Backlash of hate crimes feared
CLAIMS homosexual advances led to the bashing death of Wayne Ruks in a Maryborough churchyard have outraged a local priest and been slammed by a gay magazine.
Father Paul Kelly, parish priest of Maryborough, said the defence used by Maryborough men Jason Pearce, 38, and Richard Meerdink, 40, during their murder trial was “alarming” and could incite hate crimes.
The men, who were found guilty of manslaughter, claimed Mr Ruks, 45, made sexual advances on Pearce which led them to bash him and leave him to bleed to death in the St Mary's churchyard.
“If we're not careful and society buys that (excuse), we could be in danger,” Fr Kelly said.
“I think it could create the ground work for hate crimes.
“What I'm worried about is that people will go, 'Oh, he made homosexual advances toward them and that's why they bashed him' as if that was grounds for what they did.
“I'm not in any way condoning unwanted sexual advances but, even if someone did do that, it is not justification for being bashed grievously.
“I'm very alarmed and wary that it could mitigate against grievous actions.”
The murder trial even made it to gay magazine Queensland Pride, whose editor Peter Hackney said Pearce's and Meerdink's use of the “gay panic defence” angered the gay community.
Mr Hackney told the Chronicle the defence, which claims a person acted in a state of violent temporary insanity due to homosexual panic, had been used successfully in other trials in the past but there was no room for it in today's society.
“There is no way of knowing whether he (Ruks) made the advances and, even if he did, I don't see that as justification for the men to bash him,” Mr Hackney said.
“If that is the case, I feel it would certainly anger many of our readers.”
Mr Ruks' mother, Joyce Kujala, has denied that her son was gay, calling Pearce's and Meerdink's defence a “pack of lies”.
Fr Kelly said he felt for Ms Kujala and said she should not have had to come forward and defend her son like that.
He was also angered by a comment made by defence barrister Greg McGuire, who said that on the day of Mr Ruks's death, when he was howling and hitting himself in the head, that eventually “someone was going to hit him”.
“That is an unacceptable thing to say,” Fr Kelly said.
“The man (Ruks) was obviously emotionally unwell, so it would be like saying you would punch someone who was sick.
“What does it say about our society?
“The people around him should have been trying to help him.”
Pearce and Meerdink will be sentenced at a later date.
Read more about the trial...Murder alibi was a 'lie'
Jury back to churchyard tape
Jury sees tape of churchyard fight again
Alleged killers' fate known soon
DNA puts accused at murder scene
Trial starts for churchyard murder
Read more about the murder at St Mary's Catholic Church.
Related: Queensland Pride story, 'Gay panic defence' cited by alleged murderers.