A 73-year-old Albany businessman who allegedly tried to hire a hitman last year to kill a woman paid a $10,000 deposit, wanted her strangled to avoid any blood being spilled and thought about digging a 30-foot hole to bury her, a Perth court was told today.
Brian Vincent Attwell, who is well-known in Albany and owns a successful earthmoving contracting business, intends to plead not guilty to the rare charge of attempting to procure the commission of murder in September last year.
Details of the alleged offence were aired in Stirling Gardens Magistrate's Court today, where the wheelchair-bound accused's bail application was refused.
The court heard allegations that Mr Attwell, who has been in custody for the past five months, enquired with a man he was interviewing for work about the "hit" and when realising he was not joking that man went to police.
An undercover police officer then became involved in the case and recorded conversations he had with Mr Attwell, the court was told.
The identities of Mr Attwell's alleged victim and the witness who reported the matter to police have been suppressed.
In opposing bail, State prosecutor Sandra De Maio said Mr Attwell allegedly paid the undercover police officer, who he believed was a hitman, a $10,000 cash deposit to kill the woman.
She said Mr Attwell was recorded as saying he did not want to use his land in Albany to bury her because police would come to him first knowing he had it out for her, but that he could dig a 30-foot hole with an excavator to drop her body into.
Mr Attwell, appearing via video link from Albany Regional Prison, laughed at one stage while Ms De Maio was telling the court about his conversations with the undercover operative.
Ms De Maio said Mr Attwell was recorded as telling the undercover officer: "I just want her strangled or something, just get rid of the f...... thing ... I don't want any blood left."
She said during their meetings, Mr Attwell described the victim's appearance, her home and car registration to the undercover officer and suggested he ask her for coffee and then bind her up with duct tape and strangle her. Mention was made at one stage of getting rid of her teeth, the prosecutor said.
"The accused was angry at the victim, so great was his anger it pervaded the whole course of his life," Ms De Maio said.
She said the alleged victim's safety remained a primary concern and told the court that Mr Attwell was a man of considerable means to do whatever he wanted directly or indirectly.
Ms De Maio said Mr Attwell was evasive during his video record of interview with police, when he told officers the alleged victim was a "maggot" who was a "pain in the ass" who had "cost us millions". He claimed he wanted to find a way to get rid of her, but was merely on a "fact-finding mission".
Defence lawyer Belinda Lonsdale argued her client did not have the "physical or mental wherewithal " to be a flight risk and there was no evidence he would interfere with witnesses.
Ms Lonsdale said her client's mental state had deteriorated in recent years. The court was told a psychiatrist believed Mr Attwell suffered from frontal lobe dementia. When that psychiatrist put the alleged offence to him, Mr Attwell assured him it was just a joke.
She said Mr Attwell's age and frail health, which made prison time difficult, were important factors to consider. Ms Lonsdale said given publicity surrounding the case, her client, who wanted to continue working, would not be any threat to the alleged victim.
Magistrate Jan Whitbread denied Mr Attwell's bail because of her concerns about the risk of Mr Attwell reoffending.
She said at its highest the prosecution case was undoubtedly strong, with the offence, if proven, being extraordinarily serious and would result in jail time.
Ms Whitbread said no bail conditions could allay her concerns. She said based on the evidence, the accused displayed significant vitriol towards the alleged victim as well as determination and planning to execute his plans.
Mr Attwell was remanded in custody to reappear in court next month.