By KIERAN FINNANE
Two teenagers who killed a man who had only ever tried to help them were today sentenced to 11 and half years in gaol for his reckless manslaughter and robbery, following their guilty pleas yesterday.
The man, Richard Berry (pictured), manager of the swimming pool in the Yuendumu, was found dead in his house at the community on 29 January 2015 by friends and work colleagues. He had died from “multiple blunt force injuries”, the most serious being to his head and face.
Mr Berry was the adult carer of one of his assailants, Jason Reid, 17 years old at the time. They had first met when Reid was sent to a school in Victoria where Mr Berry was teaching. When he later heard that Reid was in trouble in Perth, having been introduced to the drug Ice by an uncle, Mr Berry travelled to the city and arranged for Reid to move to Yuendumu, where he took him into his home and got him work as a part-time life guard and pool attendant.
The second assailant, Nelson Inkamala, 18 years old at the time, had not long been out of gaol (under a suspended sentence) when he became involved in the attack on Mr Berry. He too had been given part-time work at the Yuendumu pool.
Mr Berry was remembered by his mother in a moving victim impact statement as a man who had spent his life helping and motivating others, well-respected, successful, good company, very compassionate and a wonderful son and brother, killed “by brute force” and “cruelly abandoned” by “two young fellas he trusted and had given so much help to”. With his death, she felt she had lost all reason to keep going.
She also recalled how happy her son had been in Yuendumu, how the people there had become like family to him, how he had great interest in and respect for them. After he was killed, the community “opened up their hearts” to her and her family in a moving ceremony, during which the Aboriginal and Australian flags were lowered to half mast. She understood this was the first time such a gesture had been made for a white man in the community.
The tragedy began as a robbery. Reid and Inkamala had been drinking – most of two cartons of beer since that afternoon. Some time after 2am, they went to Mr Berry’s house, intending to help themselves to more beer. Reid entered first and found Mr Berry still awake in the bathroom. He had already armed himself with a shovel and used it to hit his carer on the back of the head. Stunned, Mr Berry fell to the floor. They struggled and Reid tried to tie Mr Berry’s hands with some electric cord.
Inkamala was carrying cartons of beer outside but then he too attacked Mr Berry, striking him twice to the face with a wooden stake.
The pair left him unconscious and bleeding, while they ransacked the house, carrying off a large television, a camera and iPhone as well as the beer, loading it all into Mr Berry’s car and driving away.
When the car developed mechanical problems east of Tilmouth Well, en route to Alice Springs, they torched it and walked off, eventually hitching a ride.
In town, they went to the home of relatives of Inkamala’s. When news of the death came through, his relatives confronted Inkamala, and his cousin took him to the police station. He minimised his own involvement, initially admitting no blows, blaming these on Reid, even suggesting he had “probably strangled” Mr Berry (there was no forensic evidence of such an injury). Reid was arrested the next day.
The backgrounds of both young men were woeful. Reid’s criminal history began when he was 11 years old, with aggravated burglaries, assault, trespass, stealing, disorderly behaviour. Significantly he had not been in trouble since July 2013 – perhaps as a result of being in Yuendumu and in the care of Mr Berry, suggested Justice Graham Hiley. (At left the photo released by police when Reid escaped from custody in June last year.)
He had grown up, largely in Halls Creek, surrounded by heavy drinking and violence, at times subjected to violence himself. His schooling was negligible, he speaks little English. Not surprisingly he began drinking at a young age as well as using cannabis and sniffing, before taking up Ice. He had been to Alice a few days before his attack on Mr Berry, buying Ice and pills called Daisies.
Inkamala’s offending began when he was about 15 years old – driving offences, stealing, aggravated entry with intent, aggravated assault. His early childhood experiences included being abandoned as an infant, cold and wet, in a phone box. He lost his father when he was five years old. His mother was a heavy drinker and he was raised by her sister as well his grandmother and aunties. He experienced another blow as a young teenager when a cousin he was close to passed away.
He began smoking ganja and drinking in his mid-teens, with violence commonplace in his social environment. He saw his mother being beaten, and can remember himself chasing her partner with an axe to stop him from beating her.
He had made some progress in his education, to the point of starting Year 12 at Centralian College. Justice Hiley hoped he would take advantage of education programs in gaol, considering his rehabilitation projects as “moderate” in contrast to Reid’s which he saw as “poor”.
Tellingly, perhaps, Inkamala had some family supporting him today in court, while sadly there was no one present for Reid.
Both men had their early pleas taken into account (Reid’s much earlier than Inkamala’s) as well as their expressions of remorse, their youth and their difficult backgrounds. This led to discounts on their head sentences, which would otherwise have been for a total of more than 15 years. Reid was also sentenced for his escape from custody last year, taking his total sentence to 11 years and nine months. He will have to serve a non-parole period of five years and nine months, backdated to 30 April 2015. Inkamala’s suspended sentence was restored, part of it to be served concurrently. His effective aggregate sentence was 12 and a half years with a non-parole period of six years and three months back-dated to 29 January 2015.
By KIERAN FINNANE