Missing man allegedly worried about bikies

·3-min read

A northern NSW man accused of murdering his neighbour with a baseball bat had previously tried to run him over, a court has been told.

After reports surfaced in 2019 that Darren Royce Willis was last seen alive on December 10, 2010, two of his friends called Crime Stoppers.

Wayne Johnston remembers the date was December 16 when he last saw his good friend outside The Sportsman's Hotel in Bingara.

That day was the birthday of his brother Ronald, or Porkie.

He also identified a yellow ute in the media release as belonging to long-term resident Bruce Anthony Coss.

Coss, 49, has pleaded not guilty in the Supreme Court at Moree to murdering the 45-year-old man with a steel-capped baseball bat.

Mr Johnston recalled Coss and Mr Willis had previously got on well until some "sheep business", the court was told on Tuesday.

After Coss had left sheep in Mr Willis's paddock friction was caused by a payment dispute and Mr Johnston told his friend "watch him he might run over you," he said.

"And he said 'he's already tried to do that, I had to dive over in the grass'," Mr Johnston recalled Mr Willis saying.

Coss is accused of fatally striking Mr Willis with a modified wooden baseball bat as he walked home from the pub late in the evening.

At the time Mr Willis was allegedly having an affair with a "bikie's missus" and feared for his safety not long before he disappeared.

He was also known to cross the river into town and may have been swept away, defence barrister Peter King said.

His body has never been found.

Coss was arrested in October 2019 following a renewed investigation and an inquest.

Senior Constable Steve Harris gave evidence on Tuesday that he was alerted in January 2011 to Mr Willis's disappearance by his sister, prompting an investigation.

Mr Willis had a past history of leading a nomadic lifestyle and would often leave the town for long periods without telling anyone, Sen Const Harris wrote in an earlier statement.

By then he was well known to local police.

"He was a character who regularly drew attention to himself, do you agree?" defence barrister Peter King said.

"Correct," Sen Const Harris replied.

"He was a man who liked to drink alcohol?"

"That's correct."

"He didn't mind a punch up apparently."

"Correct."

The officer took a statement in 2011 from Coss who mentioned having a dispute over payment with Mr Willis after agisting sheep on his property.

But while several people had told him Coss was involved in Mr Willis's disappearance, after speaking with him he felt "he was not involved," Sen Const Harris wrote in a 2011 note.

He agreed that he had not spoken to one of the key crown witnesses when he made that comment.

The Crown relies on this witness and another who say they either watched or heard directly from the accused about the alleged attack.

One of these men told Sen Const Harris at the time that he knew nothing of Mr Willis's disappearance, and his late confession will be the subject of scrutiny during the trial.

On Tuesday the police officer testified he had heard the "rumour" that Mr Willis was in a relationship with a bikie's girlfriend and was worried they were after him.

He agreed Coss "fully and freely" co-operated with his questions and openly spoke about the pair's disagreements.

The trial continues.

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