NSW prisoner guilty of murdering cellmate

·3-min read

A NSW prisoner's elaborate story of choking his cellmate to death in self-defence over a television volume dispute has been bluntly thrown out by a judge.

"I do not believe any of it," Justice Robert Allan Hulme said in the Supreme Court at Port Macquarie.

Richard Jason Reay, 46, was found guilty of murder in his judge-alone trial on Wednesday for strangling his cellmate Geoffrey Fardell in a jail near Kempsey.

He had pleaded not guilty to the June 2019 homicide saying he felt "intimidated and vulnerable" when Fardell initiated the violent outburst.

"He was pointing in a menacing manner (and saying) 'turn the TV down'," Reay testified during his trial.

"I said 'you turn it down' ... he leapt on me whilst I was lying on my back and he started throwing punches."

Then out of impulse, he ripped down a clothesline that he'd strung above his bed and tied it around his alleged aggressor's neck.

"In a panic ... scared and just worried and confused about what to do next," Reay then paced around his cell, stood by the intercom for half an hour, had a shower, turned the television on and off, and eventually fell asleep.

The next morning he told a floor sweeper "my celly is dead".

But Justice Hulme said this was an entirely implausible account of events pointing out that Fardell would have troubled himself to climb down the bunk bed and stand within arm's reach of the television.

"This story on its own makes no sense," he said.

He also disputed Fardell's ability to have delivered "a flurry of punches" within the dimensions of the bunk beds, and that a clothesline happened to be conveniently close for Reay to use as a weapon in defending himself.

Reay then gave a "nonsensical" explanation for flushing the clothesline made from bedsheets down the toilet, surprisingly without difficulty, "just because it was lying there and he had to get rid of it," Justice Hulme said.

Initially, Reay said he awoke to find Fardell dead in the morning, a story he stuck to until the lesion mark on his neck became apparent.

The Crown argued Reay's credibility was undermined by a number of lies he told police and that he had a tendency towards violent acts without provocation.

Reay was jailed in 2003 after striking a man with a baseball bat in the head for no apparent reason, and in 2019 alone recorded seven incidents of assault against various prisoners.

During his trial, he tried and failed to disallow a number of police interviews he gave, saying his attention in one had not been drawn to being truthful.

But Justice Hulme ruled all were admissible but noted these lies provided little material in his overall assessment.

Reay's defence submitted that the deceased had a tendency towards aggression and violence including threatening a corrective services officer with a blood-filled syringe while in transit in 2007.

A registered nurse overseeing medical treatment of Fardell said his behaviour leading up to the incident was not concerning and that "he was lovely".

Reay himself described his victim as "a man who was quiet and kept to himself".

He is due to be sentenced on April 16.