‘Bob… told me to hit him’

A woman who killed a man by striking him about 70 times with a mattock and knife on 20 June 2014 in Morwell said she was told to do it by a man named ‘Bob’ in an interview with police, a court has heard.

Bonnie Sawyer-Thompson, 22, pleaded guilty to the defensive homicide of Jack Nankervis at her unit on Tarwin Street in a Latrobe Valley Supreme Court hearing last week.

In his opening address prosecutor Campbell Thomson said Sawyer-Thompson killed Mr Nankervis under the belief that if she did not do so her family would be killed, but that there were no reasonable grounds for that belief.

The court heard in an interview with police informant Detective Jennifer Booth, Sawyer-Thompson said “Bob is the guy that told me to hit him” and that he was with another man named ‘Adam’. The prosecution submitted the two men, who Sawyer-Thompson said threatened her family and two year-old nephew, may have been fictional.

“The police searched high and low to find Bobby and Adam without success. It is submitted they do not exist,” Mr Thomson said.

“She may have believed that they existed. She may have been told that they existed, but there’s just no evidence that they did.

“I cannot say who uttered the threat or if there was a threat uttered. All I know is from the records of interview, this was going on in her mind and she genuinely believed it.”

The court heard Mr Nankervis, 23, was attacked sometime between 4.50pm and 5.40pm after consuming drugs and alcohol with Sawyer-Thompson and her abusive then-boyfriend Philip Mifsud earlier that day.

The court heard Sawyer-Thompson had offered a minimum of four different versions of events.

She had that Mr Nankervis made sexual advances on her – which investigators found no evidence of – and that she was traumatised by the death of her cat. In an interview with police, Sawyer-Thompson said her medication made her see bad things and she would sometimes “hear people”.

“If I don’t take my right medication or something, I’ve been in fights before and I hit someone with an egg flip and I just kept going and going. With the axe, I hit him in the head and there’s blood and I covered him up and I told him how sorry I was and I went blank in the head. It was like doing something but it wasn’t me doing it,” Sawyer-Thompson said.

“I was only meant to hit him once but I hit him more than once and just took over and I didn’t know what I was doing.”

The court heard Sawyer-Thompson, who was 19 when she killed Mr Nankervis, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and had a dependent personality with an IQ score of about 70.

Defence lawyer Rebekah Sleeth said she would be submitting that Mr Mifsud was “behind this” and that Sawyer-Thompson was “almost an innocent instrument for his crime”.

The court heard that Morwell RSL CCTV footage captured Mr Mifsud’s car driving away from Sawyer-Thompson’s unit at 4.55pm and he was headed to a deal involving sex in return for drugs at Crinigan Road Bush Reserve.

Mr Mifsud and Sawyer-Thompson were in a short-term abusive sexual relationship in which the former cut her hair at a party, put firecrackers down her top and threw a can of pet food at her head. Sawyer-Thompson was previously charged with murder but was re-arraigned on a charge of defensive homicide and a jury was discharged without verdict following pre-trial rulings.

The defensive homicide offence was abolished in November 2014 and carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

The hearing continues today.