A coroner has backed a police decision not to charge a teenager who was “in fear for his life” when he fatally stabbed two intruders who forced their way into his north Queensland home.
However, the findings were scathing of an “inadequate” emergency service response with the coroner finding two lives could have been saved had police responded sooner.
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Dean Webber, was just 19 at the time he fatally stabbed Corey Christensen, 37, and Thomas Davy, 27, in Alva Beach, southeast of Townsville, on October 1, 2018.
Davy had spent the previous day fishing in Alva Beach with his girlfriend Candice Locke.
Close by, Christensen and Louis Bengoa were driving on the beach when they came across the pair, inviting them to watch the NRL grand final nearby.
During a golf buggy ride with Bengoa, Locke fell and injured her shoulder and went to the closest house – where Webber was asleep inside.
Davy and Christensen went looking for Locke, believing she had been seriously injured.
The pair assaulted Webber and forced their way into his home by removing a glass door from its tracks.
Once inside, they were stabbed by a terrified Webber who was “genuinely concerned for his own safety”.
“His fear was caused by Locke appearing injured at his house in the middle of the night and telling him that she was pushed from the buggy and that she needed help in the context of males being outside his property who he believed wanted to get her,” coroner Jane Bentley said in findings published on Wednesday.
“His fear was compounded when the three men refused to leave his property and then began trying to get into the house.”
Davy died from blood loss from stab wounds, while Christensen died from a stab wound to the chest.
While Webber admitted stabbing the pair he was never charged as detectives determined he had acted in self-defence to protect himself and the injured Locke.
Just over three years to the day of the tragic stabbing, Bentley found in favour of the police decision.
The coroner found that although the police made the controversial decision just four days after the tragedy, it could have been reconsidered at any time.
“I accept that Detective Sergeant Gavin Neal’s initial decision not to charge Webber in the early days of the investigation was based on his assessment of the evidence available to him at that time and there was no bar to charges being laid at a later time should further evidence come to light.”
Bentley found the experienced officer had considered the evidence available, to determine there was insufficient evidence to charge Webber.
“I find that he exercised his discretion appropriately.”
However, she was highly critical of the response of emergency services, labelling their actions “inadequate”.
She found police incorrectly prioritised paperwork for a separate matter instead of responding to the Alva Beach incident.
“Had (police) gone to Webber’s residence on being advised of the matter it is highly likely that the situation would have been defused immediately and two lives saved.”
Suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder, Webber was excused from giving testimony during the week-long inquest earlier this year.
A lawyer representing Christensen’s widow Jayne asked for time for the family to consider the findings.
“We’ve just been given the decision which is obviously 55 pages long,” Nick Dore said.
“There’s a lot to digest and consider. Jayne just asked on her behalf to thank everyone who’s supported her throughout this whole process.”