TWO men accused of murdering a man and dumping his body near Heathcote have been committed to stand trial.
Brendan Stanley, 46, and Brendan Abela, 31, have pleaded not guilty to murdering David Whimpey in October 2016.
AAP has reported Mr Whimpey’s severely decomposed body was found wrapped in plastic in a 44-gallon drum on a rural property at Mia Mia.
He was found six months after his disappearance and about 100km from where he was last seen near a Keilor hotel.
Because of the state of his remains, described by at least one medical expert as ‘‘liquefied’’, Mr Whimpey’s cause of death remains unknown.
However, Fairfax Media reported amphetamine was found in his liver and hair, and it is claimed he may have been affected by depressant drug GHB.
He also had two rib fractures, but it was unclear whether they were sustained before or after death.
AAP reported one witness told a pre-trial committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday he recalled being ‘‘freaked out’’ after spotting a smoking barrel on the property.
The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he had been living at the Stanley family’s Mia Mia property for several years, rent-free, when one morning he saw Stanley inside the house in a ‘‘dishevelled’’ and ‘‘panicked’’ state.
The witness said he looked through a window and saw another man, whom he later found out was Abela, who tried to move out of sight.
‘‘I didn’t like him. His presence was not good,’’ the witness said.
The man said he armed himself with a hunting rifle before going outside to confront Abela.
He became even more suspicious when he saw smoke coming out of a barrel, as the rural property was generally flame-free due to fire concerns.
‘‘It made me aware something might be going on,’’ he said.
‘‘I wasn’t sure what was in the barrel, but all I knew was it raised my suspicions.’’
He claimed Stanley made a stabbing motion with his hands as if the pair had ‘‘tidied someone up’’.
Another witness, who also cannot be named, told the court Abela had come to his house on one occasion looking for hydrochloric acid.
Detective Senior Constable Damon Abbey told the court a prostitute claimed Abela had made an admission about ‘‘stabbing someone to death’’.
Abela and Stanley will appear in the Supreme Court of Victoria for a directions hearing at a later date.