Gold Coast murder victim Shaun Barker.
Gold Coast murder victim Shaun Barker. Photo Contributed

Witness: They asked me to 'babysit' esky murder victim

A KEY witness in the murder trial of three Cooloola Coast fishermen was a long-time commercial rival of one of the accused and suspected him of sleeping with his ex-lover.

The revelation came during day three of the trial against commercial fisherman Stephen "Snoopy" Armitage, his son Matthew Leslie Armitage and their friend William Francis Dean who are accused of torturing Gold Coast man Shaun Barker and keeping him in an esky before burning and dumping his body.

Tin Can Bay fisherman Matthew Paul Dean, 39 claims he was asked to "babysit" the trio's alleged victim who was said to be "tied up in the forestry" with smashed knee caps and a missing finger in December, 2013.

In a fiery exchange with Stephen Armitage's barrister late Thursday, Mr Dean was forced to admit he and "Snoopy" had been at war over the same fishing zone patch near Double Island Point for decades and had had a "falling out" not long before Mr Barker was allegedly killed.

Mr Dean, who is not related to the accused William Dean, claimed he had been repeatedly "ripped off" by Mr Armitage who he accused of failing to hold up his end of a deal in which one boat was sent to Noosa and the other to Double Island Point and the fishermen had agreed to "split" their catch.

He also conceded he believed Mr Armitage was, at the time, having a sexual relationship with his former partner.

But he rejected the suggestion his evidence was motivated by any feelings of animosity he had towards Mr Armitage.

"We've fought over fish our whole lives, mate," Mr Dean said

"It's just the way he is."

Mr Dean, who despite the falling out was still sourcing drugs from his alleged rival, previously told the court that just before the Christmas holidays in 2013, he went to the Armitage family home at Investigator Dr, Cooloola Cove, to pick up some car parts.

Once there, he claims "Billy" Dean asked if he "wanted to babysit someone" who had allegedly been brutally beaten by the men because "they needed him to talk".

"He (William Dean) said 'You won't believe how big a punishment this bloke has taken'," Mr Dean said

"I thought it was a joke. I sort of laughed at him. I said 'Stuff that'."

Mr Dean said he was then asked to clean the "piss and sh*t off the back seat the bloke had left there" and told the men were going back out to the forestry to "put him in the esky".

A few months later, a conversation with a pub owner prompted Mr Dean to call Stephen Armitage and warn "stay away from the forestry, the police are around a body out there".

He told the court that the morning after his phone call, Mr Armitage and his son Matthew started "banging on the door" at his home at 5am.

"They said 'The bloke in the forestry is still alive and never to talk about it again'," Mr Dean said

"They were yellow in the face, I could tell something had gone seriously wrong."

Earlier, the court heard zip ties and eskys found at the Investigator Dr home were seized for forensic examination but no DNA was detected.

Expert witness Sergeant Melissa Airlie told the court she had noticed scratch marks inside one esky but was unable to determine their cause.

She said given the passage of time and the fact the eskys had since been filled with water, ice and fish, the likelihood of finding trace DNA, even if a person had once been inside, was "significantly reduced".

The trial continues.


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