Adrian Stewart Mahony, who murdered Willunga man Dale McCauley, sentenced to life imprisonment

Dale McCauley.

Dale McCauley.

RELATED: Willunga properties searched in historic murder case

RELATED: Breakthrough arrest over 1998 murder of Willunga man

RELATED: Body found at Second Valley believed to be Dale McCauley

RELATED: Dale McCauley remains identified by police 

REGION – Adrian Stewart Mahony has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 15 years after he was convicted of the murder of Willunga man Dale McCauley nearly 20 years ago.

Mr McCauley was murdered at his property on January 16, 1998, after expressing reservations about continuing a yacht rebuild project with close friend Mahony.

The pair had jointly purchased the yacht and Mahony moved in to a double decker bus on Mr McCauley’s property in preparation of the project.

During a conversation, Mr McCauley said he wanted to withdraw from the project and turned his back. Mahony “grabbed a nearby metal pipe, yelled his name and struck him in the head in a ‘mad rage’,” according to Justice Malcolm Blue.

Mahony hit him with the pipe several times and only stopped when he felt part of Mr McCauley’s skull collapse, and realised the 43-year-old was dead.

Mahony put Mr McCauley’s body in a canvas swag, drove to Parawa, and dumped it under a yacca bush.

He forged Mr McCauley's signature on a receipt to hand over his half of the yacht for $6000, then sold it.

Blood found in the car Mahony had driven to dispose Mr McCauley’s body was linked in 2015 with DNA samples taken from a beanie at Mr McCauley’s property, and also his parents’ DNA.

Police arrested Mahony on January 5, 2016 and charged him with murder. The next day Mahony was shown a video of Mr McCauley’s sister Sandra Cole-Stokes making a plea for him to reveal where her brother’s body was.

On January 15 he agreed to help police recover the body and the next day he confessed to killing Mr McCauley. In March 2016, he withdrew his guilty plea. 

In March 2017, Mahony pleaded guilty to manslaughter, however on June 2, 10 days before his trial began he pleaded guilty to murder. 

Justice Blue considered Mahony’s circumstances including co-operation with police, the guilty plea, and a cancer diagnosis in 2015.

“On the one hand… your method of killing Mr McCauley was brutal,” Justice Blue told Mahony and the court.

“You attacked him from behind and you took steps to cover up your crime. 

“On the other hand I accept that the killing was in no sense premeditated and occurred on the spur of the moment in a fit of anger.”