A man found dead in a quiet street in a small country town in central Victoria was a 'loyal and genuine guy' who loved to catch up with friends at the local pub and will be remembered as the kind of person who 'would help anyone'.
Two teenage boys have today faced court, charged with murder of 45-year-old John Bourke.
During the brief hearing, the court was told the boys cannot be held in custody for more than 21 days without a special hearing in court extending their remand.
A magistrate had originally planned to remand the boys in custody until November, but they will now be required to return to court in August.
The two boys, aged 17 and 15, sat silently – one with his head in his hands – as they appeared by video link during the hearing on Monday afternoon.
Neither applied for bail, and neither had custody management issues apart from their young age.
Mr Bourke's body was discovered at a property on Derby Road in Maryborough, north-west of Melbourne, at 12.30pm on Sunday.
His death was deemed suspicious several hours later.
''John was a very much loved son brother, uncle and friend. He enjoyed catching up with his mates at the pub and would help anyone. He was loyal caring and a genuine guy,'' a friend said in a statement on behalf of his family.
When Mr Bourke walked into the town's Park Hotel with the aid of his crutches or rode his mobility scooter, he was among the closest of friends.
For a tiny man, they said, he had the biggest of hearts. He had suffered more than 200 broken bones in his lifetime due to his disability.
Mr Bourke would watch on as his VB was poured into a fresh glass before settling in for a laugh with friends who were in awe of his strength and resilience.
They called him Little Little John, they said, because John and Little John had already been taken.
At home, he kept to himself, a private man with a love of cars and Richmond footy club.
On Sunday morning his body was found on the lounge room floor at the rear of his weatherboard home on the outskirts of Maryborough. The front door had apparently been smashed in and left hanging open.
The porch light was on and the front door remained wide open on Monday, with all the curtains in the house drawn.
A neighbour who asked not to be named made the heartbreaking discovery after first noticing the door wide open at 10.30am and still at midday.
What confronted him inside will never leave his mind.
“You could see he was gone. I called 000 and told them to get the police,” he said.
“In summer time I sleep with my front door open, my back door open, because it’s safe here. I go down the road for an hour or two at a time and don’t lock my door.
“Now, that will change.”
At 1pm on Monday about a kilometre away, his friends raised a toast at his favourite pub.
Jules Irwin said Mr Bourke was like family and always the life of the party at any of the town’s shindigs.
“He was just a loveable person and he was loved by every single person in this hotel,” she said.
Pub owner Lachy Neale said Mr Bourke’s death would leave an irreparable hole in the fabric of the close-knit community.
“He was a champion of a bloke, Little Little John,” he said. “He was the heart of this pub.”
Forensic investigators with cameras and torches spent much of Monday examining the Derby Road crime scene.
It is thought the house may have also been ransacked.
Another friend described Mr Bourke as ''a harmless, defenceless little man with a huge heart and personality'.
''I affectionately called him 'Dickie Knee'. We had a lot of laughs over drinks at our local,'' she said. ''Park Hotel will never be the same. ''He will be missed greatly.''
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.