First Nations readers are advised this article contains the name of a person who has died.
An Indigenous Australian man was murdered in broad daylight during a fight that was instigated over his killer’s mistaken belief about a stolen bag.
Kenan Dowden-Carlisle used a tactical knife to stab Jordan Powell in the heart in a Garema Place alleyway on 4 December 2021. Details of the crime were publicly released for the first time at his sentencing hearing on Tuesday (20 June).
He had been under the influence of Xanax and alcohol at the time and had mistakenly believed that Mr Powell had taken a satchel bag from him that contained some of his drugs, prosecutor Anthony Williamson SC told the ACT Supreme Court.
The pair agreed to a fight at the suggestion of Dowden-Carlisle’s friend. Mr Powell threw the first punch, hitting Dowden-Carlise in the head before the latter used a knife to inflict a single stab wound on his victim, defence barrister Kylie Weston-Scheuber said.
It was about 9:45 am and bystanders were also present in the popular Civic area. Despite their best efforts and those of emergency services, 29-year-old Mr Powell died at the scene.
Dowden-Carlisle had actually dropped his bag off at the Queanbeyan hotel where he had been living the day before, then became intoxicated and repeatedly asked people if they had seen it while he was in Canberra that night, court documents say.
“You, Kenan, are a threat to society who took away a loved father, son, brother and friend who had a caring and vibrant personality that will never be seen or heard again,” Stephanie Clarke, the mother of Mr Powell’s eldest son, wrote for Tuesday’s hearing.
Amanda Coe, Mr Powell’s eldest sister, wrote that he had come into her life when he was two years old and had a hard upbringing but was always the kindest, humblest and cheekiest child.
As she is nine years older than him, she looked after him like he was her own son and said the shock of losing him, when she had already been processing the death of a different brother, had torn her apart.
“He did not die in dignity and with any family around him; this is something I will never get over,” she said.
“God, I hate this city. It has taken two of my brothers.”
She also said whenever his youngest children mention his name, “It is like someone has ripped a knife through my chest”.
“[I] know what the trauma will do to them. It’s a life sentence for them and his family,” she said.
Ms Coe did say she was “truly grateful” to the bystanders and police officers at her brother’s murder for helping him in the last moments of his life and making it so he did not die alone.
Dowden-Carlisle wrote a letter to the Powell family in which he told them that he had grown up without a father himself and felt horrible he had caused Mr Powell’s children to live without theirs.
“I wish I could change it,” the 20-year-old said.
“I feel horrible for what I have done and I will never forget what I have done.”
Mr Williamson said Mr Powell had been unarmed, and while he anticipated a fistfight, he did not know he might be stabbed. Dowden-Carlisle had pulled out the knife and used it in one instant.
“We say that the offending was cowardly,” Mr Williamson said.
He also said that since being arrested for the murder, Dowden-Carlisle had been a poorly behaved prisoner in jail and had been found with shivs in his cell twice, including as recently as March 2023.
The first time he was disciplined in jail was when “gaol brew” was found in his cell, a court report says.
Dr Weston-Scheuber argued her client hadn’t gone to Civic with a knife, as someone had given it to him earlier that night, and he hadn’t intended to kill Mr Powell.
“It’s a spontaneous fight when, basically, two relatively young men are fighting it out in an alleyway,” she said.
She said her client did have the benefit of being adopted into a very supportive family, with two mothers who continued to love and support him, but he’d had a troubled experienced of life when he was a child.
Dr Weston-Scheuber also argued he had good prospects of rehabilitation, and if he received proper guidance and supervision, then he would go on to be a worthwhile and contributing member of society. He wanted to work in real estate or property development, she said.
Dowden-Carlisle has pleaded guilty to murder. Acting Justice Stephen Norrish will sentence him on 7 July.