The scene after a body was found in the St Mary's churchyard in July last year. The dead man was 45-year-old Wayne Warren Ruks.
The scene after a body was found in the St Mary's churchyard in July last year. The dead man was 45-year-old Wayne Warren Ruks.

Guilty of manslaughter

TWO MARYBOROUGH men are expected to plead guilty later this year to the manslaughter of 45-year-old Wayne Ruks, after they were yesterday evening found not guilty of murder.

Jason Andrew Pearce, 38, and Richard John Meerdink, 40, were accused of bashing Mr Ruks to death in St Mary's Catholic Church grounds on July 3 last year.

Yesterday it took a jury seven hours to reach a not guilty verdict on murder and a guilty verdict on manslaughter.

Before the two-week trial was finally brought to a close, both defence counsels made applications for psychological and psychiatric tests to be run on their clients before they pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Their manslaughter charges - along with Pearce's additional charge of possessing a bong - were adjourned to a Brisbane court.

In the Maryborough Supreme Court over the past two weeks the court has heard evidence from about 40 witnesses.

Numerous police interviews and 15 minutes of CCTV footage, which Crown Prosecutor Greg Cummings described as “damning” and “compelling”, was also presented.

It showed three men - identified as the victim and the two accused - arrive at the church on Bazaar Street to drink cask wine about 9pm.

The encounter appeared to take a sour turn, however, only minutes later.

Pearce and Meerdink alleged Mr Ruks, a Post Office Hotel resident, made a sexual advance towards Pearce - although this was unclear in the footage.

The tape showed Pearce then tackle Mr Ruks to the ground. Meerdink then delivered a swinging kick to Mr Ruks.

It was unclear whether Mr Ruks was further struck.

Defence counsels have labelled the altercation as an “unfortunate drunken escapade” and that Mr Ruks' death was an “extraordinarily unforseen circumstance”.

“Mr Ruks bled to death because of how intoxicated he was and his general state of health,” Greg McGuire told the court.

It was claimed Pearce reacted to the alleged sexual advance in the way that he did because he was “f***ed with as a kid”.

Meerdink and Pearce will remain in the Maryborough Correctional Centre until they are dealt with for manslaughter.

The pre-sentence report, including the psychological and psychiatric tests, was expected to take six weeks to compile.

The matter would then be mentioned in a Brisbane court before Justice Peter Applegarth and set down for a sentence date.



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