| 28.02,19. 04:53 PM |
Jail for man who buried friend in shallow grave, then stole his identity in cross-country scam
Photo: Dean Patrick White's disappearance sparked a nationwide investigation before his body was found in April last year. (Supplied: WA Police)
A Queensland man who buried his travelling companion in a bush grave and then assumed his identity has been sentenced to six years in jail.
Robert Troy Scanlon was on the run from police over a string of offences in his home state when he met 55-year-old Dean Patrick White in WA's Goldfields.
Mr White had adopted a nomadic lifestyle and had been driving around Australia for two years.
The pair began travelling together and were at a campsite in the Wheatbelt region in March 2017 when, Scanlon claimed, Mr White died after falling from the roof of his four wheel drive.
The court was told Scanlon observed blood coming from Mr White's head and watched him fall unconscious.
But he did not seek help and instead continued to drink alcohol.
He then buried Mr White in a shallow grave, afraid he would be accused of murder.
'I was freaking out'
When he was later questioned by police over the death, Scanlon told them he had become paranoid but maintained it was an accident.
"I was freaking out because we were in the middle of nowhere," he said.
"It sounds callous and stupid but I don't know why I f***ing did it."
Having buried Mr White, Scanlon stole his car and wallet and made a number of purchases using his bank card.
When the card was blocked due to a series of suspicious transactions, he called the bank posing as the victim.
Mr White's stolen ute and camper trailer were found abandoned on the side of the road in Highvale, 30 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, in June 2017.
At the time police said the vehicle had been involved in a crash but they did not believe Mr White had been behind the wheel.
No help sought for victim
Mr White was reported missing by his concerned sister in August 2017.
His body was located in April last year, but because he had been buried for so long, police were unable to determine the cause of his death.
Scanlon was extradited from Queensland to Western Australia two months later to face stealing and fraud charges, as well as charges of interfering with a corpse.
The 45-year-old pleaded guilty to all charges.
In handing down his sentence, District Court Judge John Staude said Scanlon's actions after the victim's death were calculated.
"You showed a particular disregard for the dignity of Mr White," Judge Staude said.
"You did nothing to seek help for [him] when, by your account, he was still alive and bleeding profusely.
"You are a person who will always pose a significant risk to the community."
The judge referenced Scanlon's history of offending and drug addiction, which started when he was gifted two ounces of methamphetamine by his father for his 17th birthday.
He also praised the work of officers in apprehending Scanlon, saying it was the result of "diligent and thorough investigation by police in both Western Australia and Queensland".
Scanlon will have to serve four years of his six-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.