Man ‘took matters into his own hands’ over fencing dispute, court hears
An Adelaide Hills man fatally stabbed his neighbour in the heart with a large knife over a fencing and stormwater dispute, a Supreme Court jury has been told.
- Darren Geoffrey Lorke is accused of stabbing his neighbour
- The court heard the stabbing was amid a lengthy property dispute
- The trial before a jury of 12 is expected to run for two weeks
Darren Geoffrey Lorke, 53, is on trial in Adelaide’s Supreme Court after pleading not guilty to the murder of his neighbour, 51-year-old Kevin Skeyhill in September last year.
In his opening address Prosecutor Mark Norman SC said the two men lived on neighbouring properties with just a chicken wire fence between them on Adelaide Road at Tungkillo.
“It can be said ‘good fences make good neighbours’, this wasn’t a good fence by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
Mr Norman said the accused stabbed Mr Skeyhill in the chest and through his heart with an eight-inch camouflage hunting knife.
“It was, as the prosecution suggests, the culmination of a lengthy and bitter property dispute between the two men,” Mr Norman said.
It is alleged the dispute centred around fencing issues and stormwater which was running from Mr Skeyhill’s property onto the accused’s lawn.
“[Mr Lorke] took pride in his house and his yard, he appears to have been a particularly tidy and organised man,” Mr Norman said.
“Mr Skeyhill — the deceased — was a wool classer, he worked for a local shearing company and he doesn’t appear to have been particularly organised or tidy.”
Accused called triple zero after stabbing, court hears
Mr Norman said in the days leading up to the killing, the accused “took matters into his own hands” and dug a trench on Mr Skeyhill’s property.
“It’s of course not unreasonable for the accused not to want that stormwater on his property but he went across without any permission and dug that trench as a trespasser,” he said.
The court heard Mr Skeyhill retaliated by throwing soil onto Mr Lorke’s roof and by digging up part of his lawn, which sparked a confrontation between the two men where punches were thrown.
Mr Skeyhill then installed security cameras and ‘no trespassing’ signs on his property, as well as flood lights which shone into Mr Lorke’s yard.
On the night of his death the court heard Mr Skeyhill — who had alcohol and drugs in his system — returned home with a friend to find the accused hiding in a bush on his property.
“The deceased then crosses the fence, heading towards the accused, he’s shouting at him, demanding to know what he’s up to,” Mr Norman said.
The court heard after stabbing Mr Skeyhill, the accused dragged him about 14 metres up his driveway and called triple zero, claiming that he had been “accosted by three blokes” who were “drunk as skunks”.
It heard he told the operator that he had hurt his neighbour “pretty bad” because he “sort of charged at me and I f***ing gave it to him mate”.
The jury was told Mr Lorke claimed he had armed himself with the knife and an air rifle because he was “scared shitless” of the men who were “stalking him” in the dark.
Defence barrister Greg Mead SC said there was no dispute that Mr Skeyhill’s death was caused by his client’s knife.
“The issue in this trial is whether this death is what lawyers call ‘justifiable homicide’,” he said.
“The defence say at all times Mr Lorke was acting in self defence and or in defence of his property as he is entitled at law to do.”
The trial before a jury and auxiliary Justice Michael David is expected to run for two weeks.