The jury who cleared Ben Batterham of murder were not told about the horrific crimes carried out by the ice addict he found breaking into his home.
Home invader Ricky Slater had pleaded guilty to raping a 16-year-old girl long before he broke into Mr Batterham’s home at Newcastle, north of Sydney, in March 2016.
Nine years earlier Slater had forced his way into the teenage girl’s home and sexually assaulted her, threatening to stab her with a non-existent knife if she dared scream.
But the serious nature of the crime and Slater’s long history of other offences did not get put before the jury in Mr Batterham’s trial after a judge ruled them inadmissible.
Still they cleared the 35-year-old chef of any wrongdoing, finding him not-guilty on a charge of murder and a lesser count of manslaughter on Wednesday.
The jury who cleared Ben Batterham (pictured) of murder on Wednesday never heard about the horrific crimes carried out by the man he defended his home from
Home invader Ricky Slater (pictured) had pleaded guilty to raping a 16-year-old girl long before he broke into Mr Batterham’s home at Newcastle, north of Sydney, in March 2016
Slater had only been out of prison for three months when he broke into the girl’s flat.
Then aged around 25, Slater already had a criminal record for assault, drug, car theft and break and enters, stretching back to his late teens.
The NSW District Court heard the girl had been expecting a visit from her boyfriend when Slater knocked on her door at 11.15pm on June 6, 2007.
Instead she opened the door to her granny flat to find the indigenous man standing there pantless.
Although she did not know Ricky Slater by name, the girl recognised him because on previous occasions he had knocked on the door before being told to leave.
Again the girl told Slater to leave or she would call the police, but as she tried to shut the door in his face he pushed his way inside, causing her to fall backwards.
He then grabbed the girl by the hair, punched her in the back of the head and put his hand over her mouth as she tried to scream.
Slater pushed her to the floor and sexually assaulted her, putting his hand over her mouth and telling her to ‘be quiet’.
He then sexually assaulted her two more times, telling her ‘if she did not shut up he would stab her’.
Police later reported that though the girl did not see a knife, ‘she felt scared and thought she was going to die’.
After the third assault, he forced the door to the granny flat open and left.
The frantic girl ran into her bedroom and dialled Triple-0, then called her best friend and her father.
Richard James Slater’s mother, Beryl Dickson, said the 34-year-old ‘had a problem’ with ice and confirmed a photograph of a man smoking from a lit pipe was her son (pictured)
Slater receives a kiss on the cheek from his mother just hours before he died in hospital, a day after he had broken into Mr Batterham’s home
Beryl Dixon and Tiara Kelly, mother and sister of victim Ricky Slater, outside court in Newcastle on Wednesday before Mr Batterham was found not guilty
Mr Batterham (pictured at the time) was charged with murder after Slater died in hospital
When police arrived at 11.35pm they found the girl ‘in a hysterical state’.
Police took DNA samples from the girl and from throughout flat which, when put into the NSW forensic database matched the DNA sample taken when Ricky Slater was an inmate.
Slater denied knowing the girl and lied to police about being out of town when the assault took place. He refused to give a DNA sample.
Police made a further DNA match to a hair from his head and charged Slater with three counts of aggravated sexual assault while threatening actual bodily harm.
Slater was committed to trial in the NSW District Court and pleaded guilty on the trial’s first day in June 2008.
RICHARD JAMES SLATER’S EXTENSIVE RAP SHEET
– Fined $456 for unlawfully entering enclosed land in April 2001
– 12 month good behaviour bond for stealing a car in 2011
– Three counts of driving with the wrong licence and one count each of driving a stolen car, an unregistered vehicle and an uninsured car
– Six months periodic detention for assault in 2004
– Fined $167 and given 18 months periodic detention for resisting arrest by police, possessing a prohibited drug and break and enter in 2005
– Jailed for six years over sexual assault of 16-year-old girl in 2007
– Sentenced to two years and six months for a string of break and enter offences in 2012, but acquitted and released after 20 months
Judge James Bennett sentenced Slater to a total of six years, with an earliest release date of March 17, 2012.
Slater’s previous criminal offences committed as an adult began in April 2001 when he was fined $456 for unlawfully entering enclosed land.
Over the following five years Slater committed seven driving offences and seven more serious offences which would eventually land him in jail.
The more serious offences included resisting police arrest, break and enter, and drug possession in December 2005.
For that Ricky Slater was fined $167 and given 18 months periodic detention He was also told to undertake counselling and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
A year earlier he had been convicted of assault and received six months periodic detention.
Less than two years after getting out of prison for his rape offence, Slater died in hospital just hours after his run-in with Mr Batterham.
A Newcastle Supreme Court jury on Wednesday accepted Mr Batterham’s claim he was making a citizen’s arrest on Slater and accidentally killed him.
After chasing him out of his home Mr Batterham followed Slater down Cleary Street, tackled him, put him in a chokehold, and repeatedly punched him in the head until police arrived.
Mr Batterham’s defence lawyers insisted their client never meant to kill Slater.
The chef had spent the day drinking with a friend when he found Slater standing in his daughter’s empty bedroom about 3.20am on March 26, 2016.
Slater was carrying a blue shoulder bag containing knives, marijuana, and meth.
Mr Batterham was bitten twice, had his tooth chipped and cheekbone injured during the struggle with Slater on Cleary Street, Newcastle
Mr Batterham holds his wife’s hand as he leaves Newcastle Supreme Court on Wednesday after a jury found him not guilty of murder and manslaughter
He had stolen things of value to Mr Batterham including his partner’s purse and his daughter’s headband, before running off.
The court heard during the trial that neighbours tried to get Batterham to let Slater go, but he refused and told the burglar he would kill him.
Multiple witnesses testified that Slater was telling Batterham ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ during the struggle.
When Mr Batterham eventually relaxed his grip Slater bit him on the hand, enraging the chef and making him even more aggressive.
Mr Batterham was bitten twice, had his tooth chipped and cheekbone injured during the struggle.
Slater died in hospital a day after the home invasion and hours later police charged Mr Batterham with murder.
Mr Batterham spent two months in prison before being granted bail and had always maintained his innocence.