Witness's 10-year 'lie' about bat murder

·3-min read

A northern NSW man who says he watched a friend murder his neighbour on the roadway held back one small but significant detail for 10 years, he told a judge.

Robert Stonestreet testified in the NSW Supreme Court that he didn't want everyone to know that he had seen Bruce Anthony Coss bludgeon Darren Royce Willis with a bat, so he lied for years.

Stonestreet on Tuesday said he watched Coss hit Mr Willis twice, to the head and stomach causing him to fall over.

"I never wanted to talk about it, think about it. That's why I denied it with phone calls. It's big ... but it's true. Nothing I can do about it. I hate it," Stonestreet said.

"Maybe I thought it wouldn't get this serious and might get away with it ... swept under the carpet a little bit."

Coss, 49, has pleaded not guilty to murdering the 45-year-old man outside his Bingara home in December 2010.

His body has never been found.

In October 2019 Stonestreet told police in an interview that he was at home with Coss and Scott Marle having beers when a dispute about a dog erupted.

Marle and Stonestreet returned to the couch to continue drinking while Coss had an argument with Mr Willis and then "pissed off" in his car, but in court he said this version was a mixture of "true false".

"(You) just left out that really critical bit that you saw him hit him with the bat," defence barrister Peter King said.

"Yes," Stonestreet said.

"And that's what I suggest was the piece of gold that you didn't tell police until the 5th of April 2020."

"Right," he said.

He said he was too scared to speak up, but that it was the biggest mistake he'd ever made.

After Coss returned and said he had gone night fishing, the men barely spoke of it again, he said.

"And then this incident just fades away into history, unmentioned, un-commemorated," Mr King said

"Yes," Stonestreet said

About three months later Stonestreet saw NSW State Emergency Services searching behind Coss's home, and in the river, and "thought he would get caught".

But it wasn't until October 2019 when the pair were both arrested.

Then Marle and Stonestreet received reduced sentences in exchange for assisting the police with the investigation.

After they were charged Stonestreet claims Coss said to "keep our mouths shut" and to keep denying it as police had no proof.

Stonestreet denied lying to police to get out of jail early, saying he wanted to do the right thing after thinking no one would believe his story.

"Why would the town think you're full of s*** if you spoke up about a murder?" Mr King said.

"I didn't think they would believe me."

Earlier Marle testified that the trio had been joking that night before Coss said he was going to kill Mr Willis.

He said Coss told them the man was dead before loading something onto the back of his ute using a trolley, and later burning something in a fire drum near the house.

Justice Hament Dhanji has adjourned the trial in Moree until Thursday due to strike action by the Public Service Association.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting