A man has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of murdering two people, whose bodies were found locked in a toolbox and submerged in a dam, following a two-week jury trial in the Supreme Court in Brisbane.
- The court heard Tuhirangi-Thomas Tahiata was one of several people involved in the two deaths
- During the trial, the court was told Tahiata changed his story to police a number of times
- The court was shown video of Tahiata leading police to where the bodies were dumped in the creek
Iuliana Triscaru and Cory Breton’s decomposing bodies were pulled from the water at Kingston, south of Brisbane, in February 2016, more than two weeks after they went missing.
Tuhirangi-Thomas Tahiata had pleaded not guilty to their murders, with the court hearing he was one of several people involved in their deaths.
A jury deliberated for four days before finding Tahiata guilty on two counts of murder.
He was given two life sentences and will be eligible for parole in February 2046.
Ms Triscaru and Mr Breton, who were drug dealers, were allegedly lured to a Kingston unit, south of Brisbane, after Mr Breton told a friend he had a photo of a drug dealer on his phone, the court heard.
Once there, they were beaten and forced into a toolbox by a group of people, the court was told.
Tahiata told police he helped load the toolbox onto the back of his ute, then drove it to Scrubby Creek with another man, Trent Thrupp, where he alleged it was dumped into the water by Mr Thrupp, the court heard.
In his closing argument, prosecutor David Meredith told the Supreme Court Tahiata joined in with the “stupid, evil plan” not because of any animosity towards Mr Breton or Ms Triscaru, but “because he’s asked to by his friends”.
In sentencing, Justice Peter Davis described the murders as “simply horrendous”.
“Most likely, the two deceased were alive and screaming for their lives when they were placed in the creek,” he said.
“It is frightening to imagine that scene, let alone contemplate the terror being experienced by the two people who had been beaten, bruised, bound and cramped in the toolbox.
“It is haunting to imagine the moment the toolbox slipped under the water, plunging the night into silence.”
Tahiata leads police to creek
During the trial, the court heard Tahiata changed his story to police a number of times — first saying he was not involved, then that he acted alone in killing the pair.
The court was shown video of Tahiata leading police to where the bodies were dumped in the creek.
In a later interview with police, Mr Meredith said Tahiata then told officers others were involved in the deaths.
“After sitting in the watch house overnight, for 24 hours or so, he [Tahiata] calls back [the police officers] and tells, what the prosecution says, is not only a more logical story but the true story,” Mr Meredith told the court.
During the trial, the court heard Tahiata told police he wanted to let the pair go before they were dumped in the creek, but Mr Thrupp allegedly told him: “We can’t, man, otherwise we’re going to be in the f***ing box next.”
“He knew what they were doing was wrong and apparently had some misgivings,” Mr Meredith told the court.
“But he let himself be talked out of it easily and he went on faithfully to Scrubby Creek.”
Tahiata covered his ears to block out screams
Mr Meredith told the jury Tahiata knew the pair were going to die, but had done nothing to help them.
“When he puts his hands over his ears at Scrubby Creek as he said he did, to drown out the pleas of mercy, the accused’s conscience came knocking but he didn’t answer it,” Mr Meredith told the court.
“He only fully listens to his conscience when he tells the complete truth. When he names all the people involved.
“It’s truly unfortunate for Cory [Mr Breton] and Tabita [Ms Triscaru] — to put it mildly — that his conscience only kicks in when their bodies are decomposing in Scrubby Creek.”
‘Tired and stoned at time of interview’
In his closing argument, Tahiata’s defence lawyer Chris Minnery told the jury there were no witnesses to what happened that could be trusted.
He said his client had changed his story to police numerous times, and it was up to the jury to determine which version, if any, was the true story.
“I suggest because you just cannot rely on what my client has said, it’s especially important for you to go looking for independent evidence,” Mr Minnery told the court.
Mr Minnery told the jury his client had used cannabis shortly before his police interview and was so tired “he was falling asleep between interviews”.
“I suggest you might think he said some extremely silly things, for one or more of these reasons —he was nervous, he was scared, he was stunned, he was exhausted, he didn’t really understand and he was overwhelmed,” Mr Minnery said.
Several others have been charged over the deaths of Mr Breton and Ms Triscaru.