Three men have been jailed for the manslaughter of Gold Coast drug dealer Shaun Barker.
Three men have been jailed for the manslaughter of Gold Coast drug dealer Shaun Barker.

Bay couple jailed over ‘inhumane’ Esky death

THE last days of Shaun Barker’s life were marred with violence and deprivation at the hands of three men who have been jailed for his manslaughter.

Stephen John Armitage, 50, his son Matthew Leslie Armitage, 27, and William Francis Dean, 43, used “inhumane” conditions and violence to extract information from the Gold Coast dealer about an $80,000 drug debt in 2013.

At Brisbane Supreme Court yesterday, Dean, of Toowoomba, and Stephen Armitage were sentenced to 10 years’ jail, while Matthew Armitage was jailed for eight years for his role in Mr Barker’s death.

Stephen Armitage was jailed for 10 years. Picture: Patrick Woods / The Gympie Times
Stephen Armitage was jailed for 10 years. Picture: Patrick Woods / The Gympie Times

The trio were originally sentenced in 2018 to life in jail for Mr Barker’s murder – but the Queensland Court of Appeal downgraded the murder conviction to manslaughter and dropped the torture charges.

They did not appeal their convictions for interfering with a corpse.

During the men’s two-day sentence at Brisbane Supreme Court, Justice David Jackson recounted how Dean kidnapped Mr Barker from a Gold Coast service station with two other men before assaulting him.

Matthew Leslie Armitage was jailed for eight years.
Matthew Leslie Armitage was jailed for eight years.

Dean then drove Mr Barker to Mr Armitage’s Cooloola Cove house where the three men kept him locked in a fishing Esky.

Witnesses recounted how Mr Barker was deprived of food, fed drug-laced water and was tied to a tree with honey on his genitals to attract ants.

While the cause of Mr Barker’s death is still unknown, his burnt remains were found months later in Toolara State Forest near Tin Can Bay.

Crown prosecutor Danny Boyle said all three had shown a “complete absence of remorse”.

“Mr Barker was made to suffer physically and mentally over a protracted period in order to create a fear in him such that he may be able to provide information that they sought,” Mr Boyle said.

Defence barrister Andrew Hoare argued that Dean was not present when Mr Barker died and had apologised to him during the ordeal telling him “sorry mate”.

He argued that the motivation for the assault was not revenge-driven and it was in all of the men’s interest to keep Mr Barker alive.

The court was also told how Dean – who weighed 220kg – had been a successful fisherman until he began to take drugs to cope with his weight issues.

Defence barrister Joshua Fenton said Stephen Armitage’s life had also “descended into chaos” after he began self-medicating with ice after a back injury.

Matthew Armitage’s defence barrister Jacob Robson said his client had a close relationship with his father all of his life and worked with him as a fisherman.

Mr Robson argued that his client was only 21 at the time of Mr Barker’s death and was “at the very periphery of the plan that was reached between the three offenders”.

While Justice Jackson said the exact cause of Mr Barker’s death was not known, he was undoubtedly subjected to “inhumane conditions” and “serious violence”.

Justice Jackson said his death was likely not the result of a single act of violence but a “protracted mistreatment”.

As violent offenders, all three men must serve at least 80 per cent of their sentences behind bars. – NewsRegional



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