A lawyer representing relatives of a man who was fatally stabbed in the heart at Alva Beach, south of Townsville, has asked a coroner to disqualify herself from an inquest examining his death.
- Dean Webber was never charged over the men’s deaths because police ruled he acted in self-defence
- The investigating coroner has refused an application for her to disqualify herself from the inquest
- Mr Webber will provide written evidence
Thomas Davy, 27, and Corey Christensen, 37, both died from stab wounds in October 2018 after they broke into the home of Dean Webber.
Mr Webber, who was 19 years old at the time, had been asleep when Candice Locke, a woman known to Mr Davy and Mr Christensen, came to him seeking help shortly before midnight.
Charges were never laid against Mr Webber because police ruled he acted in self-defence.
A coronial inquest into the deaths of Mr Davy and Mr Christensen is examining why no one was ever charged, and the emergency response to the incident by both Queensland police and the Ambulance service.
On Friday, Mr Webber briefly gave evidence by phone, but declined to answer questions, on the basis the evidence might tend to incriminate him.
His lawyer argued Mr Webber should be exempt from giving evidence because he suffered severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and his condition would deteriorate if he was forced to answer questions about how Mr Davy and Mr Christensen died.
Webber ‘a truly critical witness’
Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley insisted Mr Webber give evidence, but said he could do so in writing at a later date.
The ruling prompted the lawyer representing Mr Christensen’s family, James Godbolt, to ask the coroner to disqualify herself from the case.
Mr Godbolt said the Christensen family was worried matters of grave importance had been pre-judged, particularly those surrounding how the two men died.
“It’s not suggested that there is any actual bias, what is suggested is that [there is] an apprehension,” Mr Godbolt said.
“Dean Webber is the truly critical witness that can shed light on what happened at the critical moment … that being the moment that he inflicted fatal stab wounds on Mr Christensen and Mr Davy.”
Mr Godbolt said the focus of the inquest had been largely on whether Ms Davy’s then-girlfriend, Candice Locke, had been pushed out of a buggy on the night of his death.
“So far as the Christensen family are concerned, [the matters of importance] have always been what happened at the house at the critical moment and the police investigation from which flowed the decision that no charges be laid.”
The surprising twist comes after four days of hearings in Cairns.
Coroner declines request to stand down
Coroner Bentley dismissed the application, saying she was not satisfied there were grounds for apprehension of bias.
She said the police officer who decided not to charge Mr Webber had faced extensive cross examination, with approximately six hours in the witness box.
She also said she refused an application by Mr Webber’s lawyer for him to be excused from being questioned.
“I made a ruling that he was required to give evidence,” Coroner Bentley said.
She said if she were to withdraw, it was unlikely the inquest would be rescheduled before 2022 and the witnesses would have to give evidence all over again.
“I have to take into account that if I disqualify myself at this time it would incur considerable expense to all of the parties,” Coroner Bentley said.
She said she had a duty to the state and to ensure efficiency of the courts.
Mr Webber will be required to provide written evidence early next month.