A magistrate has committed a man to stand trial for a Bendigo man’s murder but granted him bail, citing her belief he has a “reasonable prospect” of being acquitted of the crime.
Jarrod Frank, 41, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court to the January 3 murder of Scott Bury.
In making the bail application, Mr Frank’s defence counsel David Gibson argued the Crown’s case against his client was weak and it would be “very difficult” for a jury to exclude beyond reasonable doubt the prospect of self-defence.
Mr Gibson cited the evidence of Mr Frank’s acquaintance, who said Mr Bury made an aggressive attack on Mr Frank, two other witnesses who said Mr Bury had acted aggressively towards them, and CCTV footage.
He also said blood spatter evidence presented by an expert witness on Wednesday did not contradict Mr Frank’s version of events.
He submitted Mr Frank had no relevant prior convictions, would stay with his mother, and had appointments with drug counsellors arranged.
The trial was likely to be delayed to next October, Mr Gibson said, and Mr Frank would have been in custody for almost two years by that time if he were not granted bail.
The Crown opposed bail, with prosecutor Matt Fisher arguing Mr Frank was not an unacceptable risk, but his situation did not meet the standard of exceptional circumstances.
Mr Fisher refuted the assertion the Crown’s case was weak, and said the time until trial was not an inordinate delay.
While Magistrate Megan Aumair agreed it was not an excessive delay, she said blood spatter evidence and witness evidence made the Crown’s task of proving Mr Frank did not act in self-defence more difficult.
Ms Aumair said she was “not satisfied there is a strong Crown case” and Mr Frank had a “reasonable prospect” of acquittal, and this, with the expected length of detention before trial, justified bail.
Wednesday was the final day of a two-day committal hearing.
A neighbour and nurse who cared for Mr Bury until emergency services arrived said the man was afraid for the safety of his daughter after he was injured.
“He was scared, he kept saying the person was going to come back and raid his house and hurt his daughter,” Sarah Jenkins told the court.
Ms Jenkins said he did not name names, but assumed he was talking about the person who had inflicted injuries on him.
The court heard blood trails showed Mr Bury had walked through the unit, in his garage, around the car outside, down a driveway and on a footpath between his property and the next-door neighbour’s, but Victoria Police forensic biologist Samantha Logan said it was not possible to determine his direction of travel.
The court heard Mr Frank’s version of events put Mr Bury outside his King Street unit when he suffered his injuries.
Ms Logan said multiple drip trails suggested “a lot more movement” in the garage, the kitchen area of the unit and the driveway, but there was only one drip trail between Mr Bury’s property and next door.
A V/Line services officer told the court he saw a man with a determined expression walk along the tracks and onto the platform at Bendigo railway station on January 3.
Matthew Wynne said the man went across the tracks, onto the platform and out to the front of the station, before he returned a couple of minutes later and went towards the toilets.
The man then came out, he said, and walked back out of the station.
“I thought I saw blood on one of his hands, but nowhere else,” Mr Wynne said, later adding it was a small amount of blood.
Mr Frank will appear in the Supreme Court on Friday for a directions hearing.
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