A Tasmanian man has admitted he played a role in concealing the murder of Launceston 19-year-old Billy Ray Waters almost three years ago.
- Billy Ray Waters, 19, was killed on August 4, 2019, in northern Tasmania
- Police found his body in bushland at Mayfield, behind the Mowbray Golf Club, on August 16
- William Adair Rothwell and Jacob Michael Brennan, who were both 17 at the time of the murder, are each serving 26-year jail sentences after they admitted to killing their friend for “an ounce of cannabis”
Christopher Leigh Brown was 33-years-old when he was co-accused of murdering Mr Waters in August 2019.
Mr Waters’ body was found in bushland near Mayfield on August 16, 2019, and two teenagers are currently serving 26 years in jail for killing him.
Mr Brown had pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and was due to stand trial in the Supreme Court in Launceston from March 15.
But on Wednesday, Tasmania’s Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Linda Mason SC told Justice Michael Brett that the two-to-three weeks set aside for the trial would no longer be required, as a new indictment was being filed.
Mr Brown instead pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact of Mr Waters’ murder, trafficking in a controlled substance, namely cannabis, and dealing in firearms while not the holder of a firearms licence.
In making his guilty pleas, Mr Brown admitted he trafficked cannabis on or about January, 1, 2019 and on or about August 18, 2019, and that he dealt in a firearm, namely a 12-gauge single-barrel sawn-off shotgun, on July 31, 2019.
He also confessed to knowing Launceston teenagers William Adair Rothwell and Jacob Michael Breen had murdered Billy Ray Waters and assisted them to escape punishment.
The prosecution will no longer pursue the murder charge against Mr Brown.
Justice Brett remanded Mr Brown in custody until his next appearance in the Supreme Court in Launceston on March 19, which is when his sentencing submissions will be heard.
Teenagers serving 26 years’ jail
William Adair Rothwell and Jacob Michael Brennan, who were both 17 at the time of Mr Waters’ murder, are each serving 26-year jail sentences after they pleaded guilty to the murder in February last year.
The teenagers, who had been friends with Mr Waters, stabbed him 18 times and shot him in the back of the head at Mayfield on August 4, 2019.
They then hid his body in bushland near the Mowbray Golf Club. It was not found by police until about two weeks later.
In sentencing the two teenagers in February 2020, Justice Robert Pearce said they agreed to commit the murder for an ounce of cannabis.
“Both defendants agreed that they were paid an ounce of cannabis for the killing, which was divided between them,” Justice Pearce said.
Justice Pearce said in the months prior to the murder, Rothwell “was selling cannabis for another older man, who I will refer to as Mr B”.
“Mr B asked Mr Rothwell whether he knew anyone who would kill Mr Waters,” Justice Pearce said.
“After first responding that Mr B had asked the wrong person, Mr Rothwell approached Mr Brennan, who agreed.
Justice Pearce said Rothwell claimed the murder was “instigated by Mr B, who was ‘like his boss’.”
He said the shotgun was later returned to Mr B.
In sentencing the teenagers, Justice Pearce described the murder as “extreme, cruel and prolonged violence”.
“The murder involved a betrayal of Mr Waters’ friendship,” Justice Pearce said.
“He was tricked into going with the defendants and he would have had no hesitation in doing so.”
Rothwell and Brennan will be eligible for parole in 2035.
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