A man feared murdered was last heard “squealing like a pig” while being bashed with a rifle on a Victorian bridge, a trial has heard.
Prosecutors allege Mount Gambier men Mark James Moreland, 37, Christopher Nathan Tippens, 30, and 22-year-old Tai Thorp ambushed and killed Gordon Hamm at Nelson, disposed of him in a pine plantation and torched the car they used.
His body has not been found.
The trio has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Hamm on July 17 last year, and while two of them don’t dispute they were on the bridge they maintain he was alive when they last saw him.
Moreland’s barrister Theo Kassimatis said his client was involved in beating up Mr Hamm but did not kill him.
“The last time Mark Moreland had any contact with Mr Hamm, Mr Hamm was alive,” Mr Kassimatis told the trial on Thursday.
Defence barrister Scott Johns said Tippens was also at the bridge and grabbed Mr Hamm but left him alive.
“When Chris Tippens last sees Gordon Hamm, he was alive,” he said.
“No witness will tell you otherwise, no evidence in this trial will satisfy you otherwise.”
Mr Johns said the defence disputed Mr Hamm was killed or fatally wounded at Nelson, as the Crown alleged.
Witness Samantha Porter said she was driving Mr Hamm from Portland in Victoria to Mount Gambier in South Australia when they were stopped on the bridge, blocked at the front and back by two vehicles.
Ms Porter said Moreland, who was holding a gun, and Tippens dragged Mr Hamm out of her car and forced him to his knees before Moreland began hitting him with the butt of the rifle.
“To be honest, he was squealing like a pig or a girl,” she told the Victorian Supreme Court.
Ms Porter said she was on the bridge for about two minutes before driving off.
She said she saw Moreland point the rifle at Mr Hamm as she left but did not hear any shots fired, or see Mr Hamm wounded.
Defence barrister Justin Hennebery said while Thorp’s car was found torched in the pine plantation, he denied murdering Mr Hamm and prosecutors wouldn’t be able to prove otherwise.
Mr Kassimatis told the jury they would hear evidence about drug debts and bikies.
Ms Porter said she and Mr Hamm had smoked ice during the car trip and she understood him to be a drug dealer.
Crown prosecutor Michele Williams QC has told the trial there were a couple of possible motives for the murder, including that the men wanted Mr Hamm’s drugs or cash after he won money on the pokies.