BENJAMIN BATTERHAM COURT
Benjamin Batterham says he just wants to get on with his life after being found not guilty of murdering a burglar he found inside his Newcastle home.
The apprentice chef says it has been a long three-and-a-half years since his March 2016 arrest to prove his innocence.
A Newcastle Supreme Court jury on Wednesday accepted the 35-year-old's claim he was making a citizen's arrest when he chased Ricky Slater, tackled him, put him in a chokehold and repeatedly punched him in the head until police arrived.
It found Mr Batterham, who spent two months in prison after his arrest before being granted bail, not guilty of murder and the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Slater - who had scarring to his heart because of regular drug use, suffered liver disease and was obese - suffered a cardiac arrest following the attack but was revived by paramedics.
He had another two cardiac arrests in hospital and died the next day.
Mr Batterham smiled and nodded to the jury when the verdict was handed down. It had been deliberating since 1pm on Tuesday after a two-week trial.
Slater's mother, Beryl Dickson, immediately walked out of the courtroom.
Outside court, a relieved Mr Batterham made a brief statement thanking family and friends and his defence team led by barrister Winston Terracini SC.
"I'm very happy about the verdict being found not guilty," Mr Batterham said.
"It's been a long couple of years and finally it's over.
"Now it's time to move on and get on with life."
Mr Terracini indicated in court that Mr Batterham would be seeking costs to help pay his legal fees.
He had argued Mr Batterham had every legal right to make the citizen's arrest and there was no proof his actions caused Slater's death.
At one stage during the eight-minute struggle, Slater bit him on the hand, making the chef even more determined to hold him down until police arrived.
Crown prosecutor Wayne Creasey SC said Mr Batterham was within his rights to chase and detain Slater, but went too far.
He said Mr Batterham was in a frenzy when threatening to kill Slater and ignored pleas from neighbours to release the burglar, who was crying out he couldn't breathe.
Medical experts called to give evidence during the two-week trial had differing opinions on what caused Slater's death.
Clinical toxicologist Dr Nuren Gunja told the jury he believed Slater, high on ice at the time, had died of asphyxiation from being strangled.
But forensic toxicologist and pharmacologist Dr Michael Kennedy disagreed, contending Slater suffered a heart attack due to the high level of methylamphetamine in his system and his existing heart condition.
Mr Batterham was at home in the Newcastle suburb of Hamilton drinking with a friend when he saw Slater at the entrance to his seven-month-old daughter's bedroom about 3.20am on March 26, 2016. Slater was carrying a shoulder bag containing three knives, cannabis and ice.
Mr Batterham's partner and baby were not home at the time.
The jury was not told during the trial about Slater's lengthy criminal history, including his imprisonment for at least four years in 2009 for the aggravated sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl in south Tamworth.