NSW man jailed over home invasion murder

Justice Robert Hulme says Philip Steele was killed in horrific circumstances during a home invasion.
Justice Robert Hulme says Philip Steele was killed in horrific circumstances during a home invasion.

One of three men accused of murdering a cement renderer and small-time drug dealer during a home invasion in NSW's Hunter region has been jailed for 15 years.

The 21-year-old man, who cannot be named, had been using the drug ice and was armed with a baseball bat when he and two friends climbed through an open window and attacked 60-year-old Philip Steele.

Newcastle Supreme Court Justice Robert Hulme said Mr Steele wrestled with one of the other home invaders who was armed with a machete before being repeatedly stabbed.

He said Mr Steele, who lived with his two brothers in the family home at Whitebridge, south of Newcastle, had been killed in "horrific circumstances".

An autopsy revealed he suffered 23 wounds and 28 blunt force injuries during the attack just before 2.30am on December 17, 2018.

"This was no ordinary break and enter," Justice Hulme said on Friday, when sentencing the man, who pleaded guilty to murder, to 15 years' jail with a non-parole period of 11 years and three months.

"It was a targeted home invasion.

"It is the type of crime that strikes fear in people who value the sanctity of their own home."

The judge said the three men had been wearing face masks and gloves when they broke into the house to get money and drugs before one of Mr Steele's brothers raised the alarm, crying out: "People are here and they have knives."

Mr Steele confronted the home invaders and grabbed one of them around the neck, wrestling with him in the hallway before being repeatedly stabbed.

When Mr Steele was on the ground, he pleaded for someone to help him up when the young man, who was jailed on Friday, hit him three or four times with the baseball bat.

As Mr Steele lay dying from his wounds after the home invaders fled, he told his brothers: "I never thought it would come to this. Not for a couple of thousand dollars."

Justice Hulme described the attack as "manifestly brutal", saying its ferocity was clearly evident from the crime scene photographs showing large amounts of blood throughout the house.

The judge said Mr Steele's murder was "completely senseless" and left the victim's family with interminable grief.

"Home-invasion style offences are a frightening concern to law-abiding citizens," he said.

Justice Hulme accepted the young offender, who claimed to have only gone ahead with the attack because he was terrified of the machete-wielding home invader, was genuinely remorseful and had good prospects of rehabilitation and not reoffending.

Asked by a psychiatrist if he was ashamed of what he had done, the young man said he was utterly disgusted.

The machete-wielding home invader has also pleaded guilty to murder and will be sentenced at a later date, while the third co-accused will stand trial early next year.

Australian Associated Press