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

Victim 'would have been shark bait if fishos had killed him'

THE Cooloola fishermen at the centre of an underworld murder trial would have thrown their victim's body into shark-infested waters off Fraser Island, not dumped him in a forest near their house.

That's what jurors in the trial of Tin Can Bay skipper Stephen Armitage, his son Matthew Leslie Armitage and William Francis Dean have been asked to accept as they prepare to consider their verdict.

The three men are accused of holding Shaun Barker hostage in a commercial esky on Stephen Armitage's property in December 2013 and torturing him in the Toolara State Forest where his charred body was discovered several months later.

Defence barrister Tony Kimmins, for Stephen Armitage, told Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday his client and co-accused had been fishermen "all their lives", knew the tide times like the "back of their hands" and had access to boats capable of quickly getting out to the deep waters off Fraser Island where witnesses had described seeing "heaps" of sharks.

"If you are a person who has been on this scene your whole life ... how do you think you would get rid of a body?" Mr Kimmins said

"It wouldn't be on dry land."

The two-week trial heard from a number of fellow fishermen and drug users who claimed to have regularly sourced "ice" from Stephen Armitage, known to locals as "Snoopy".

It is alleged the men were torturing Mr Barker because he raped a woman on the Gold Coast, stole a large amount of the precursor chemical ephedrine from a drug supply chain and had sought-after knowledge about the drug business.

Stephen Armitage's nephew claimed he saw Mr Barker's body in the Toolara Forest and tried to perform CPR. His timeline does not match up with other evidence of the trial - which he put down to his heavy drug use.

Another witness, Matthew Dean, who was said to be locked in a long-term feud with Stephen Armitage over stolen fish and romance between the accused and Matthew Dean's former partner, claimed he was asked to "babysit" a man who he was told had his knee caps smashed and his finger chopped off while tied to a tree in the forestry.

Both the prosecution and defence team have agreed much of the trial hinges on whether the jury accepts the evidence of Ian Schutz, a 24-year-old fisherman who was working for Stephen Armitage the December Mr Barker disappeared.

He too was using ice at the time but was adamant he heard a voice "crying out for help" from an esky in Mr Armitage's back shed.


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