The ABC ( Australian Broadcasting Corp) reports
One of the men accused of murdering an Albanian refugee to steal his cannabis crop was taped on a phone call telling a co-accused that police suspected the killing was bikie-related, a South Australian Supreme Court jury has been told.
- Four men are accused of murdering Urim Gjabri
- The prosecution says the victim was growing cannabis at an Adelaide house
- They say the accused men stole the plants
Benjamin John Mitchell, 33, Alfred Claude Rigney, 44, Matt Bernard Tenhoopen, 25 and Aaron Donald Carver, 37, have pleaded not guilty to murdering Albanian refugee Urim Gjabri at his Para Vista home in October 2018.
Prosecutor Robert Walker today opened his case, telling jurors that the victim was found with his “skull caved in” and his cannabis crop had been “stripped bare”.
“The prosecution case is that Mr Gjabri was growing cannabis hydroponically at Para Vista. He was raided late at night and robbed of his cannabis,” he said.
Mr Walker said residents living on a nearby street at Ingle Farm heard a group of men with loud voices moving large garbage bags from one car to two others on October 9, 2018.
Mr Walker said the prosecution would argue that the men were transferring bags of stolen cannabis into different cars before heading to Murray Bridge.
The court heard that DNA linked three of the accused to different parts of the crime scene, and CCTV from neighbouring houses showed multiple men approaching the victim’s house.
Phone calls ‘connect men with death’
Mr Walker said Mr Mitchell, Mr Tenhoopen and Mr Rigney drove to Queensland shortly after the alleged murder.
“Mr Carver made phone calls after Mr Gjabri’s death on October 17 to an associate named Matty asking: ‘Have you heard anything new about that shit?'” he told jurors.
“Mr Carver said, ‘Ah yeah, they’re looking.’ Matty asks, ‘Was the c*** still kicking?’
“And Mr Carver said ‘nup’. Matty asked, ‘Dead?’ Mr Carver said, ‘Yep.’
“In a phone call the following day, Mr Carver spoke to a man named Peter and they talked about the fact that Mr Carver was in Queensland, and whom Mr Carver was with.
“Peter said, ‘I’ve been doing some research and they reckon it’s bikie-related. They reckon it’s bikie-related unless you took saplings and little seedlings, I don’t think it’s you?'”
Mr Walker said Peter asked Mr Carver whether any seedlings were taken, to which he replied: “Nah.”
He said Mr Carver told Peter that “the seedlings were left there”.
“Members of the jury, you will hear some evidence that there were immature cannabis plants left growing hydroponically,” Mr Walker told the jurors.
“The reference to police thinking bikies were responsible for Mr Gjabri’s murder seems to have made an impression more generally, however, because later that day Mr Carver, and on the prosecution case, Mr Rigney, spoke on the phone.
“In that call, Mr Carver said to Mr Rigney, ‘I won’t say anything bad, you know,’ and Mr Rigney replied, ‘Yeah, nah, it’s all good anyway, they’re thinking it’s bikies. They think it’s bikies.’
“Mr Carver said, ‘Yeah that’s good, you know, don’t say no more.'”
Video ‘shows man’s hand stripping cannabis plants’
The court also heard Mr Tenhoopen’s girlfriend filmed a video of cannabis plants being stripped of leaves, and the accused’s “distinctive” hand tattoo could be seen in the footage.
Mr Walker told the jury that the cannabis in the video had the same electrical tape on it as the crop that had been stolen from Mr Gjabri.
The trial — before a jury of 14 — is set down for six weeks.