Sharpe left the shed, followed by Ms Drake who tried to placate him.
When they were outside, they heard raised voices coming from within and went back into the shed to find Sharpe’s father and Mr Drake in a physical altercation, which they tried to break up without success.
Justice Bellew said Ms Drake had a gap in her recollection from this stage, so Sharpe had provided the only complete account of what happened next.
Sharpe said he saw Mr Drake produce a knife and used it to cut his father’s hand, so he pushed Mr Drake away.
He said after Mr Drake tried to attack him with the knife, he forced Mr Drake to drop it, then grabbed the weapon and stabbed him in the stomach.
They left the shed, continuing their struggle outside where Sharpe said he stabbed him about six or seven times, more than when they were inside, before Mr Drake collapsed onto the grass.
Sharpe told police Mr Drake was a “guy that attacked my dad”. He would later say he had never been as scared as he had been during the fight.
“I was terrified. I feared for my life and my father’s life at that time,” he said.
An autopsy found Sharpe had stabbed Mr Drake 11 times, including a likely lethal stab to his heart.
The coroner concluded his cause of death was stab wounds to his chest and abdomen.
Justice Bellew said prosecutor Kate Ratcliffe had argued Sharpe’s first use of a knife to respond to Mr Drake during their fight was extreme, and the excessive nature of his response increased with each wound he dealt.
But Sharpe’s lawyer Troy Anderson had argued Sharpe had not introduced the knife into the fight, his actions were “spontaneous”, and he thought he had to act to save his own life.
A psychologist said Sharpe was an only child whose parents had separated due to his father’s alcohol use, and he was a man who drank most days and often passed out.
While Sharpe was “fiercely protective” of his father, the psychologist suggested any ongoing connection between them was not in his best interests and said he was at risk of resuming a carer role for his parent.
During Sharpe’s trial, he did apologise to Mr Drake’s family for their loss, but he did tell the psychologist he did not feel like he was acting excessively when he stabbed Mr Drake.
“I have no doubt he regrets what occurred, but regret is not equated with remorse,” Justice Bellew said.
Justice Bellew said in April last year the prosecution had rejected Sharpe’s offer to plead guilty to manslaughter, but as he made the offer, he was entitled to a 25 per cent discount on his sentence.
He sentenced him to seven years and six months’ jail, with a non-parole period of four years and nine months, which means he is eligible for release in October 2024.
Sharpe has already spent 469 days behind bars for this incident.
After the sentencing was complete, Mr Drake’s sister Lucy Wessell told Region Media the sentence and what happened to Sharpe next was “inconsequential”.
“What is truly devastating about today’s sentencing is that Daniel’s version of events were accepted and that my brother’s reputation is now marred by an account that we believe to be unequivocally false,” she said.
“In fact, Daniel’s version of events completely contradicts the expert testimony, the crime scene evidence and the forensic evidence.
“My poor brother. How could this all go so terribly wrong? For him, and for us.”