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Peter Zahra: District Court judge running Guy Sebastian case dies of suspected stroke

Respected judge hearing the trial of Guy Sebastian’s long-time manager suddenly dies – days after the singer described how his agent allegedly stole almost $1million from him

  • Well-respected NSW District Court judge suffered stroke last Thursday morning
  • Judge Peter Zahra began presiding over Titus Day trial just days before stroke
  • Day is accused of embezzling almost $1million from star client Guy Sebastian
  • Sebastian had begun giving evidence against his onetime close friend last week
  • The singer tested positive to Covid on Thursday and has postponed tour dates 

The highly-regarded judge presiding over the embezzlement trial of Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian’s long-time manager has died after suffering a suspected stroke.

The case against Titus Day commenced before Judge Peter Zahra and a jury in the Downing Centre District Court last Tuesday.

Judge Zahra was rushed from his inner-west Sydney home to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at Camperdown on Thursday morning and put on life support. 

His family and friends maintained a vigil at the hospital over the weekend. On Monday morning Judge James Bennett told the jury his colleague had died on Sunday. 

‘We won’t be getting much work done today,’ Judge Bennett said. ‘If you don’t already know Judge Zahra passed away yesterday.’ 

Guy Sebastian (pictured with wife Jules) gave evidence against his former manager Titus last week. Day is accused of embezzling almost $1million from his star client over seven years

Jurors could be heard reacting with shock. ‘He was a very good friend I might say and everyone in here is feeling the loss as you might imagine,’ Judge Bennett said. 

One female juror told Judge Zahra: ‘Condolences to you and everyone, all the family and friends’. 

Sebastian, who had begun giving evidence against his former agent, tested positive to Covid-19 on Thursday and has postponed national tour dates as he self-isolates.

The trial will recommence before a new judge next Monday.  

Judge Zahra was regarded as one of NSW’s most well-respected judicial officers and has been described by legal sources as ‘intelligent, fair and just’.

He spent many years as a public defender before he was appointed to the NSW District Court bench in 2007. 

Judge Zahra had jailed former Hey Day! actor Robert Hughes for child sex offences and disgraced former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer for lying to a court.

NSW District Court judge Paul Zahra suffered a stroke last Thursday and was taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He was described by legal sources as 'intelligent, fair and just'

NSW District Court judge Paul Zahra suffered a stroke last Thursday and was taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He was described by legal sources as ‘intelligent, fair and just’ 

He explained in a 2010 interview how he felt uneasy about the formal greeting he faced at the start of each day in the courtroom

‘I don’t know how you would cope with someone, when you walk into the room, saying “Silence, all stand”,’ Judge Zahra told the Sydney Morning Herald.

‘It’s an odd concept for a human being… I find it really troubling.’ 

Sebastian gave about three hours of evidence before the jury on Wednesday.

Day is accused of embezzling almost $900,000 from his former client over seven years, which the celebrity manager has forcefully denied.

The 49-year-old has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and 50 alternative counts of stealing. 

The amounts of money Day is alleged to have embezzled range from $361.34 in royalties to $187,524 in performance fees. One charge concerns a $21,000 ambassadorship. 

Titus Day (right) is the former long-time manager of singer Guy Sebastian (left). Day has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and 50 alternative counts of stealing

Titus Day (right) is the former long-time manager of singer Guy Sebastian (left). Day has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and 50 alternative counts of stealing

Guy Sebastian (pictured) tested positive to Covid hours after appearing in the NSW District Court to give evidence against his former manager

Guy Sebastian (pictured) tested positive to Covid hours after appearing in the NSW District Court to give evidence against his former manager

The trial was expected to last five weeks and came two years after Day’s arrest when he was charged with misappropriating the money from Sebastian between 2013 and 2020.  

The court has heard Sebastian only suspected Day had embezzled money from him after the chart-topping singer had ended their business relationship. 

He examined financial records after that bitter split and allegedly discovered ‘anomalies’ which led to him launching action in the Federal Court then going to police.

Titus Day (pictured arriving at court) has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and 50 alternative counts of stealing

Titus Day (pictured arriving at court) has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and 50 alternative counts of stealing

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