Tragic tales heard in court

Three men charged in relation to the death of Springbank war veteran Ken Handford have appeared in the Ballarat Magistrates Court.

Adam Williamson, 38, and Jonathan Cooper, 28, are both facing charges of murder and aggravated burglary; whilst Adam Rowe, 38, faces charges of being an accessory to the murder. All three men appeared before a committal hearing on Wednesday (June 21) and Thursday (June 22).

Mr Handford’s body was found in September last year on what would have been his 90th birthday.

The committal hearing was told that Williamson and Cooper had allegedly murdered the Springbank great-grandfather during a failed robbery.

A female witness who spoke to both men in the hours after the alleged murder, said Cooper and Williamson returned to the house she was staying at, at about 1am.

She said they seemed rushed and were looking into wallets to see if there was anything of value.

“They started to tell me what had happened. I can’t remember who said what, ‘Johnno’ [Cooper] was doing a lot of the talking. It seemed as though he was boasting about it,” she said.

“I remember Johnno saying that his body was stiffening up. [Cooper] said, ‘I’m telling you this because you will probably see it on the news’.”

The witness, who knew Williamson through amphetamine use, told the court she saw the men with half a dozen war medals, including one shaped like a submarine. She said she also saw a blood stained knife, however could not clarify why this information was not included in the original police report.

A second female witness said Williamson contacted her a few weeks after the murder, saying he needed to speak with her alone as he had “stuffed up”.

She said Williamson had worked for Mr Handford on his property and understood the man had a lot of cash on the premises due to a lack of trust in banks.

“[Williamson] said they only meant to rob him and when they went to the man’s house he wasn’t supposed to be there,” she said.

“He said ‘Johnno’ had a knife and had stabbed the man in the back. [Williamson] heard a pop, he [Cooper] said, ‘It’s halfway in, I may as well just just finish the job”.

The witness said she had met Mr Handford once before, when she and Williamson had been fishing on his property.

A male witness who spoke to Cooper in the weeks after the murder said he was told there was a lot of blood and that “the old man had been hogtied”.

Williamson and Cooper will reappear in the Melbourne Supreme Court on June 29 with a plea of not guilty. They will be joined by Adam Rowe, who registered a plea of guilty to being an accessory to the murder, after storing Mr Handord’s war medals following his death.

At the request of the court, the identity of all witnesses has been suppressed.

First appeared in The Moorabool News, June 28 2016.

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