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Shock reason postie killed with sport drink

Troy Maskell
Former firefighter Troy Maskell has been jailed after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter over the death of postmaster John Burke. Picture NCA NewsWire / Aaron Francis

A former firefighter has been slammed after killing a vulnerable elderly postmaster in an unprovoked service station attack.

Troy Maskell, 44, returned before the Victorian Supreme Court on Wednesday where he was jailed for eight years by Judge Lex Lasry over the death of John Burke, 73.

Speaking about the prevalence of violence within the community, Justice Lasry told Maskell he wanted to say society “abhors” his actions, but he was “no longer confident that is true”.

“The incidence and acceptance of gratuitous violence shows no sign of diminishing as middle-aged men, particularly, feel the need for some kind of machismo acceptance regardless of who the victim is,” he said.

“ Very often it is women. In this case, a vulnerable man in his 70s who had no hope of defending himself.”

Troy Maskell
Maskell will be eligible for parole after 5 years in prison. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

The court was told Maskell had been drinking heavily and smoking cannabis at a friend’s home near Strathmerton, in Victoria’s north, on August 7, 2021, but left after “friction” erupted at the social event.

Upset and angry, he left the property before pulling into the Strathmerton Shell service station shortly before 1am.

Inside his then partner Fiona Taylor began abusing Mr Burke after falsely accusing him of being a paedophile.

Mr Burke, the town’s postmast for 45 years, had walked down to the station for a hot meal and a friendly chat with the attendants — as he was often known to do.

When Maskell’s group entered the petrol station, he’d greeted Maskell’s 10-year-old daughter with a smile, saying; “How are youse (sic)”.

Captured on CCTV cameras, Maskell picked up a one-litre bottle of Maximus Isotonic sports drink and threw it at a shocked Mr Burke.

Maskell hurled the sports drink at Mr Burke. Picture: Supreme Court of Victoria/ Victoria Police.
Maskell hurled the sports drink at Mr Burke. Picture: Supreme Court of Victoria/ Victoria Police.

The bottle struck his head and Maskell followed up with a kick to Mr Burke’s hip, causing the elderly man to fall to the hard tile floor.

Maskell then stood over the injured man berating him and crushing his glasses before leaving.

Mr Burke was conscious but in pain and was taken to hospital where a subdural haematoma, or brain bleed, was found on the left side of his brain.

He died almost three months later, on October 28, after complications led his family to make the difficult decision to end treatment.

Over the trial, in arguments rejected by the jury, Maskell’s lawyers claimed Mr Burke’s pre-existing serious health conditions could have been the cause of his death independent of the “shameful” assault.

CCTV captured the moment John Burke was attacked by Troy Makell. Picture: Supreme Court of Victoria/ Victoria Police.
CCTV captured the moment John Burke was attacked by Troy Makell. Picture: Supreme Court of Victoria/ Victoria Police.

Sentencing Maskell, Justice Lasry accepted the former firefighter had post-traumatic stress disorder after his efforts during the Black Saturday bushfires and his life had “spiralled downwards” after not seeking treatment.

He found that although Maskell’s actions were “spontaneous” and didn’t carry the expectation that it would lead to devastating consequences, his behaviour during the incident was “despicable”.

Justice Lasry told the court he accepted Maskell had genuine regret for Mr Burke’s death.

Maskell will be eligible for parole after serving five years of his sentence.