9 May 2022

Murder trial hears Peter Keeley was bashed, tied up before body found in bush

| Albert McKnight
Peter Keeley

Canberra’s Peter Keeley, 56, was found dead at Broulee on 2 February 2020. Photo: NSW Police.

The murder trial over the death of Peter Keeley has heard two of the teenage boys charged allegedly planned to intimidate him because they were under the unsubstantiated belief that he was a paedophile.

The 56-year-old Canberra real estate agent’s body was found in bush near the NSW South Coast town of Broulee on 2 February 2020.

In body-worn camera footage shown to the NSW Supreme Court trial on Monday (9 May), the first co-accused teenager was seen lying in bed when police entered his room on 13 February 2020 and told him he would be arrested for murder, while a woman exclaimed “oh my God” in the background.

The 17-year-old broke down in tears when he was taken into a living room and was hugged by a man.

“I’m so sorry, Dad,” he sobbed.

The second 17-year-old was arrested the same day, telling police he “didn’t do anything”.

“In all truth, I knew it was going to happen. I didn’t know he was going to kill him, though. I think that was an accident,” he alleged.

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In another interview recorded shortly after his arrest, this teen said he thought Mr Keeley had been a paedophile, but under questioning from police admitted that was “just word of mouth” with no “concrete evidence”.

“[The first teen] just mentioned that he was going to meet him and he wanted to intimidate him, scare him because we were under the impression that he was a paedophile,” he alleged.

He also alleged Mr Keeley was going to meet up with the first teen to have sex, despite the teen being “underage”.

Police told him Mr Keeley had been bashed, with bruising and marks on his face, and had his hands and legs taped up. Tape was also around the back of his head but was cut over the mouth.

This boy changed parts of his account during his interview and a police officer told him his story was “not credible”.

However, the teen finished by saying he agreed to be part of a plan to “support” the first teen, “in case something went wrong”, and said he touched Mr Keeley to roll him onto his side.

“I just thought he was going to bash him and intimidate him and that was going to be it, but obviously it went wrong,” he said.

“It wasn’t because he was gay or anything like that.”

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In another video, police drove the route they believe Mr Keeley took through the streets of Broulee that afternoon.

His car apparently passed along narrow streets and a tennis court, where he had discussed meeting the first teen after chatting with him on the dating app Grindr, then travelled down a long dirt track through the bush before coming out in the wider space of a powerline easement to the south-west of Broulee and parking in the shade.

Also, a video showed a detective walking the route police believe the second teen took due to step count data taken from his mobile phone.

The detective walked to where Mr Keeley’s Honda Jazz had been parked and said at the front of his vehicle it had been “apparent an altercation took place in the sand”, then gestured to where his body had been found nearby in bushland just off the easement.

The person who discovered Mr Keeley’s body and called Triple Zero took a video, screened to the court, that showed him lying on his side in the bush near his car, dressed in blue.

The two teenagers currently on trial deny murdering Mr Keeley but do admit assaulting him, and in Crown Prosecutor Nerissa Keay’s opening submissions, she alleged he died due to an assault by the three co-accused.

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Barrister Clive Steirn SC, representing the first teen, said the background facts were not in dispute, but the issue was the cause of death.

He said the Crown relied on one expert who conducted an autopsy and claimed the cause of death was craniofacial trauma, but he argued this expert’s opinion was “not soundly based, and the court will reject it”.

Mr Steirn said the defence relied on an opinion from Professor Duflou, who said the cause of death could be the result of methylamphetamine toxicity.

When pleading guilty to an aggravated kidnapping charge, the two teenagers on trial, who are legally unable to be named, admitted they detained and assaulted Mr Keeley. However, they pleaded not guilty to murdering him.

The judge-alone trial is expected to continue before Justice Michael Walton until next week. A third teen alleged to be involved in the incident is not part of this trial.

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