Mark Kenneth Jenkin spent four days in the witness stand attempting to paint himself as the benevolent protector of Mangerton pensioner Mark Dower.
But on Wednesday he was exposed as a heartless standover man who intimidated 56-year-old Mr Dower, took his money, bashed him and left him to die a miserable death.
After almost eight weeks of evidence, Mr Jenkin, 46, was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of the manslaughter of the couch-surfing Mr Dower, whose body he stuffed in a surfboard bag, dropped from his second-storey Mangerton unit and – a final indignity – stashed inside a laundry at the Crana Pl public housing complex where he lived.
Jenkin was also convicted of conspiring to murder a woman he rightly feared would turn Crown witness in the case against him.
He scarcely reacted – muttering on occasion, shaking his head in his hands – as Supreme Court Justice Peter Hamill delivered the verdict in a single address lasting more than three hours at Wollongong Courthouse, Wednesday morning.
The judge found Mr Dower spent the last five or six days of his life at Jenkin’s unit, in a set of circumstances at odds with Jenkin’s claims to have sheltered him from multiple aggressors at the complex.
“I am not satisfied … that Mr Dower was detained in the sense that he was literally locked in the unit for five days or so, or that he was under guard throughout that period,” the judge said. “However, I am satisfied that the nature of the relationship between the men was such that Mr Dower felt unable to leave.”
A tip-off led police to find Mr Dower’s decomposing remains in the laundry late on April 16, 2015 – 12 days after he died.
Wednesday's verdict came after almost eight weeks of evidence from more than 70 witnesses, many of them contributors to the Crown depiction of Jenkin as an aggressive bully who repeatedly assaulted and detained Mr Dower in order to take his pension money. The judge found some of 42 civilian witnesses lacked credibility due to mental health issues, drug or alcohol addiction or their own criminal histories.
The judge noted several witnesses – including a woman who gave evidence she helped to dispose of Mr Dower’s body - had escaped charges or been given reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony, which may therefore be unreliable. Justice Hamill said Jenkin’s evidence was “largely false”, including claims Crown witnesses lied en masse.
But the judge found the Crown had ultimately failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jenkin had acted with “reckless indifference to human life” in failing to get medical attention for the ailing Mr Dower. The Crown had also failed to prove that Jenkin intended to cause Mr Dower grievous bodily harm when he assaulted him, the judge found.
“Because of the complications surrounding the medical evidence, it is impossible to establish beyond reasonable doubt the point at which Mr Jenkin would have realised that Mr Dower would probably die (assuming that he ever realised that).”
“In this case, in spite of my suspicion that he is guilty of murder, I have a reasonable doubt as to his state of mind at relevant times and whether he either intended to inflict grievous bodily harm or realised that Mr Dower would probably die if he did not receive medical attention. For those reasons, I find Mr Jenkin not guilty of murder.”
Here’s how the trial unfolded
May 2: As the trial began, the court heard victim Mark Dower was a smart, educated man whose battle with depression and alcohol abuse had caused him to fall on hard times later in his life. Read more
May 3: A resident of the Mangerton public housing complex told how he was forcibly detained for the night by a neighbour who allegedly went on to murder his flatmate, Mr Dower. Read more
May 7: A resident at the public housing block described repeatedly hearing Jenkin aggressively demand money from Mr Dower in the months before he was found dead. Read more
May 8: Wollongong service station staffer Alison Hilton told the court how she once saw the ‘man with a long, red ponytail’ looking over his shoulder, watching Mr Dower use the ATM, and saw Mr Dower hand over cash to him several times. Read more
May 10: An Illawarra woman told the court she saw Mr Dower’s “mottled and blackened” body in Jenkin’s bathtub before he asked her to help him move the corpse. Read more
May 23: A two-minute video – once lost but brought back by the wonders of modern software – offered a grim glimpse into the final days of Mangerton man Mark Dower. Read more
June 5: The court heard an Illawarra man who was staying in the Mangerton unit where Mr Dower was allegedly bashed and held against his will in the days before his dead body was stowed in a laundry has rejected suggestions the 56-year-old was already in bad shape when he arrived at the unit. Read more
June 6: Jenkin professed his innocence, telling a Supreme Court judge he was “emotionally attached” to Mr Dower and – far from causing his injuries – had protected him from multiple aggressors. Read more
June 7: Jenkin described in vivid detail his dead-of-night efforts to remove the decomposing body from his Mangerton unit without rousing the suspicions of authorities or neighbours. Read more
June 18: Crown prosecutor Michael Fox said Jenkin’s version of events - that Mr Dower had been physically abused by another resident prior to his stay in Jenkin’s unit - just didn't add up. Read more
June 19: An intercepted phone call in which a Mangerton prison inmate allegedly arranged to kill a future Crown witness is proof the man had a murderous secret to cover up, the court has heard. Read more
June 20: Closing submissions from Jenkin’s defence barrister, Peter Lowe, turned to medical evidence on the likelihood that many of Mr Dower’s injuries were caused after he died, when his body - encased in a surfboard bag - was dropped 5.5 metres from Jenkin’s second-storey unit. Read more
June 27: Jenkin was found not guilty of murder but guilty of the manslaughter of Mr Dower, whose body he stuffed inside a surfboard bag and dropped from his second-storey Mangerton unit. Read more