Standage guilty of two ‘cold-blooded’ murders

THE convicted killer was silent and still as the jury delivered its verdicts at the Supreme Court in Hobart yesterday.

Guilty, to two counts of murder.

He remained motionless and impassive as loved ones left behind after the 1992 killing of Ronald Frederick Jarvis and 2006 killing of John Lewis Thorn choked back tears to read victim impact statements.

The double murderer did not react when the judge described his crimes as cold blooded and premeditated, before handing down a 48-year prison sentence.

Kalangadoo man Stephen Roy Standage, 62, remained exactly as he had throughout the entire trial.

Standage barely flinched except to take notes throughout the five-month hearing, which included evidence from 180 witnesses and the tendering of countless exhibits.

The defence had earlier argued the double-murder case lacked the ‘‘cold, hard evidence’’ to prove Standage’s guilt.

Jurors were told of the ‘‘implausible’’ motive for Standage to kill Mr Jarvis, and the ‘‘impossible’’ window of time in which he was said to have shot dead Mr Thorn.

The jury had been urged to treat evidence of witnesses in relation to Mr Jarvis’s murder with extreme caution.

Standage’s defence lawyer, Tamara Jago, spoke of innocent explanations behind her client’s DNA on Mr Thorn’s clothing, inside his car and at his murder and drug stash sites.

Prosecutors had focused instead on a series of ‘‘striking similarities’’ between the two crimes.

Acting DPP Darryl Coates argued Standage was the one inextricable link between the unnatural deaths.

Mr Coates said the victims were unknown to each other but both had drug relationships with the accused.

He told jurors Standage was gripped by an unstoppable gambling habit.

The court heard the killer’s insatiable addiction depleted his bank balances and drove him to murder both men out of desperation for money.

The court heard Standage was the last to see each man alive and spoke of their murders before anybody else learned they were dead.

Jurors were told both men were shot in remote bush locations before their bodies were dragged and covered with broken saplings.

Evidence was given that each man’s wallet was stolen and their drug stashes raided after their deaths.

The court heard Standage owed Mr Jarvis about $8000 at the time he disappeared.

Jurors were told Standage also borrowed a significant sum of money from Mr Thorn, and was seen betting with thick wads of cash taken from a wallet similar to the victim’s the night his body was found.

Witnesses gave evidence Standage had a tendency to take people out into the bush and threaten them with guns over drugs or money.

Others spoke of thinly veiled threats he made after each of the murders.

During an elaborate undercover sting launched by cold-case detectives, Standage labelled one victim a ‘‘waster’’ who he milked for money and the other a ‘‘tight bastard’’ who probably got what he deserved.

He boasted to covert Tasmanian and Victorian operatives of his hidden gun stashes and described how to murder somebody without being caught.

Standage did not offer operatives a direct confession to either crime.

Even after the verdicts were delivered, Standage’s lawyer told the court he maintained his innocence, which he has for the past 22 years.

But yesterday, after one of the longest criminal trials in Tasmania’s history, the jury found Standage guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murdering Mr Jarvis and Mr Thorn.