Cricket bat killing: John Collins changing story to ‘fit the law’, Crown says

A man who bludgeoned his friend to death with a cricket bat is not only a murderer but a liar, the Crown says.

But John Kenneth Collins’ counsel, Len Andersen QC, said his client killed 45-year-old Brent Andrew Bacon “in the heat of the moment” and, critically, only because he feared for his life.

The victim died on February 4, 2019, at a state housing unit in Lock St, St Clair, but the crime scene was only discovered two weeks later, shortly before the corpse was found hidden in a rural location 35km away.

Collins said Bacon had become increasingly paranoid on the night in question, worried about a $500 drug debt, compounded by excessive cannabis use.

It led to a verbal spat, which quickly turned physical, the defendant said.

Giving evidence last week, Collins told the jury Bacon came at him brandishing a pair of scissors and he grabbed a cricket bat in response.

His intended warning blow connected with the victim’s head and he followed it up with at least two more blows, Collins said.

Andersen said the first strike knocked Bacon to his hands and knees and the second, which caused massive damage to the man’s skull, was only inflicted because of an explicit threat to kill the defendant.

Collins and his partner, 32-year-old Aleisha Dawson, then concealed the body in a sleeping bag, loaded it into Bacon’s own Toyota van and dumped it before they fled to Rotorua.

Collins said they all used methamphetamine on his birthday, two days earlier.

While Crown prosecutor Richard Smith urged the jury not to be prejudiced by the drug use, Andersen said it was important background.

Bacon had been described by his family as “a nightmare” and the defence highlighted testimony that depicted the man as violent and unpredictable while under the influence.

“[He has] got two personalities and we can’t pretend it was normal Brent who was there that night when the evidence is it was druggie Brent,” Andersen said.

While Collins said he delivered three or four blows with the bat before it snapped in two, the prosecution highlighted the evidence of pathologist Dr Charles Glenn.

The witness spoke about a large void in the left side of Bacon’s skull, the result of “tremendous force”, comparable to victims of gunshot wounds or plane crashes. It was consistent with “many many blows”, possibly dozens, Dr Glenn said.

Smith said the evidence suggested Bacon had been lying on his left side, incapacitated, with his head against the floor, while Collins was “standing above him raining blows down on his head like he’s chopping wood”.

He was critical of Collins’ claims of self-defence.

“The force used must be reasonable in the circumstances,” Smith said.

Collins gave a police interview on February 20, 2019 which departed significantly from the account he gave in court.

He put it down to being on a methamphetamine binge at the time and forgetting details.

Smith said the changes to the defendant’s story were “quite extraordinary”.

“It’s simply not plausible or believable that being questioned for murder, a really serious situation to find oneself in, that he would forget important details of the incident … forgot the very reason he claims he had to act in self-defence,” he said.

“The Crown says Mr Collins has told so many lies and been so inconsistent you can totally reject his evidence … He’s trying to change his case to fit the law and the evidence.”

On the cricket bat was a bloody thumbprint from Bacon. The victim had broken bones in his hand.

The conclusion should be obvious, Smith said.

“It wasn’t Mr Collins trying to defend himself, it was Mr Bacon,” he told the jury of six men and six women.

Justice Jan-Marie Doogue will sum up the case this morning before the jury considers its verdict.

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