The father of a 17-year-old boy killed in a Gold Coast fight says he is “absolutely gutted” after three teens arrested over the fatal stabbing walked free from court.
The trio were among five teenagers – aged between 15 and 18 at the time – who were initially charged with murder after Jack Beasley died in December 2019, barely two weeks before Christmas.
Jack was stabbed in the heart after a fight broke out between his group and the five teens in Surfers Paradise.
Ma-Mal-J Toala – who was 18 at the time – and two teenage boys, who can’t be named, were on Thursday found not guilty on all three charges including manslaughter.
Jack’s father Brett Beasley left the court in tears with a large group of devastated family and supporters.
“We are absolutely gutted … on this decision. I just need some time,” he told reporters.
Toala and the two teens had pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and two counts of grievous bodily harm at a judge-only Supreme Court trial.
Justice Soraya Ryan retired to consider a verdict on May 25 when the eight-day trial concluded.
“This trial was all about whether any of the three defendants are to be held criminally responsible for the unexpected fatal knife violence of their companion,” Justice Ryan said on Thursday before delivering not guilty verdicts on all counts.
Two other teens had earlier pleaded guilty including a boy – aged 15 at the time – who admitted fatally stabbing Jack and wounding another during the fight.
A lawyer for one of the three defendants on Thursday described Jack’s death as a “tragic accident”.
“Hopefully if anything comes out of this, it’s that young people stop using knives at Surfers Paradise and on the streets,” Michael Gatenby told reporters.
“At the end of the day someone independently did the stabbing and these boys … weren’t involved in the stabbing itself.
“It’s had an immeasurable effect on the boys themselves and also their families – it’s been a tragedy all round.”
The five teenagers had a BBQ at Surfers Paradise where the knife was used to cook food, later noticing Jack’s group and running two blocks in pursuit before the fight started, the trial heard.
The 29-second fight – which was captured on CCTV – erupted after Jack was pushed and reacted by flicking a cigarette at one of the five teens.
A 15-year-old had a knife tucked in his pants, stabbing Jack once, piercing his heart, and another 17-year-old boy twice – puncturing his lung and causing internal bleeding.
Jack’s parents left the court every time CCTV footage of the fight and its aftermath was shown throughout the trial.
The Crown had argued that the trio had a “common purpose” to assault Jack’s group and that death or grievous bodily harm was a “probable consequence” of a fist fight.
Defence barristers said the trio were not responsible for Jack’s death, at one stage submitting no-case applications and arguing there was insufficient evidence to continue.
The teen who was 15 at the time pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of committing malicious acts with intent in May.
Another teenager – who was 17 back in 2019 – pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two counts of grievous bodily harm in April.
Since the fatal stabbing, his family has set up the Jack Beasley Foundation which aims to curb youth violence.