'Punch-up' over stolen meth led to murder of Jamie Phillips, court told

'Punch-up' over stolen meth led to murder of Jamie Phillips, court told

By Jenny Noyes

A Sydney father whose naked body was found in a vacant lot had been stabbed through the heart after arguing with three men over a quantity of pilfered methylamphetamine, a court has been told.

Jamie Phillips, 46, was involved in an altercation in a bedroom during a gathering in a home in the south-western Sydney suburb of Ambarvale, near Campbelltown, in the early hours of October 25, 2018, after two men – Sean O'Keefe and Barry Cavanagh – stole his drugs.

Jamie Phillips was found dead in a vacant lot in Rosemeadow in October, 2018.

Jamie Phillips was found dead in a vacant lot in Rosemeadow in October, 2018.Credit:NSW Police

It's alleged Mr O'Keefe and Mr Cavanagh were joined by Nathan McIvor in the bedroom, where the trio bashed Mr Phillips and one of the men inflicted a fatal 14-centimetre stab wound to the heart.

Mr O'Keefe, Mr Cavanagh, and Mr McIvor are on trial together in the NSW Supreme Court for Mr Phillips' murder. Mr Cavanagh and Mr McIvor deny involvement in the killing, while Mr O'Keefe will argue, contrary to the Crown case, that he carried out the stabbing in self-defence.

During his opening address on Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Christopher Taylor said the court would hear evidence that "the physical punch-up, as such, started because the accused, Mr Cavanagh ... took the ice or methylamphetamine that the deceased had upon him."


He said the court would hear from an unnamed witness that Mr Cavanagh had confessed to knifing Mr Phillips, and said "I will never forget the look of someone taking their last breath".

Mr Taylor said the witness is expected to tell the court Mr O'Keefe told him "I may need to put my hand up for manslaughter" and that "no one can know that Barry done it".

The court would also hear key evidence from a witness at the gathering, which places the three men in the room with the deceased when the assault occurred, Mr Taylor said.


The woman, who is not named for personal safety reasons, is serving a custodial sentence after pleading guilty to destroying CCTV evidence, Mr Taylor told the jury.

Mr Taylor said the witness would tell the court that from outside the room she could hear "arguing voices and banging or thumping noises".

When she yelled out "what's going on?" she was told "it's just us boys sorting out our shit", Mr Taylor said.

Jamie Phillips was bashed and stabbed through the heart, the court heard.

Jamie Phillips was bashed and stabbed through the heart, the court heard.

He said the woman tried to get into the bedroom but was unable to open the door. At one point, Mr McIvor came out of the room holding a knife and bleeding from the knuckle, taking her phone and telling her to "stay in your room if you know what's good for you."

Mr Taylor said the woman would tell the court she left the room to go to the bathroom, and through a crack in the door into the other bedroom saw the "distinctive bright orange trainers" Mr Phillips had been wearing on a person lying face down on the floor.

She was then escorted back to her room by Mr O'Keefe, and a bookshelf was pushed across the door for about an hour, Mr Taylor said. When she was let out, the woman would tell the court Mr Cavanagh appeared and asked her to clean the blood off his shoes, he said. She then noticed other men, including the deceased, were no longer in the house.

Mr O'Keefe's defence barrister, Richard Pontello SC, told the court the woman "is a chronic liar and person of zero credibility".

He described Mr Phillips' death as "a tragic case of self-defence" as a result of the dead man lunging at his client with a knife.

"Mr O’Keefe took hold of a separate knife, using it to stab Mr Phillips once," Mr Pontello said. His client "thought he had stabbed the deceased in the stomach. He was wrong."

"As shock and then panic set in, Mr O’Keefe did assist in removing the body," he said. "But he's not guilty of murder."

Mr Cavanagh's lawyer, Winston Terracini QC, said his client "didn’t stab anyone" and that "the Crown doesn’t even know or claim what their case is as to who stabbed who."

Mr Phillips' bruised and naked body was discovered about 1pm that afternoon by a passer-by who was test-driving a 4WD vehicle on a vacant lot at Glen Alpine.

Mr Taylor said the body had been "simply placed next to a fence on the side of the road, uncovered, naked, his legs in a folded position."

He said that while only one of the trio on trial had inflicted the fatal stab wound, the Crown will argue all three were acting together "with intent to cause really serious physical injury" and therefore their actions are "captured by the definition of murder".

The trial continues.

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