Murder trial: Was it just an accident?

DID Donald Gordon murder his friend Danial Cotter in alcohol-fuelled anger, or did he accidentally run him over with his car?

This is what a jury will have to decide this week, after at least two versions of the events of the night of November 6, 2013 were laid out in the closing arguments of the Supreme Court murder trial being heard in Grafton.

In his address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Brendan Campbell relied on 22 undisputed facts to help make his case that Gordon's actions were voluntary and deliberate.

He cited evidence given by Anthony Gordon and Andrew Donnelly, that Donald Gordon and Cotter had argued while drinking at Collum Collum station that night, to the point of "shaping up to each other", but Donnelly intervened by slamming his fists on the table, telling them to sit down. Both Gordon and Cotter were heavily intoxicated when they left together in Gordon's Mitsubishi Magna some time around midnight, and soon after Cotter suffered severe and fatal head injuries.

These included a fracture which ran from "ear to ear" and fractures to his facial bones.

"Perhaps if they had not left, if Andrew Donnelly was still there to exercise influence over them, then Danial Cotter would not be dead," Mr Campbell said.

The accused's incomplete version of events was targeted, as the Crown relayed evidence by the accused in a police interview that he went straight home after he ran over Danial.

Despite this, the deceased's blood was later found on Gordon's shirt, shorts, towel and inside of the driver's side car door.

The Crown prosecutor also spoke of the fact that Cotter's body was found the next day in a ditch next to a large, blood-stained rock; not on the road as described by Anthony Gordon, who walked to the scene with Donald after the accused returned to the house that night, frantic, and said he had hurt Danial.

Mr Campbell said an indentation matching the rock at the top of the ditch indicated it had been removed from that location, and added it was a "readily available weapon".

"Ignoring the rock is a little like ignoring the elephant in the room," he said. He further added that to find the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt you had to look at all the evidence, not try to ignore some parts.

Public defender Jason Watts, in his own address, said that he was not asking the jury to ignore the rock.

"It is a significant part of the case, however has the Crown proved it was used as a murder weapon?" he asked.

Noting Leading Senior Constable Mark Griffith's acknowledgement in evidence that "very little of the staining" on the rock was indicative of forceful contact, Mr Watts alluded to other possible explanations as to how the blood patterns came to be on several facets of the rock.

The presence of hair embedded in the blood on three different facets of the rock was also questioned by the defence, who raised the point that hair was also found in blood on Cotter's hands.

"The Crown says the clump of hair (embedded in facet C) is indicative of forceful contact," he said.

"I would submit to you that it could have got there in exactly the same manner as the hair in the left hand of the deceased."

Unlike the hair on the rock, Mr Watts said hair and skin found on the undercarriage of Gordon's Magna was reliable evidence that Cotter's head had been run over by the vehicle.

Earlier, the public defender used the accused's incomplete recollections of the night as evidence of his reliability as a witness.

He submitted that the fact Gordon admitted to running Cotter over with his car but said he did not remember going back to the house to get help, showed he was telling the truth when he said he was too drunk to remember what happened.

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