Pair jailed for manslaughter on Mornington Peninsula

Supreme Court of Victoria. Photo: Michelle Robinson CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Supreme Court of Victoria. Photo: Michelle Robinson CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Two men who killed another man on hearing of an alleged rape should have called police rather than take matters into their own hands, a Supreme Court justice said today.

Brendan McDowall, 53, and Shane Heiberg, 35, were sentenced to at least seven-and-a-half and five years respectively, after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

In October 2017, the pair entered Jade Goodwin’s home on the Mornington Peninsula to assault him.

They believed their friend Natalie Dalton’s claims that Mr Goodwin raped her and that he was holding Olivia McOrmond, Goodwin’s housemate, hostage in her home.

They tied up Mr Goodwin with TV cables and beat him, and further attempted to restrain him with a dog leash around his neck.

McDowall admitted he went there “to give him a good flogging”, but told police the killing was unintentional.

In the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Christopher Beale accepted that McDowall and Heiberg had acted out of a sense of moral responsibility, and that the pair had genuinely believed the two allegations of abuse.

Neither allegation has been proven to be true.

“To some extent your moral culpability is reduced by your belief in those two matters, but you should have contacted police, not taken matters into your own hands,” said Justice Beale.

On entering Mr Goodwin’s home via the front door, left unlocked by McOrmond to facilitate the attack, they found him in lying in bed.

Heiberg, who weighed 100 kg at the time, sat on him and McDowall tied him with cables.

Both men beat him.

McDowall applied a pair of bolt cutters to Goodwin’s big toe and told him to be calm or he would lose his toe. Heiberg said in his statement to police that the attack “seemed to go on forever.”

Judge Beale described it as “a sustained and protracted assault.”

It was determined that the dog leash the pair found on Mr Goodwin’s floor and used around his neck was the cause of death.

With McOrmond and Dalton’s help, the two men wrapped Mr Goodwin’s body in a doona cover and over the next week, hid his body, dug a shallow grave near Tyabb, and buried him in concrete, before burning his clothes and cutting up his mattress.

Justice Beale said McDowall had played the “lead role” in the incident, a fact reflected in his higher sentence.

In addition, McDowall had a long history of legal offences and polysubstance dependence.

He was addicted to gambling and had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication for his anger-management problems.

Justice Beale expressed concern that his offending had gotten worse with age, a fact he found “troubling.”

He told McDowall he was “guarded about your prospects of rehabilitation.”

Heiberg had a history of amphetamine dependence, and met his co-accused a few weeks before the offence.

Justice Beale said a low risk of violent offences, Heiberg’s lack of chronic mental health issues and long history of pro-social behavior with strong family support meant “good prospects for rehabilitation.”

Both men received significant discounts for having offered to plead guilty to manslaughter at the first reasonable opportunity.

McDowall was jailed for 10 years and six months and will be eligible for release on parole after seven-and-a-half years.

Heiberg was sentenced to eight years with a non-parole period of five years.

Justice Beale accepted that both men had lacked the intention to kill, but said their actions were irreversible.

“A man is dead because of your actions, and his loved ones continue to struggle with their grief, which is compounded by the manner in which Jade Goodwin died …no sentence I impose can undo what you have done”.