Forklift driver found not guilty of murdering defacto

A forklift driver who shot dead his defacto wife Helen Curtis in a West Footscray street has been found not guilty of murder.
Nanjing Night Net

Phillip Bracken, 45, broke down in tears when the Supreme Court jury acquitted him of the charges of murder, defensive homicide and manslaughter.

The jury of nine women and three men had been deliberating for nearly five days before handing down their verdict.

Mr Bracken stood in the dock and hugged his barrister, Ruth Shann, after the jury left the courtroom.

Two of Ms Curtis’ daughters left the court in tears after the verdict.

Mr Bracken had pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Curtis, 59, his defacto wife of four years in November 2012.

He claimed that he killed Ms Curtis in self-defence after having been abused, controlled, threatened and intimidated by her.

The Crown case was that Mr Bracken had taken a rifle from Ms Curtis’ car and shot her five times in the middle of a West Footscray street because he was angry at the way she had earlier abused and threatened to kill his father.

Ms Shann argued during the trial that Mr Bracken had loved his defacto but was the victim of the highest category of family violence, known as “intimate terrorism”.

“You can see in the (police) record of interview a broken man,” Ms Shann told the jury during her closing address. “A verdict of not guilty in this case doesn’t fix that.

“Guilty or not guilty, he will be responsible for the rest of his life for the fact that he killed Helen. He was partly broken by the abuse.

“He shot and killed the woman that he loved, that he adored. She was someone who lifted him out of solitude, gave him a bigger family, who he planned a future with. And he failed. He failed to make her happy, he failed to make her well, he failed to help control her anger and her rages … What happened on November 19 was a horrible and devastating act.

“But it was one that was in that terrifying moment a necessary act; necessary to protect him and his father.

“He believed it was necessary, and he really did have reasonable grounds for that belief.”

Ms Shann said Ms Curtis, who had a bipolar disorder with symptoms of anger and anxiety, did not deserve to die.

“No one deserves to die, not like that. But there is also a tragedy to Phillip’s situation and the experience that he lived with, and recognising that tragedy doesn’t diminish from the worth of Helen’s life.

“What it does is recognise the reality. It recognises the reality of the black eyes and the bruises, and the split lips, and the screaming, the kicking while he’s on the floor with shattered blood and glass.

“It recognises the illness, the rages, the control. It also recognises that he loved her and he didn’t want her dead.”

Prosecutor Peter Rose, SC, told the jury Mr Bracken was the one who produced the rifle, not Helen.

“Does he disable the weapon? Does he drop out the magazine? Throw the weapon away? Go away with the weapon? No, he doesn’t do any of those things,” Mr Rose said in his closing address.

“What he does is he unravels the cover off the weapon and at the same time he is moving in the direction of Helen Curtis and he is clearly … intent on using that weapon because he is moving towards her while he … takes the flannelette sheet off the barrel of the weapon.

“She is running at him, she gets close to him, maybe even touches him, and then he pushes her or manoeuvres in a way and she goes to ground.

“He then shoots her. Not once, not twice. The first two shots are to the head, then it’s the abdomen twice, then the wrist.”

Mr Bracken still faces one charge of possessing an unregistered firearm and was granted bail on his own undertaking.

Outside court, Ms Curtis’ daughter Jaimi-Leigh said justice had not been served.

‘‘He (Mr Bracken) gets to walk free and we have to live with this for the rest of our lives,’’ she said.

‘‘I was pregnant at the time (of the shooting) and my son never got to meet her and he’s nearly one.

‘‘Our kids have to grow up without their nan. When they get older we have to explain the way she was tragically taken from our lives.

‘‘It wasn’t family violence. (It was) a normal relationship.

‘‘Everyone fights, everyone has arguments, it’s not normal if you don’t.’’

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Row breaks out over price guide ban

Anton Kardash: “I don’t think surveys are a good quality mechanism.” Photo: Supplied John McGrath: “They are trying to cover up their desire to remove any price guide.”
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An almighty row has erupted between property agents who want to offer price guides for homes up for auction and those who don’t, as the Queensland Government prepares to outlaw a practice that buyers in NSW and Victoria take for granted.

If the head of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, Anton Kardash, formerly the boss of Aged Care Queensland, gets his way, agents will face a fine of almost $60,000 if they advertise a price guide.

The chief executive of McGrath Estate Agents, John McGrath, believes some of the changes to the Property Occupations Act will take the selling of property in the state ‘‘back to the Dark Ages and impact negatively on anyone buying or selling a home by auction’’.

‘‘This is craziness,’’ Mr McGrath told Fairfax radio station 4BC.

‘‘This will be the only jurisdiction on Planet Earth that will ban these guides and ban discussion – no-one else is silly enough to do it.

‘‘When you look at an auction property, what you would like to know is it $600,000 to $700,000 or $900,000 to a million, so you can make some sort of educated guess as to whether it’s worth your while pursuing it.’’

Mr Kardash is facing a revolt from within his own institute with Toowoomba agent, Rob Berry, who accuses the institute of lobbying the government on this issue without the support of its members.

‘‘There’s been no consultation; no survey taken by the bulk of members,’’ Mr Berry said.

‘‘All members I know say they haven’t even been approached, this is new knowledge to them.

‘‘If if gets up, it will be repealed… we will see a mass protest against it, make no doubt about that.’’

Yet in an interview with Domain, Mr Kardash said the changes – due to be tabled in State Parliament on Monday – were simply ‘‘to tighten up and get rid of the ambiguity’’ in existing laws.

He said the institute didn’t need to survey its members to establish its position on the price guide issue. ‘‘We have three breakfasts each year and we discuss these matters with our members,’’ Mr Kardash said.

‘‘I don’t think surveys are a good quality mechanism.

‘‘If members choose not to participate in that process then unfortunately their voice won’t be heard.’’

He denied that many members of his own institute were unhappy with the plan. ‘‘Absolutely not, the only person who has complained about this is John McGrath,’’ Mr Kardash said.

‘‘Other significant members actually came out in favour of this so that’s quite an erroneous comment.’’

In an open letter advertisement in last Saturday’s Courier Mail and Gold Coast Bulletin, Mr McGrath said: ‘‘If the ban is imposed, all questions from potential buyers about price will be unable to be answered,’’ he said.

‘‘Imagine arriving at a property and it appearing suitable.

‘‘The next most important question is invariably ‘Is this property likely to be within my price range?’

‘‘The question will be met with stony silence, no comment or conversation about price can be had.’’

Mr Kardash denies this, saying that, provided the vendor agrees, an agent can offer both comparable sales and his ‘‘professional opinion’’ about the price of an individual property.

Yet Mr McGrath told Domain Mr Kardash is offering ‘‘smoke and mirrors’’.

‘‘It’s not clarifying a law,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s been quite clearly stated to us that there was no law [forbidding price guides].’’

‘‘It’s introducing a new law.

‘‘It will be illegal for an agent to have a discussion with a bona fide buyer about a price guide .. it’s a very prescribed format, upon written request, if authorised by the vendor, they can provide what the agent deems the three most comparable sales.’’

He says that in the age of information, what buyers want is a discussion.

‘‘That’s what happens everywhere else in the world,’’ Mr McGrath said.

‘‘They are trying to cover up their desire to remove any price guide by providing a formal market analysis, but that doesn’t take away the problem.

‘‘The legislation very clearly says that they can’t discuss their opinion on price, only three comparables … it’s going to confuse everyone.’’

There’s absolutely no doubt that the legislation would ban advertising a price guide for auction properties in any advertising and editorials. It would also be impossible to search for auction properties based on price on property websites such as Domain.

Mr Kardash said: ‘‘That’s up to each of those portals to deal with.’’

The Real Estate Institute of NSW has condemned the Queensland plans calling on ‘‘Queenslanders and those seeking to invest in the state must act immediately to voice their concerns’’.

‘‘It is a step backward for consumers,’’ the NSW president, Malcolm Gunning, said.

‘‘Now more than ever buyers are demanding transparency in regard to property.

‘‘To take away price guides will turn back the clock on Queensland real estate.’’

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Put your vote to good use

CHAIRMAN of region six (Central Tablelands) NSW Farmers John Lowe is urging voters to choose carefully in the Central Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS) board elections.
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“Voters should carefully consider the skills of the candidates before allocating their votes,” Mr Lowe said.

“It is vitally important that the successful candidates are able to contribute to a cohesive board with productive results.”

Mr Lowe believes a level-headed strategic planning approach with local knowledge is needed to manage the diverse nature of rural issues in the Central Tablelands region.

Mr Lowe is one of four candidates from the Lithgow local government area standing for Local Land Services election, including Cr Colin Hunter, David Mansfield and Walter Bodnar.

Enrolled landholders need to choose three candidates out of the total of 28 standing for election in the Central Tablelands LLS Region.

“Many able people have put their names forward for the LLS board and it is very important that the best possible candidates are elected,” Mr Lowe said.

“This is the only chance landholders have of influencing the make-up of the board.

“Getting this right will be crucial to the successful running of the LLS operation.”

Mr Lowe is a grazier and managing partner of a sheep and cattle property situated between Lithgow and Oberon and has represented the concerns and interests of farmers in his region for many years, being involved with committees and bodies involved in improving knowledge and providing support to the farming community.

John Lowe

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Grenfell to host Central West Bulls and Canberra Royals tomorrow

Grenfell Rugby Club will tomorrow be hosting the pre-season trial between Central West Bulls and Canberra Royals.
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Each side will be bringing two sides – Colts and 1st Grade. Colts are due to kick off at 1.30pm and 1st grade at 3.00pm.

With each club to bring 25 – 30 players for each game, there will be around 100 players fine tuning their skills prior to the start of the 2014 seasons so there will be some fine rugby skills on display.

From here Central West will continue their preparation for the season with further trials prior to Country Week in Mudgee and Royals will be heading off to Vanuatu next week as part of their pre-season.

This is the second year in a row that Grenfell has been fortunate enough to secure this fixture. On both occasions someone upstairs has been looking after the club with good rain in the last week to ensure the ground is excellent playing condition however 2014 could have easily proven to be a very different story. Over an extremely hot summer the playing surface could have easily been close to concrete but due to the work put in by Frank Ryder, Mark Hughes and Stuart Hughes over this time RB Bembrick Field is in perfect playing condition. Without these 3 and their helpers it would not be possible to have such a great playing venue so thanks must be passed on to them.

Improvements have been made around the ground over the last couple of weeks by the players and committee to ensure it is at its best for the visitors.

Whilst the committee and players have been putting in the hard yards to ensure the day is again a success, more helpers on the day are always welcome. If there are any players or committee wives / girlfriends / mothers who can spare some time on the day to help, this will be appreciated to ensure that everyone can enjoy the day and lighten the load.

This is the perfect chance to pay your 2014 membership so speak with anyone at the canteen or bar who will be more than happy to help you. Membership this year is $25 each of $30 a family. This will include entry to all Grenfell home games this year.

Full bar and canteen will be in operation on the day so come down to a great afternoon of rugby and socialising afterwards.

WORKING BEE: Improvements have been made around the ground over the last couple of weeks by the players and committee to ensure it is at its best for the visitors.

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Sun applies more heat

THE second-placed BLTC Rising Sun will keep the heat on as it warms up for the Bendigo Tennis Association’s premier league finals in Saturday’s play.
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Placings in the top four could change in this round at the Bendigo Bank tennis complex in Nolan Street.

If positions stay the same then week one of the finals will be the same as this round.

Rising Sun and Brougham Arms will play on courts one, six and seven.

Rising Sun faces a daunting task to grab top spot as Broughy is eight points clear.

The Sun will need to win 10 of 12 sets to finish on top.

Rising Sun will give it a red hot go, but will fall short of top spot, and of victory. Brougham Arms to win 7-5.

BLTC Metro has a slim chance to move up the ladder when it plays Spring Gully Bigpond on courts two, eight and nine.

Metro will start Saturday’s clash eight points behind Rising Sun.

The clash between third and fourth should end in an 8-4 victory for Metro.

Section one matches will be played at Bendigo Tennis Associationheadquarters in Nolan Street.

BLTC Gold v BLTC Stingers, courts 4 and5.

Spring Gully Panthers v BLTC Sensation, courts 16 and 17.

Spring Gully Phoenix v Spring Gully Racqueteers, courts 18 and 19.

RETURN: Rochelle Blencowe in this summer’s play.

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A View to the future

LITHGOW View Club members are set for another fun filled 2014 after the club held its annual meeting earlier this month at the Lithgow Workmens Club.
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A busy events calendar has been planned.

There were 82 members who attended the luncheon.

The 2013 annual reports were tabled by the president Doreen Hart, secretary Denise Fitzgerald and treasurer Carol Dukes.

These reports reflected a successful year in 2013.

A special thanks was extended to outgoing vice president and delegate Sue Banning who has taken on a new role as Zone Councillor for this area.

Zone Councillor Sue Banning presented badges of office to the incoming committee members: President Doreen Hart; vice president Vanessa Glendinning; acting secretary Denise Fitzgerald; assistant secretary Bev Coombs; treasurer Carol Dukes; assistant treasurer and acting delegate Faye Best; publicity officer Lyn Wren; and program officers Astrid Ciosmak Faye Read and Margaret Dean.

Members held one minute’s silence for one of the club members Margaret Scanlan who died recently.

She was a member who looked forward to her View club luncheons and trips.

She will be missed by her family and View friends.

Fun filled events marking the first half of year are: March 26 evening dinner at the Lithgow Palace Chinese Restaurant; May 7 attending the musical theatre Strictly Ballroom at Lyric Theatre at Star City in Sydney; and May 21 Mystery Bus Trip, a day trip for to an unknown destination (a popular event each year for members).

View Craft Day is held on the fourth Tuesday of the month in the Hermitage Hall in Albert Street, Lithgow.

For information about Craft Day call Margaret Dean on 6351 2891.

The next luncheon is March 12, 11am for an 11.30am start.

The guest speaker will be Tammy McKenzie talking about her work in Africa.

Please reply to the secretary Denise on 0458 554 220 by Friday March 7 for catering arrangements.

View Clubs of Australia support the Smith Family and it’s Learning for Life students’ program.

Luncheon meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month.

New members and guests are always welcome.

If you would like more information contact president Doreen Hart on 6351 4492.

Come along and join the members for an afternoon of friendship, support and fun.

NEW COMMITTEE: Back row from left Lyn Wren, Doreen Hart, Carol Dukes and Vanessa Glendinning with Zone Councillor Sue Banning;  front Astrid Ciosmak, Faye Read, Fay Best and Margaret Dean.

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‘Unfair’ one-way taxi charges toPort Stephens

COMPETITIVE: Rod Hearn with his hotel’s new airport transfer bus. Picture: Dean OslandTAXI passengers at Newcastle Airport are being stung by a ‘‘confusing’’ arrangement that requires them to pay the return fare of drivers who travel out of zone.
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Visitor Economy Hunter chairman Will Creedon has slammed the airport taxi system as unfair, saying it slugs tourists and business travellers who are often unaware they must pay a return fare despite not being in the vehicle.

The taxi rank at Newcastle Airport, which is owned jointly by Newcastle City and Port Stephens councils, is zoned as Newcastle district.

Any person who gets a taxi from the airport rank to Newcastle or a destination within Newcastle district pays the standard fare.

But those who are travelling outside the Newcastle zone, which includes areas relatively close to the airport such as Raymond Terrace, must pay for the return fare because the Transport Act stipulates that taxis cannot pick up an ‘‘out of zone’’ fare.

A spokesman for Newcastle Taxis confirmed the arrangement but said it was dictated by Transport for NSW, with the fares set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

‘‘Once a driver goes outside the Newcastle district area they cannot pick up a fare, they are not licensed to, so the passenger has to pay for them to return to the transport district,’’ he said.

He said the Newcastle zone ‘‘roughly’’ included the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie local government areas.

While agreeing the system could be perceived as unfair, the spokesman said drivers were just like any person who did not wish to work ‘‘for nothing’’.

‘‘[Transport for NSW] sets the boundaries, we have to abide by them,’’ he said.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said the fare for any trip taken from Newcastle Airport to areas outside of Newcastle must be negotiated between the customer and driver before the start of the trip.

Newcastle Airport aviation and business development manager David Nye said the taxi situation was out of the airport’s control.

‘‘We certainly agree that there is an element of confusion for someone who arrives in the Port Stephens area to be told they are not in the Port Stephens area as far as the taxis are concerned,’’ he said.

‘‘It makes it a very expensive trip to [Nelson] Bay, particularly for those who are coming here on holidays,’’ Mr Nye said.

‘‘Even when it’s very busy at Newcastle Airport, Port Stephens taxis cannot operate there – this is not good for business and tourists,’’ Mr Creedon said.

TRANQUIL Shoal Bay is only a half-hour taxi trip from Newcastle Airport, but the steep cost has prompted a local resort to organise its own transfer service.

Last year Rod Hearn, general manager of the Shoal Bay Resort and Spa, bought three airport permits for a total cost of $1000 so the resort could use a car, mini-bus and medium-sized bus to do airport pick-ups and drop-offs.

Mr Hearn said the four-star resort often received requests for their competitively priced airport transfers when guests realised that they had to pay the return fare for their taxi ride.

‘‘The situation downgrades the destination of Port Stephens,’’ he said.

‘‘As an international visitor or a corporate traveller, you’d expect to be able to get the same level of transport and support structure that you would get if you turn right or left.’’

‘‘For us, the whole structure of departure and arrival for the Port Stephens region when you come out of the airport is not a good one.’’

With about 30,000 guests each year, many visiting for conferences, Mr Hearn said the taxi system was an ‘‘unnecessary blockage’’ as Port Stephens tourism authorities drove to make the region a destination.

‘‘Tourism dollars are so hard to get. Regionally, tourism has been devastated in Australia over the last several years with the [global financial crisis], Australian dollar and state economies, so any impediment that comes up does not help the destination,’’ he said.

Rebecca Morley, the manager of Meeting Incentives Conference and Events Port Stephens, which represents about 30 hotel and events operators, acknowledged the taxi situation was a ‘‘potential deterrent’’ for tourism.

But she said the organisation was working hard to find alternative travel arrangements and incentives.

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Police seek assistance after hit-run crash at Stirling North

A 9-year-old girl wasinjured after a hit-run crash at Stirling North on Monday.
Nanjing Night Net

Police are investigating the hit-run crash which occurred out the front of Stirling North Primary on Monday morning.

At about 8.30am, the girl was walking along the eastern footpath on Railway Station Road, when she was struck by a small white Holden sedan.

The girl received a minor injury to her leg and walked in to the school grounds.

At the time, she was wearing a navy blue and yellow Stirling North Primary School t-shirt, blue denim shorts and was carrying a purple and pink backpack.

The car is described as having a silver Holden badge above the front grill.

It had 3 headlights on either side of the vehicle, ‘star’ type mag wheels, dents and silver scratches near the driver’s side front wheel and another dent near the passenger’s side mirror.

The child was able to provide police with a comprehensive description of the driver.

The driver is described as being a woman of Aboriginal appearance, medium build, aged in her 40s with brown eyes and black hair which was in a pony-tail to the left side with a dark brown hair tie.

She was wearing a black top with an oval shaped collar, a gold triangle shaped necklace, big gold hoop earrings and either had three beauty spots or piercings – with two above the lip and one below the lip.

There was also a baby boy seated in a child seat in the centre rear of the car who was wearing a Thomas the Tank Engine T-shirt.

There was also another child seated in the rear passengers side seat.

Police are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the crash or may know the identity of the driver, to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online at www.sa.crimestoppers南京夜网.au

HIT-RUN: Police are investigating the hit-run crash which occurred out the front of Stirling North Primary on Monday morning.

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