3 June 2022

Teen found not guilty of murdering 18-year-old at Weston Creek skatepark

| Albert McKnight
The scene of the police investigation at the skatepark at Weston

Police investigating the stabbings at the Weston Creek skatepark in September 2020. Photo: Michael Weaver.

A jury has acquitted a 17-year-old boy of murdering an 18-year-old man during a fight at the Weston Creek skatepark in 2020.

The 12 jurors took two days to reach their conclusion, beginning their deliberations on Wednesday (1 June) before returning to the ACT Supreme Court on Friday (3 June) and delivering their verdict of not guilty to murder.

The accused was 15 years old when he and 11 others converged on the skatepark in three cars in the early hours of 27 September 2020 after an argument began between two of their number over Snapchat, which escalated into an agreement to meet for a fist fight.

During the brawl that followed, the accused stabbed a 16-year-old in the back, pleading guilty to committing that particular attack, but he denied stabbing the 18-year-old, who died from rapid blood loss after receiving five stab wounds.

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A forensic pathologist said two of the stabs were 12 cm deep, including a stab to the heart, and the same knife could have caused the wounds to both victims.

Numerous non-publication orders were made for the trial, prohibiting the release of the names of the 18-year-old and the three other adults who went to the skatepark, as well as the details of the Snapchat argument and the contents of a video one of the adults filmed which the accused’s barrister described as “frankly just horrifying”.

The accused and other young witnesses also could not be named as they were under 18 at the time of the fight.

The 16-year-old was stabbed soon after he was pulled from the passenger’s side of the Toyota 86, while one of the three adults pulled the 18-year-old driver out of the same car and assaulted him with the two other men as well.

In Crown Prosecutor Rebecca Christensen SC’s closing submissions, she said a boy then produced a machete, then there was a pause in the melee while the three adults went to get gardening tools from the Triton ute they arrived in and used the tools to smash the Toyota.

Ms Christensen alleged between when the 16-year-old was stabbed and the adults went to get the tools, “that’s the opportunity that [the accused] has to stab [the 18-year-old]”.

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The accused claimed he found a knife on the ground in front of the Toyota during the fight before using it to stab the 16-year-old, and he put it in his pants when he left the scene.

Ms Christensen said blood from the 18-year-old and his 16-year-old cousin was found on the inside of the accused’s pants, and the marks left behind were consistent with the accused putting the knife in his pants twice.

However, barrister David Barrow, representing the accused, said there were far more of the 16-year-old’s bloodstains than the 18-year-old’s and the theory was an “untested idea”.

He suggested one “out of control” adult could be the real murderer, partly as it was likely this man’s DNA was found near a cut at the back of the 18-year-old’s jacket, which was damaged from where he had been stabbed below his right shoulder.

This man’s DNA was also on the bonnet of the Toyota and Mr Barrow said nothing in the adult’s testimony explained either of these forensic matters.

He also alleged that after the fight, one of the adults and the driver of the Triton lied to the accused about who was dead to try to get him to think he was responsible.

“They lied to protect each other,” he alleged.

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After the jurors delivered their verdict, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum thanked them for their commitment to the trial, telling them their concentration was “second to none”.

“The community owes you its thanks,” she told them.

“It’s been a very difficult trial for everybody involved.”

She said the accused had to be sentenced for stabbing the 16-year-old as he pleaded guilty to a charge of recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm over that attack. That case has been adjourned to a date in July.

After she left the bench, the accused’s family hugged each other.

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