Accused spoke of drug deal gone bad

AN ACCUSED killer told an undercover operative a murder victim was a "tight bastard" who was probably shot dead after a drug deal gone bad, a court has heard.

Stephen Roy Standage, 61, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ronald Frederick Jarvis in 1992 or John Lewis Thorn in 2006.

Two undercover police officers gave evidence yesterday in the Supreme Court hearing against Mr Standage.

Jurors were told the covert officers assumed false identities and befriended the accused and his partner as part of a cold case investigation called "Operation Muster".

One officer was introduced into the investigation in late 2009 and the other several months later.

The court heard the operatives were tasked with developing and maintaining relationships with each of the "targets", using listening devices to record their conversations.

One officer said Mr Standage spoke about being interviewed in relation to one of the murders, telling the operative "Thorny" had been shot dead in the Lake Leake area.

"He referred to Mr Thorn as being a tight bastard and said that he thought Mr Thorn's murder was a drug deal gone bad," the witness said.

Mr Standage told the officer Mr Thorn was rich and had $4 million, but quashed suggestion the killing was linked to the inheritance of his estate.

The court heard the accused disagreed with a police theory the murder was an execution.

"Mr Standage's theory was that it wouldn't have been an execution because he was shot on the road and then dragged into the bush," the officer said.

"Mr Standage said if you were going to execute someone you'd walk them into the bush and then shoot them."

The court heard the accused then drew a rough diagram with his finger of the bushland area Mr Thorn's body was found, telling the operative police were "too dumb" to notice a piece of evidence.

"He indicated a vehicle had gone up the track and cut through the bush in order not to leave tracks at an intersection," the officer said.

"Mr Standage indicated the cops wouldn't have known that because they wouldn't have been able to work it out, but that he was skilled in tracking."

The accused told the operative Mr Thorn was a drug dealer who approached him about going into a partnership growing and selling marijuana.

"But Mr Standage indicated you were better off growing drugs alone and not with somebody else," the witness said.

The operative said he and Mr Standage had a number of conversations about firearms, recalling a conversation about a murder weapon in a Campbell Town killing.

"Mr Standage said the river would be a good place to get rid of a gun," the officer said.

The trial continues.