The court was told Garry Hudson lost self-control after being excluded from his partner’s funeral. (Facebook)
A man who drove through a house full of mourners at his partner’s funeral in Kowanyama on Cape York in 2016 has been found guilty of manslaughter by a Supreme Court jury in Cairns, after they deliberated for just 20 minutes.
Garry Paul Hudson, 57, had been charged with the murder of one of the mourners, 48-year-old Delanne Zingle.
He denied murdering Ms Zingle, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and to dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm to eight others.
The jury found him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
Mr Hudson, an Indigenous ranger, rammed the house with a work Toyota Landcruiser utility, reversed out across the road, then drove through the house again after a dispute over the location of the funeral.
In his closing address to the jury, prosecutor Nigel Rees said it was a “calculated and deliberate act” intended to kill or do grievous bodily harm to those in the house.
“He deliberately gets into his vehicle, he buckles up … and he uses that vehicle as a weapon,” he said.
“Drives around, in the trees, around the block, deliberately, deliberately drives into the house where he knows there’s a crowd of people.
“He has complete disregard for anyone’s safety.”
Defence barrister Joshua Trevino said Mr Hudson, fragile and grieving, was subjected to “extraordinary” provocation and his anger “overwhelmed him”.
“It was only an unbridled anger that could explain Garry Hudson’s actions,” he said.
“Putting yourself in his position provides insight into a man pushed to the limit and past breaking point.
“His actions, shocking and as terrible as they are, were fuelled by his grief, the powerlessness of his situation, rather than any desire to hurt or kill those inside.”
He said Mr Hudson had accepted responsibility for his actions, having admitted to manslaughter, but was not a murderer.
The funeral was for Mr Hudson’s partner of two decades, Katherine George, whom he had cared for during her 15-month battle with cancer.
Mr Hudson and Ms George’s family each wanted the viewing of her body at their respective houses, and ended up at mediation the morning of the funeral during which Ms George’s family demanded all her white goods, then all her possessions as well as her body.
They agreed the body would be viewed at the morgue before they went to the church, but pallbearers took Ms George’s body to her sister’s house at the family’s behest.
‘He lost all control over his situation’
The court heard Mr Hudson saw the hearse heading to the house and drove over, telling those inside: “Youse told me a lie.”
Three witnesses reported hearing Ms Zingle tell Mr Hudson to “f… off”.
Mr Hudson was heard to respond, “I’ll be back”, after which he got in the vehicle and crashed through the fence and the front of the house.
Mr Trevino said anyone in Mr Hudson’s position would have “snapped”.
“A compromise position reached after a tense and emotional mediation was ignored, and ultimately he was excluded from his own partner’s funeral,” he said.
“He had by then lost all agency, all control over his situation. He lost all control over his emotions.
“He had been pushed to a place where he had suffered a complete lack of control over events that were of most importance to him, the funeral of his life partner.”
But Mr Rees said Mr Hudson’s response was “extreme”.
“This is a disproportionate reaction to the situation,” he said.
“He took matters into his own hands and exacted his revenge. This man was on a mission.”
Mr Hudson worekd as an Indigenous ranger in Kowanyama, north-west of Cairns. (ABC News: Kirsty Nancarrow – file photo)
Mr Rees said despite Mr Hudson’s son running out to stop him driving through the building a second time, he drove around him and went straight into the house again, going so fast the vehicle became airborne.
He said the house was “packed to the rafters with young and old” and Mr Hudson did not render any assistance to the injured.
“You may think he didn’t give one hoot about the people inside the house, and that’s when he drove through the first time, second time, and when he left.”
Earlier, the trial heard from Sergeant John Simpson of Kowanyama Police, who arrived at the house to find the front of the building missing, the Toyota Landcruiser wedged into the back of the house protruding into the backyard, and people screaming.
“The inside of the house was like something exploded. I saw the coffin was smashed to pieces as well.”
Another police officer, Sergeant Simon Atkinson, told the jury he had just started his shift when he heard a knock on the door and Mr Hudson walked in, held his wrists out in front of him and said:
“I’ve killed some people. Do you want to lock me up?”
Sergeant Atkinson said Mr Hudson told him he had driven through a house, but did not know who he had killed or how many.
The court heard Ms Zingle was found lying in the kitchen under rubble including a fridge door.
She died from severe crush injuries to her head and chest shortly before an ambulance arrived.
Several others were taken to Cairns for treatment.