Ramped-up security at the Latrobe Valley law courts marked the beginning of a committal hearing for 34 year-old Traralgon man William Scriven, accused of the murder of Wayne Glenn Bayley on 22 December 2012.
Police used hand-held metal detectors to screen people walking into the law complex on Monday.
The first of what is expected to be 22 witnesses, Michael Anthony Hill, a neighbour of Scriven, told the court of a physical altercation the pair had on 21 December, just hours before 32 year-old Mr Bayley’s death.
The court heard Mr Hill and his family tried to keep to themselves while living in Thexton Street, in Traralgon’s east, and when Scriven had introduced himself when moving into the street three months earlier, Mr Hill had bluntly told him ‘I stick to myself’.
Mr Hill said he thought Scriven’s first name was ‘Jimmy’, not William.
The court heard on 21 December there was a verbal neighbourhood dispute which escalated into a physical altercation around 5pm between Mr Hill and Scriven.
It ended in a two-minute stand-off on the nature strip with Mr Hill holding a baseball bat, Scriven carrying a knife and a metal pipe and Scriven’s partner carrying two knives, before retreating, Mr Hill told the court.
Mr Hill described the knives as about 40cm in blade length, one with a serrated edge and said the pipe was like a wheel wrench.
Scriven was arrested by police.
Mr Hill’s partner Donna Anne Kavanagh told the court Scriven had threatened the pair before being taken away by police, saying “don’t sleep tonight dogs, I’m going to come back and kill you”.
The court heard Mr Hill had consumed six cans of bourbon and smoked cannabis between the incident and about 11pm, when Scriven had returned from police custody, but he said he was unaffected by the substances.
“I made sure I was home in time for his return to protect my family because of what he’d said,” Mr Hill told the court.
The court heard Mr Hill then went to confront Scriven to “make peace”.
Mr Hill denied suggestions from defence lawyer John Kelly that he had got together with a group of neighbours “determined to fix him (Scriven) up”.
“I wasn’t there to assault Jimmy,” he said.
The court heard a fight broke out between Scriven and Mr Bayley.
“It was punch for punch, we thought, but we didn’t know he (Scriven) had a knife in his hands,” Mr Hill said.
He told the court he saw Scriven in a squatting position with Mr Bayley punching him.
He then saw Scriven punch Mr Bayley three times in an upward motion, Mr Hill said.
The hearing is expected to continue in Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court until Thursday.