Son's murder 'changed family's status'—(The Age)

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The Age

Andrew Drummond

May 22, 2009 – 3:09PM

A former suburban Sydney mayor says his son’s murder, sparked by an argument over a barking dog, left him heartbroken and changed his family’s status in the community.

The NSW Supreme Court heard sentencing submissions on Friday for Frederick Reyon Whitmore, 35, who has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Joseph Durrant, 47, in the early hours of January 27, 2007.

Mr Durrant was on his way home from alcohol-fuelled Australia Day celebrations in 2007 when he complained about a noisy dog in Phyllis Street in the southwestern Sydney suburb of Mt Pritchard.

He was fatally attacked with a knife.

Whitmore’s sister Katrina Megan Whitmore, 26, has been found guilty of Mr Durrant’s murder, a jury concluding she caused the fatal stab wound.

The court on Friday heard that Frederick Whitmore, a father of 10 who was involved in the incident, had a history of violence and at the time of the attack was taking anti-depressant and anti-psychotic prescription medication.

Representing Whitmore, barrister Laura Wells said her client had retaliated after being punched twice in the nose by Mr Durrant, and had also acted to protect his sister.

The court has previously heard that a scuffle broke out after Mr Durrant allegedly made a comment about Katrina Whitmore’s dog. He was stabbed from behind a short time later.

Mr Durrant’s father, Joseph Durrant Snr – a former Liverpool Lord Mayor – read victim impact statements for himself and his wife Jacki Durrant, including that his son “Joey” was a dog lover.

“I’m angry that the aggressive, senseless actions of these offenders took the life of a light-hearted larrikin,” Mr Durrant read on his wife’s behalf.

“He would have always turned around and had a beer with them rather than had a fight.

“I want them to realise the preciousness of what they have stolen from (us).”

The court also received statements from one of Mr Durrant’s three daughters Jessica, 19, and his brother Michael Durrant.

“There is now a stigma attached to us … when someone in your family is murdered it is assumed you are bad people,” Mr Durrant told the court.

He went on to say that as a religious family, “we don’t want revenge, all we want is justice”.

Prosecutor Christopher Maxwell, QC, said Whitmore’s criminal history for assault offences should be considered in sentencing.

“This is a man who has committed acts of violence, four of them, over a number of years,” Mr Maxwell told the court.

“He’s been given chances before by the court and it hasn’t worked. That must be one of the greatest tests of rehabilitation before the court and he hasn’t passed them.”

Justice Michael Adams adjourned the matter, expecting to sentence Whitmore in about two weeks after sentencing submissions are heard for his sister on Friday, May 29.

“I intend to sentence both of these persons at the same time,” he said.

© 2009 AAP