THE Morwell woman who killed Jack Nankervis with a mattock and knife in 2014 has given new evidence that her abusive then-lover threatened to kill her family if she didn’t do it.
Bonnie Sawyer-Thompson broke down in the witness box during the Latrobe Valley Supreme Court hearing on Monday when questioned by defence lawyer Rebekah Sleeth about the circumstances surrounding Mr Nankervis’ death.
Mr Nankervis was struck about 70 times to the head, neck and chest with a mattock and knife while he was laying on a bed in Sawyer-Thompson’s unit on 20 June, 2014.
Sawyer-Thompson, who pleaded guilty to the defensive homicide of Mr Nankervis, gave evidence that her then-lover Philip Mifsud had put a gun to her head before telling her to kill the 23 year-old man.
“He put a bullet in it, a .22 sawn off and pulled the trigger and it didn’t go off, and he said that I had to do what I had to do,” Sawyer-Thompson said.
“Phil told me that if I didn’t kill Jack he’d kill my family.
“He told me that I needed to hit him with a mattock.
“He told me that I had to hit him, um, and then I had to say that he sexually abused or assaulted me; he told me pretty much what to say after it had happened.”
Sawyer-Thompson appeared inconsolable and was helped from the stand by several police officers after delivering the evidence.
She later addressed the Nankervis family during further questioning from Ms Sleeth.
“I think about it every day. And I took the blame. And I helped when I was just in the wrong,” Sawyer-Thompson said.
“If I could change what I did, I definitely would take it back. And even I could help youse in any way, like I really want to, but I know it’s just not going to be good enough.”
Last Thursday the court heard Sawyer-Thompson had previously said a man named ‘Bobby’ told her to do it in a police interview and that she had claimed Mr Mifsud “didn’t have anything to do with it”.
On Monday Sawyer-Thompson told the court she believed Mr Mifsud had spiked both hers and Mr Nankervis’ drinks with drug GHB at her unit on Tarwin Street on the day of the killing.
She said Mr Mifsud had put Mr Nankervis’ hand in a toaster and inserted a 50 cent coin in his mouth in an attempt to electrocute him earlier that day.
Mr Mifsud’s DNA was found on the mattock used to kill Mr Nankervis but he was not present when the death occurred and has never been charged in relation to the crime.
Sawyer-Thompson gave evidence of regular abuse inflicted on her by Mr Mifsud, who she met on the internet, during more than two hours in the witness box.
She told of being struck with a bottle, burnt with cigarettes, injected with drugs without consent, being made to sniff petrol and having her hair cut off at a party.
Ms Sleeth argued the crime was “just shy” of duress and gave depositions to detail the extent of abuse Sawyer-Thompson was subjected to at the hands of Mr Mifsud and highlighted evidence of his controlling nature.
The court heard Sawyer-Thompson’s mother – Kym Sawyer – had been told by Sawyer-Thompson Mr Mifsud had defecated on her daughter, treated her as a guinea pig for drug experimentation and had tried to stab her.
“In my submission this case is entirely analogous to cases where there has been family violence, learned helplessness, heightened arousal because of the victimisation and that’s what gave rise to the genuine belief in this matter, and that explains, in my submission, why she didn’t do things that people who may not have been subject to that level of trauma may have done,” Ms Sleeth said.
“She was in such a state of heightened fear, she believed that her family was in immediate danger. She knew what this man was capable of.”
Prosecutor Campbell Thomson said Sawyer-Thompson had shown a lack of remorse for her crime and that a letter of an apology she wrote to the Nankervis family was “crocodile tears” in arguing for a sentence on the higher end of the 20-year maximum imprisonment spectrum for defensive homicide.
“Jack Nankervis had never threatened Bonnie Sawyer-Thompson, had never harmed her, had done no wrong to her, and it can’t be said that she has no free will, no moral responsibility. It can’t be said that she’s the innocent instrument of a crime,” Mr Thomson said.
“Ms Sawyer-Thompson could have pleaded guilty back in 2014, and saved everyone a lot of heartache and stress. She hasn’t done that. She’s offered to plead just before a trial was due to start. That is a late plea, and it’s not indicative of remorse, in my respectful submission, and that this letter is crocodile tears.”
The honourable Justice Michael Croucher will sentence Sawyer-Thompson for the crime of defensive homicide in December.