Cameron Mansell has been found guilty of murdering missing millionaire Craig Puddy after an epic jury trial that heard testimony from almost 200 witnesses.
The jury, which had heard eight weeks of evidence in the circumstantial case and viewed more than 230 exhibits, started their deliberations on Friday, but did not convene over the weekend.
They delivered their verdict shortly after 4pm today, after 11 hours of deliberations over two days.
Mansell, a 39-year-old father of one, now faces the prospect of life in jail.
The court room was in absolute silence moments before the Judge entered.
Mr Mansell who had shown little expression during the trial did not show a visible reaction as the conviction was announced.
He was remanded in custody and will reappear tomorrow when a sentencing date will be set.
Friends and family of Mr Puddy said the verdict was a relief and that police had been “magnificent”.
They said they hoped the conviction would be the first step towards closure and they hoped they would find where Mr Puddy’s body was.
Mansell’s defence lawyer Anthony Eyers said his client was in shock and he would make no further comment until tomorrow.
Mansell had fought the allegation he fatally bludgeoned Mr Puddy, 45, in his Mt Pleasant mansion on May 3 last year after the pair's business relationship soured and Mr Puddy suspected the accused man of stealing cash from a pub they were both involved in.
Mr Puddy’s body has not been found. His concerned family and friends calling police after they found blood spatter in the missing man’s kitchen the day after he disappeared.
Today’s conviction follows a long list of court proceedings during which Mansell moved through two sets of defence lawyers – sacking one set just a month out from the date his trial.
On the first day of his trial last month, Mansell indicated another bid to withdraw instructions from his current lawyers and represent himself.
He changed his mind after Justice Michael Murray refused Mansell’s application to adjourn the trial so he had time to prepare.
Mansell’s lawyers claimed he had been at Mr Puddy’s home on May 3 last year when a group of thugs entered and attacked Mr Puddy over an alleged drug debt, with witnesses testifying in the trial that Mr Puddy had at times used cocaine.
Prosecutor Bruno Fiannaca had argued that tensions came to a head between the pair after Mansell failed in his task of raising new investors for the struggling Crawley tavern Basement on Broadway, which Mr Puddy had invested in along with Martyn Rogers and now-convicted drug dealer Mark "Horse" Elliott.
The State argued Mr Puddy had also suspected Mansell, who the court heard sometimes paid pub suppliers with his own credit card, of stealing cash from the pub after he found the safe empty the weekend before his disappearance, and that he had been frustrated with Mansell’s unsuccessful bid to find a purchaser for the millionaire’s luxury marine cruiser The Hoo Haa.
The court heard Mansell had sunk about $180,000 into the venture, including funds from clients of his financial planning business, and that Mr Puddy had discussed the pub going into administration.
Forensic evidence during the trial included blood pattern analysis which had found Mr Puddy was struck at least twice, most likely to the head, with a blunt object. One of the blows was inflicted no more than about 30cm from the floor.
Forensic testing with a chemical that turns blood purple later revealed evidence of latent blood stains on the kitchen’s floor and signs of mopping and wiping.
A wheelie bin from his Mt Pleasant home was later found in Yanchep bush containing Mr Puddy’s blood. Mr Mansell’s fingerprint was found on the bin, with his lawyer claiming he had previously used the bin to dispose of rubbish at Mr Puddy’s home.
The jury was played a taped phone call in which Mansell claimed he had barely escaped with his own life and had managed to convince the attackers to let him go.
Another witness testified that Mr Mansell said he had heard Mr Puddy being attacked and that it "sounded like" he was being struck to the head with a hammer.
Mansell admitted later burning his Jeep Cherokee, which the State claim he used to move a wheelie bin containing Mr Puddy’s body, in Banksia Grove bush.
Inside the car had been a key to Mr Puddy’s home and a hammer.
A relative of Mr Mansell testified that the accused man had appeared out of the blue at his Townsville home on May 17 and had told him a group of thugs had attacked him and Mr Puddy before making him clean blood from the scene and also put his hands in Mr Puddy’s blood and touch things around the home.
He had also told the relative that he burnt his car because he feared blood from the scene, which he had been forced to touch, would be in the vehicle and link him to the incident.
Mr Fiannaca argued in he trial that Mansell’s version of events was "ludicrous" and inconsistent while defence lawyer Anthony Eyers submitted the accounts were remarkably consistent and that some details could have been misinterpreted or inadvertently altered by those recounting them to the court.
Mr Fiannaca also submitted that signed boat transfer documents that were sent to Mansell’s wife on May 7 last year with a note asking her to hide them were evidence Mansell had been seeking to profit from Mr Puddy’s death.
Extensive searches of bushland and the Swan River have not located Mr Puddy’s body.
The missing persons squad has failed to find any trace of Mr Puddy with airlines, travel services, hospitals or mental health services. The jury has heard that his bank accounts had not been touched, aside from direct debits, since he disappeared.
The jury heard that Mr Mansell was arrested on May 7 and questioned for 15 hours before being released unconditionally and watched by police under 24-hour surveillance.
However, police had lost sight of Mansell – sparking criticism of WA police at the time – and he travelled to South Australia under a fake name.
By chance, two detectives working on the disappearance of Mr Puddy had also been on the same flight but Mansell again evaded the officers after he got into a taxi.Mansell was later found camping in Queensland rainforest and extradited back to WA where he was charged with murder.
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