Accused Lottah murderer apologises to victim’s family

A Lottah man accused of murdering his neighbour cried in court as he turned to the victim’s family in the back of the room and told them he was "so deeply sorry".

Taking the stand in his own trial on Tuesday, Kerry Alexander Bilston said there was nothing he could say to take back what happened to 47-year-old Dean Manshanden, who he shot in the back of the head last year.

The 66-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Manshanden, claiming he was only firing a warning shot. 

“I cannot, to this very day, I cannot explain … I thought I took every precaution to avoid hitting him,” he told the jury.

Questioning his client about the events in the lead up to the shooting, defence lawyer Greg Hoare asked what was going through his head.

Mr Bilston said his neighbour had been “intimidating” his wife and burning a “dangerous” fire on the day of the incident, which he said made him angry.

“I wanted to go up and confront him,” he said.

“I grabbed the shotgun for protection … I thought if I needed to fire it was only going to be above his head … a warning shot.”

Right before he fired, he said Mr Manshanden started laughing and asked “well what the f--- are you going to do about it asshole”.

Mr Bilston said hurting his neighbour was the “furthest thought from his head” and if he really wanted to murder him he had “plenty of opportunities”.

"It's very wild country up there [at Lottah]. If I wanted to hurt him ... he would have never been found." 

Mr Bilston told the jury he had no explanation as to why Mr Manshanden was struck when he fired the shotgun, describing it as a “tragic accident”. 

Director of Public Prosecutions Daryl Coates interrogated Mr Bilston about why he didn’t tell police it was an “accident”.

Mr Coates: “Why didn’t you tell the triple-0 operator that you didn’t mean to shoot him?”

Mr Bilston: “Whilst I take responsibility for what happened, because it was reckless, I didn’t sort of intend to say to anybody that I shot this person on purpose, because that’s not the case.”

Mr Coates: “Why didn’t you say in the 40 minute call to triple-0, the 88 minute video interview … why didn’t you once say you didn’t mean to hit him?

“The first time you mention shooting above his head was after you get the handcuffs on.”

Mr Bilston: “I had just shot a gun, which unfortunately, unwittingly killed a man.”

Mr Coates: “You shot an unarmed man, on his own property, in the back of the head as he turned away from you, that’s the case isn’t it?

Mr Bilston: “No, he was walking away from me.”

Mr Coates: “In any event, you accept you shot an unarmed man?

Mr Bilston said he had been threatened previously by Mr Manshanden, who he claimed would hold his chainsaw up in the air and go “vroom, vroom, hello neighbour”.

“Did you shoot an unarmed man on his own property,” Mr Coates again asked.

“I didn’t see the chainsaw at that time but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t nearby,” Mr Bilston replied.

Mr Coates: “You snapped when he laughed didn’t you? He laughed, you snapped and pulled the trigger.”

Mr Bilston: “Yes.”

The court heard the accused had been shooting since he was 16 and was a “fairly good shot”.

Mr Coates: “You know that it is dangerous to shoot near somebody with a gun?”

Mr Bilston: “Well, yes.”

Mr Coates: “It would be particularly dangerous to shoot so close to somebody when you’re angry, wouldn’t it?”

Mr Bilston: “There’s a difference between being angry and out of control … I was angry at you … when you were twisting my words, but I didn’t attempt to shoot you.”

The trial will continue before Justice Robert Pearce on Wednesday with defence and the crown expected to deliver their closing addresses.

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