David Bagster has been found guilty of manslaughter following the death of his girlfriend Valmai "Jane" Birch, whose decomposing body was found in a wheelie bin inside her Woonona unit 11 years ago.
The jury retired on Monday afternoon to consider its verdict, after hearing evidence from dozens of witnesses over a two-week period.
They deliberated for four days, returning the guilty verdict just before 11.30am on Friday. Bagster, who was dressed in black business pants and a plain white, button up business shirt, shook his head silently as the decision was read out.
The body of 34-year-old Ms Birch, who went by Jane, was found in her Woods Avenue unit on March 21, 2011 after a neighbour called police to report an increasingly bad odour.
Her right ankle was tied to her waist and she was upside-down in a wheelie bin, which was partially filled with water and found in the shower recess of the bathroom.
In his opening address to the jury on Monday, the Crown prosecutor said Ms Birch had been in a relationship with Bagster, whom she met about May 2010.
The Crown had alleged the pair's relationship was marred by repeated aggression and violence by Mr Bagster towards Ms Birch, which included threatening her, assaulting her and tying her up.
The court heard evidence during the trial that Ms Birch had complained to friends and acquaintances that Bagster had struck her and hog-tied.
Both she and Bagster had a history of drug abuse.
The court heard Ms Birch was last seen alive on March 9, 2011, with CCTV footage from Wollongong Railway Station showing her with Bagster, then later footage from Woonona showing her walking alone.
The court heard the last sighting of Ms Birch was about 3pm that day, when a neighbour helped her into her unit after discovering her passed out across the road.
Bagster was seen knocking at the door of the unit and looking in windows 15 to 30 minutes later, the jury was told, and was again seen there late the following evening knocking on the door and fiddling with doors and windows before walking away.
The prosecutor said a female scream, which the Crown claimed was mostly likely Ms Birch, was heard from the unit about 11.30pm on March 12.
The jury heard that by March 15, residents noticed a bad smell and on March 21, Bagster went to a neighbour of Ms Birch and said he was concerned because he had not seen her for two or three weeks.
He allegedly commented the odour must have been the garbage but that evening a worried neighbour called police and Ms Birch's body was discovered.
Inside the unit officers also found a fan in the lounge room and an exhaust fan in the kitchen running.
Due to decomposition, a forensic pathologist could not determine the cause of Ms Birch's death.
Bagster was charged with Ms Birch's manslaughter in October 2019.
He pleaded not guilty, however the first trial in 2021 resulted in a hung jury.
Bagster maintained his innocence and the case proceeded to a second trial, which began in court on May 9.
In closing submissions to the jury late last week, defence barrister Scott Fraser urged jurors to acquit Bagster, claiming the evidence of several witnesses could not be trusted.
"When you scratch that surface, the whole thing just smells," Mr Fraser said.
"Many of the witnesses in this trial, you would have grave reservations about the reliability and the accuracy of the evidence they had given.
"You received a snapshot into the world of those who abuse drugs."
"Some of them [the witnesses] had it in for him [Bagster], and were prepared to lie."
He urged the jury to put emotion and prejudice to one side, and focus on what the evidence has proved, or failed to prove.
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