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News: World

Thu 23 Jun, 2011
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Johnstone told police he kicked and punched Mr Higgins before dropping the platypus statue on him

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Australian man found guilty for killing gay flatmate

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A Melbourne man who dropped an 8kg concrete platypus on his gay housemate as he beat him to death has been found guilty for a second time of murder.

Aaron James Johnstone, 29, "lost it" after his drunk and naked housemate Phillip Higgins, 46, propositioned him in September 2006.

Johnstone told police he kicked and punched Mr Higgins before dropping the platypus statue on him.

He also bashed the slightly built disability pensioner with an office chair.

Johnstone had pleaded not guilty to murder in the Victorian Supreme Court but a jury took less than a day to find him guilty.
It is the second time he has been convicted of murdering Mr Higgins.

In 2008, Johnstone was jailed 18 years with a minimum of 14 for the murder.

In March, the Victorian Court of Appeal ordered a retrial after it found errors in directions given to the jury.

As the jury foreman announced the latest verdict, Johnstone closed his eyes and shook his head slightly.

Mr Higgins, who was openly gay, was found lying dead on the floor of their Seaford home with a pair of underpants beside him.
He had a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.32 and 0.37 per cent when he died.

The jury heard Mr Higgins' sexual preference was well known to Johnstone, who had been his friend for years and had been propositioned by him in the past.

In his opening address to the jury, prosecutor Mark Rochford, SC, said Johnstone carried out a sustained attack on Mr Higgins.
Mr Higgins suffered injuries including a fractured bone in the neck and cuts and bruises to the head, he said.

Mr Rochford said in Johnstone's record of interview he told police Mr Higgins had come out of the bedroom and said he would like to have oral sex with him.

At that point Johnstone told police he "lost it", hitting and kicking Mr Higgins.

He said he then dropped the statue on Mr Higgins.

Johnstone's barrister, John Desmond, said in his opening address that although he did not dispute his client's actions caused the death of Mr Higgins, he did not intend to kill him.
Johnstone will face a pre-sentence hearing before Justice Robert Osborn next Tuesday.

Source: AAP


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