A teenager involved in an assault that led to the death of much-loved Maryborough man John Bourke has admitted to two offences arising from the events of July 2018.
The 19-year-old, who was 17 at the time of the attack, pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to recklessly causing serious injury and home invasion.
The court heard on Friday that the boy and a then-15-year-old friend attended a party at a home near Mr Bourke's Derby Road home on the evening of July 14, 2018, where they drank alcohol.
Late that evening or early the next morning, the two boys left the party and went to Mr Bourke's home, where the 15-year-old tried to kick in the back door before breaking in the front door.
Read more: Man's body discovered in Maryborough home
Mr Bourke went to the door and was assaulted by the younger boy.
The older boy punched him to the head and he fell to the floor, inside the entrance to his home.
The older boy then entered the house and punched the 45-year-old again to the head and stomped on his legs, causing his femur to break.
The younger boy continued to attack Mr Bourke, kicking, punching and stomping on him, even after his older friend tried to stop him.
The court heard Mr Bourke was killed as a result of the conduct that continued after the now-19-year-old tried to put an end to the attack, and the fatal injuries were inflicted by the younger boy.
Mr Bourke had a severe form of osteogenesis imperfecta, or 'brittle bone disease', a condition that left him vulnerable to fractures - over the course of his life, he suffered about 400 broken bones, had to walk with crutches and used a mobility scooter.
More court news: 'Dreadful': Man drove at fuel tanker and woman, court hears
After his arrest on July 15, 2018, the older boy admitted to police that he and his friend had attended Mr Bourke's home and he had punched him in the head and stomped on his legs.
He told police: "I didn't really want to f**kin' hurt his head that much. I didn't want to f**kin' kill him".
The court heard a close friend of the younger of the boys had confided that a man - who lived near to Mr Bourke - had sexually assaulted her.
The older boy told police his friend was "going off his head" and talking about a "paedophile" on the night of the attack, and that was why they had left the party.
When the younger boy pointed out the home of his intended target the following day, the older boy told police, he said that was not the house they had gone to the night before.
The boys did not know Mr Bourke.
A jury found the 15-year-old guilty of murder following a trial earlier this year, but acquitted the older boy of the charge.
The 19-year-old was then due to face trial for manslaughter, but negotiations between the prosecution and defence saw the matter resolving in a guilty plea to recklessly causing serious injury and home invasion, on the basis of entering the house and inflicting the fractured femur.
'A life sentence of grief and loss'
Members of Mr Bourke's family made victim impact statements to the court on Friday, describing the pain they continued to suffer in the wake of his assault and death.
The court heard Mr Bourke was a man who showered loved ones with messages and phone calls on their birthdays, loved Richmond Football Club, and enjoyed celebrating Christmas with "a bottle of Drambuie and a chat".
"John and I had a special bond. He was my little brother," his sister, Antoinette Blake, told the court.
She said Mr Bourke's friends in Maryborough were a huge part of his life, and made his time in the town meaningful and enjoyable.
Mr Bourke was, she said, a kind, loving, genuine and happy person.
"He endured so much pain but he rarely complained. He was worried about everybody else. He didn't want anyone to worry about him," Ms Blake said.
She said her brother's death had robbed those who loved him of special moments.
"On 15 July 2018, John received a death sentence. We received a life sentence of grief and loss," Ms Blake said.
Mr Bourke's niece, Ashlee Kalco, described her uncle as her "biggest supporter".
"He was so excited to be a great uncle but he never got to meet my child," she wrote in her statement.
Mr Bourke's brother, Patrick Bourke, wrote about how he would call John to talk in the middle of the night when he needed support, but when he tried to let his brother go back to sleep, John would tell him he wasn't finished talking yet.
"We'd both laugh and continue talking, but that's not why John wouldn't let me hang up. He just wanted to make sure, in his own mind, that I was all right," Mr Bourke wrote.
His brother's death left John's nieces and nephew without an uncle who "lived and breathed" for them, Mr Bourke said, and the confidante with whom they could talk about anything.
Mr Bourke's father, Peter Bourke, spoke of how his life was empty in the wake of his son's brutal death.
He said he and John shared numerous interests, but he had lost the enjoyment he once took in these.
"No matter how hard I try I cannot understand how two so-called human beings could treat another human being, especially a defenceless person like John, in such a sadistic manner," Mr Bourke said.
Mr Bourke described John as someone who was held in high esteem.
"I don't know why John died, but I know how and why he lived. He was an inspiration to many. He endured a life of great pain yet he never complained," Mr Bourke said.
Detention sentence in range, lawyers submit
Prosecutor Grant Hayward submitted to the court that the 19-year-old offender's culpability was high.
"This was a vigilante attack committed in company against one person, alone in their home at night, and [the offender] admitted the deceased was on a crutch... It would have been plain to [the offender] that Mr Bourke posed no threat whatsoever," Mr Hayward said.
He said the young man's prospects of rehabilitation were fair, especially given his youth, lack of relevant prior offences and some steps he had taken on bail, but submitted his chances were tied to his ability to avoid excessive alcohol consumption, illicit drugs and negative peer influences.
Mr Hayward said a sentence of detention in a youth justice centre would meet sentencing needs.
Defence counsel Jarrod Williams said his client, through his pleas of guilty, acknowledged the tragic and pointless loss of Mr Bourke and his role in causing that.
References provided to the court in support of the 19-year-old spoke of how he was "extremely remorseful" and "devastated" by what had occurred and the impact on Mr Bourke's family.
The teenager had completed his VCAL and other educational courses while in custody, Mr Williams said, and was an active member of the youth leadership council at the youth justice centre.
He said his client's moral culpability was reduced due to him being a child at the time of the offending, and delay in reaching a resolution was also a factor that needed to be taken into consideration.
The 19-year-old pleaded guilty and was cooperative with police, Mr Williams said, making admissions to his role in the assault.
He said the plea ought to be considered as having been made early, and it saved Mr Bourke's family another trial.
Mr Williams submitted detention in a youth justice centre was within range, but the time his client had already spent in custody - 698 days as of Friday - could be a sufficient sentence.
The offender will be sentenced later this year.
The teenager found guilty of murder is also awaiting sentence.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.