Accused joined search

AN ALLEGED murderer helped search for the ``close mate'' he is charged with killing, a court has heard.

Stephen Roy Standage, 61, has pleaded not guilty to shooting dead Ronald Frederick Jarvis, 37, in July 1992, and John Lewis Thorn, 59, in August 2006.

Mr Thorn's partner of 14 years, Susan Mary Fletcher, gave evidence in the Supreme Court of Tasmania in Hobart yesterday.

Ms Fletcher lived with Mr Thorn at his 160-hectare  Lake Leake property in the state's eastern midlands where they ran lake-side cabins and farmed trout.

She said Mr Thorn saw Mr Standage, who lived nearby, almost every day, and they would discuss growing cannabis.

``They were very close mates,'' Ms Fletcher told the court.

The witness said Mr Thorn kept thousands of dollars in a rock cave on the property, and had lent Mr Standage money and cannabis on several occasions.

She told the court that in 2005 Mr Thorn had been annoyed at Mr Standage for taking cannabis and not paying him back.

``Steve kept the money and said he'd pay him back in drugs next year,'' Ms Fletcher said.

Ms Fletcher said she returned home from Launceston one day in August 2006 to find her partner missing.

She said Mr Thorn was a ``creature of habit'' and it was unusual he had not come home to feed his trout.

Ms Fletcher said she searched for Mr Thorn and visited neighbours to ask his whereabouts, including Mr Standage.

She said Mr Standage came out of his house freshly showered and said: ``What's wrong, Sue?''

Mr Standage accompanied her on the search, and suggested they phone the police from his house.

The court heard that Mr Standage asked Ms Fletcher to have a private conversation the next day.

She said Mr Standage told her his DNA would be on Mr Thorn's ute and that it would show he was the last person with him.

Ms Fletcher told the court that when Mr Thorn's body was found, Mr Standage was agitated and could not sit still.

She said she asked Mr Standage: ``Do you think they will find the bastard who has done it?''

Mr Standage replied: ``Yes, I think they will.''

Ms Fletcher said she didn't see Mr Standage again, and he did not attend Mr Thorn's funeral.

The court heard Mr Thorn's wallet was missing when his body was found. It often contained up to $3000.

Defence lawyer Tamara Jago questioned Ms Fletcher about Mr Thorn's depression and ``strained'' relationship with his children.

Ms Jago will continue cross-examining Ms Fletcher before Justice Stephen Estcourt today.

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