Dapto dogs bookie ‘murdered in robbery gone wrong’
A man accused of brutally killing an elderly greyhound bookmaker 30 years ago told his girlfriend he knifed a big, strong bloke who put up a fight in a robbery gone wrong, a Sydney court heard.
Terry John Gordon Hickson allegedly stabbed 72-year-old Dapto dogs bookie Charles Skarratt to death in a cold case that baffled police for decades.
But in November 2017 detectives arrested the Berkeley father and he pleaded not guilty to murder at his NSW Supreme Court trial on Wednesday.
The Crown alleges Hickson made off with $25,000 in trackside winnings, and later confessed to his lover: "I tried to take the money off him and he struggled with me. He's a big man and he's quite strong."
Crown prosecutor Craig Everson said the 180cm tall victim weighed 80kg, yet Hickson also told an associate: "we did a robbery and it went wrong and someone died. He was a big boy."
But Hickson's lawyer claims his ex-girlfriend framed him after their relationship soured, and also suggested Mr Skarratt's own wife may have orchestrated his murder to cash in on his will.
Mr Skarratt ran betting stalls at the iconic Dapto dogs races and had finished a successful night on December 21, 1989, in what were the final hours of his life, the court heard.
He had Christmas drinks at the club and drove some employees home before pulling into the garage of his Woolwich home on Sydney's lower north shore around midnight, Mr Everson said.
Mr Skarratt drove home from work at the Dapto dogs and had pulled into the garage of his Woolwich home on Sydney's lower north shore about midnight when he was viciously attacked, Mr Everson said.
Hickson inflicted two deep stab wounds to Mr Skarratt's left torso and multiple blunt force injuries, the court heard.
"Not long after sunrise … Mr Skarratt was found dead by his wife and neighbours on the garage floor," Mr Everson said in his opening address.
Paramedics found a few $20 bills lying on the floor next to Mr Skarratt, who had black electrical tape wrapped around his mouth and nose, while his legs were bound at the ankles with his trouser belt and his jacket had been pulled over his head.
Police discovered Hickson's blood on Mr Skarratt's sock and inside the boot of his Audi, the court heard.
But the now 60-year-old insists he had nothing to do with the murder and claims there's an alternative explanation for why his DNA was found there.
His lawyer told the jury Hickson's relationship with his then-girlfriend became "utterly poisonous" and she concocted a "complete fabrication" to frame the father of her children she'd grown to hate.
Hickson's ex-partner is expected to testify that on the night of the murder he told her he planned to rob a bookmaker with an accomplice, and left her Wollongong flat with a balaclava, a knife and overalls.
Defence barrister Phil Young SC said the woman, who claims she helped wash Hickson's bloodstained clothes and dispose of the knife, is an unreliable witness and criminally liable herself.
Mr Young said other people may have wanted the prominent bookie dead, noting several punters owed Mr Skarratt large sums of money while his will had been changed to significantly favour his wife, who was an initial police suspect.
"People do the most abhorrent things for financial gain," Mr Young said.
The trial, which is expected to run for up to four weeks, continues before Justice David Davies SC.