WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence.
Meth user, father and soon-to-be killer Joshua Higgins was in a bad place.
He’d just lost all of his money gambling and his mother told him not to come home.
With nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to, he messaged his friend Jae-Ho Oh, a 56-year-old divorcee, and asked to stay at his townhouse in Gungahlin.
They drank heavily together, debated random topics like whether or not autocratic leaders were better than others, and Higgins snapped a photo of his mate playing the guitar.
Late at night, Mr Oh watched the last video he’d ever see – a YouTube one in Korean on how to quit smoking.
But soon afterwards, what was first just a normal hangout between friends, descended into a night of bloodshed when Higgins stabbed Mr Oh to death in his home early in the morning of 11 March 2019.
After a 21-day trial earlier this year, a jury acquitted the now 32-year-old of the charge of murder but instead found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
On Friday (27 August), Justice John Burns told the ACT Supreme Court that jail was the only appropriate sentence for Higgins. He sentenced him to eight-and-a-half years, through to September 2027.
Justice Burns said Higgins had taken methylamphetamine before he arrived at Mr Oh’s house on 9 March 2019, then spent the next day drinking 20 to 30 standard drinks and hadn’t slept for about 60 hours before he finally went to sleep that night.
Higgins claimed he then woke up with his pants down and Mr Oh lying on top of him.
“You said that the victim admitted to touching you and that he then started yelling at you and telling you to ‘f–k off’,” Justice Burns told Higgins.
Higgins claimed Mr Oh grabbed a knife and they began wrestling. After being disarmed, Mr Oh grabbed a second knife and was disarmed again.
During the fight, Higgins used a knife to stab his friend in the back and neck, with some cuts penetrating his chest wall and lungs.
A forensic pathologist said Mr Oh suffered 34 separate injuries, including eight sharp force injuries to his face and 14 stab wounds to his body.
Justice Burns found Higgins would not have had time to come up with his version of events in the time between the fight and when police arrested him after he was seen running barefoot down the street in a bloodstained shirt and screaming for help.
“Police asked you what happened, and you said ‘[m]y friend came at me with a knife and I took it off him’.”
He said the former hospitality worker was “visibly shocked and distressed” when police told him Mr Oh was dead, which suggested he had not anticipated the stab wounds would be fatal.
Justice Burns, who disagreed with the prosecution’s claim that Higgins had been in a drug-induced psychosis, said it was not possible to say with any certainty what happened between him and his friend before the fight.
“I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities, however, that you perceived that the victim had sexually assaulted you and had attempted to kill you with a knife,” he said.
“It is highly likely that this perception was influenced by your PTSD and your heavy intoxication.
“Your attack upon the victim, however, went on for much longer than would have been reasonably necessary to defend yourself.”
He said Higgins had bashed his victim with a soundbar when he was disarmed and slumped on the floor in the lounge room.
Higgins was given a non-parole period of five years and three months, which means he is eligible to be released from custody in June 2024 after taking into account time already served.