Court witness accused of ordering murder

A court witness accused of telling his sexual partner to murder 23 year-old Jack Nankervis in Tarwin Street last year has been described as controlling and as someone who wanted people to fear him.

Twenty year-old Morwell woman Bonnie Sawyer-Thompson faced Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court for a four-day committal hearing last week charged with murdering Mr Nankervis with a mattock and knife on 20 June 2014.

Sawyer-Thompson entered a plea of not guilty and was committed to stand trial.

Defence lawyers argued Sawyer-Thompson was under the control of Moe man Philip Mifsud, whom she was in a physically and emotionally abusive sexual relationship with.

They argued Mr Mifsud told the accused if she did not kill Mr Nankervis, he had a bullet for each of her family members.

Mr Mifsud’s former high school friend Adrian Turra told the court on Friday when the two were friends and smoked cannabis together, Mr Mifsud displayed schizophrenic behaviour, constantly “played mind games” and took advantage of people when they were drunk.

He said Mr Mifsud was “a really controlling person” and when the two were younger, had told him to commit crimes such as burglaries.

“He just made me do things so he couldn’t get in trouble,” Mr Turra said.

When defence lawyer Rebekah Sleeth asked Mr Turra if Mr Mifsud was violent, he agreed and said Mr Mifsud wanted to be the “best criminal” and “famous” like Chopper Reid.

Ms Sleeth asked what kind of violent behaviour Mr Mifsud displayed.

Mr Turra replied “fighting, constantly trying to prove he’s a strong bloke and not to f**k with him”.

The court heard within 48 hours before the alleged murder, Mr Mifsud spoke to Mr Turra.

“He said something was going to happen but wouldn’t tell me what was going to happen, but I had to keep my mouth shut,” Mr Turra said.

At 2.22pm, Mr Turra received a text message from Mr Mifsud which read “call me ASAP bro, what’s his name just got killed”.

About six weeks after Mr Nankervis’ death, Mr Turra made a statement to police, showing them text messages from Mr Mifsud.

Mr Turra did not return to his Drouin home for three or four days, the court heard.

Within 45 minutes of him returning home, Mr Mifsud and an unknown man wearing a mask knocked on the unlocked door of Mr Turra’s residence and entered, carrying a “foot-long” gun wrapped in plastic.

Mr Turra told the court Mr Mifsud repeatedly asked why Mr Turra had shown the messages to police and “tortured” him for a “couple of hours”.

He showed the court his scarred forearm, which he said was the result of Mr Mifsud holding it under running hot water.

“He boiled the kettle saying he was going to burn my back and burn my head,” Mr Turra said.

Mr Turra told the court he had previously heard Mr Mifsud say that he had killed people and had been using a homemade handgun which he acquired two to four weeks prior to the alleged murder.

“He used to say it but I didn’t know if it was true or not,” Mr Turra said.

“He was using (the gun) all the time apparently.”

In December 2013, Mr Turra met Sawyer-Thompson at an unknown address in Morwell where she was lying in bed with Mr Mifsud and he noticed cigarette burns on her body.

“(There were) enough for me to realise, doesn’t look right you know,” Mr Turra told the court.

He believed the burns were inflicted by Mr Mifsud.

“I knew why, because I knew who Phil was, I know Phil too well, I know what he was like.”

The court heard Sawyer-Thompson was arrested after midnight on 21 June 2014 and at 4am was declared unfit to interview by a doctor.

Police informant Detective Senior Constable Jennifer Booth told the court the doctor said Sawyer-Thompson needed significant rest and was to be reassessed before being interviewed.

When it came time to interview the accused, the request for doctor’s assessment was denied by the Coroner’s Court of Victoria because the only medic on call was attending to an incident in Sunshine.

Sawyer-Thompson was interviewed despite the doctor’s advice for reassessment.

Magistrate Tim Walsh interrupted questioning to ask Det Sen Const Booth why the Coroner’s Court had refused to send out medical staff to assess Sawyer-Thompson and when verified remarked the situation was “extraordinary”.

Sawyer-Thompson will appear in the Melbourne Supreme Court for a directions hearing on Friday.