A devastated woman described the moment her partner was killed while protecting her when a distraught man broke into their home during a “rout and takeover”.
On Thursday, family and friends of 58-year-old David Gaskell gathered at Mildura Supreme Court to detail the traumatic impact of his death.
Mr Gaskell, a much loved local and seasonal worker, died from stab wounds sustained while fighting a masked intruder at his home in Manangatang, northwest Victoria, on 30 March last year.
His killer, 42-year-old Dael Newman, a tattooed, stocky man with a shaved head, looked emotionless as he was brought to trial via prison video link with his arms crossed.
The court was told that Newman had pleaded guilty to the reckless murder of Mr. Gaskell and the reckless harm of his partner, Karen Lyons.
Crown Attorney Mark Gibson KC said Mr Gaskell and Ms Lyons were watching a memorial report on the death of Shane Warne when Newman burst in through the kitchen window.
Newman lived more than 300 miles from Albury, on the New South Wales border, but told his friend Matthew Williams that he was going to “make a robbery, steal drugs from somebody,” Gibson said.
He told the court that Newman said he broke into Mr. Gaskell’s house about two months earlier and stole “pounds of marijuana” when no one was home.
In the kitchen, Newman ran into a Mr. Gaskell, whom he did not know, after hearing a noise in the kitchen.
Cancer patient in need of a breathing apparatus, Mr. Gaskell yelled at Newman to get out of the house.
The court was told that Newman tried to use the stun gun he had brought, but the device didn’t work, so he “paniced.”
He grabbed a kitchen knife from the counter and brandished it furiously when two of Mr. Gaskell’s dogs attacked him.
Mr. Gaskell received multiple stab wounds to his upper body and fell to the floor.
Mr Gibson said Newman ran to the front door, where he saw Lyons, 43, trying to make a phone call in the dark.
“Mr. Newman pushed Ms. Lyons and tried to take her cell phone away from her,” he said.
“He used a knife to cut her right arm and left thigh.”
Newman’s lawyer, Rafael de Vietri, told the court that his client found Gaskell’s death to be “unnecessary, unnecessary, and should never have happened.”
He said his client claimed to have traveled to the area to buy car parts and disagreed that he planned the burglary.
“There was a certain level of desperation about drug money that led Mr. Newman to an ill-fated decision,” he said.
“He didn’t plan to commit a violent burglary.”
He told the court that his client panicked when confronted and did not expect Mr. Gaskell to fight back.
“I was scared, I was afraid that I would be hurt. I just grabbed everything I could from the bench and began to swing, ”said de Vietri, his client.
“I never meant to offend anyone.”
Mr. Gibson urged Judge Jane Dixon to admit that this was a lie based on Mr. Williams’ testimony.
Mr. de Vietri said that Newman had a troubled past and was subjected to violence and drug use from a young age, which led to a lengthy criminal record.
He said his client should not be sentenced to life in prison and asked for an extended parole to give him a chance at rehab.
But Mr. Gibson said Newman expressed more concern about the impact of the wrongdoing on his life and the life of his girlfriend during his arrest interrogation than “genuine remorse” for having taken Mr. Gaskell’s life.
Mr. Gaskell’s brother, Frank Gaskell, told the court that his younger brother was a friendly, beloved, hard-working and fun-loving character.
“My brother’s life was taken in such a terrible way… I endure sleepless nights thinking about the horror he experienced in his last moments,” he said.
“I hope you never forget the results of your actions that night, the consequences of which my family will have to live with forever.”
Ms Lyons told the court she couldn’t forget the moment when “a complete stranger went crazy” in her home.
“I was petrified when it happened… I remember Dave trying to protect me,” she said.
“Hope you rot in jail.”
Judge Dixon said the murder was “spontaneous and unplanned”, but Gaskell had “every right” to defend himself against a home invasion.
She took Newman into custody and will pass judgment later.
Originally published as Dael Newman: Killer ‘Panicked’ During Northwest Victorian Debacle and Conspiracy Seizure