| 02.08,19. 07:02 PM |
Killer jailed for 23 years for murdering, decapitating housemate
Photo: Noel Ingham's headless body was found in a shallow grave in north-west Tasmania in 2016. (Supplied: Tasmania Police)
Darren Ward Gale, who murdered and decapitated the man who gave him shelter after they met at a homeless refuge, has been jailed for 23 years.
Noel Joseph Ingham's headless body was found in a shallow grave in bushland outside of Railton in Tasmania's north-west in November 2016.
The skeletons of 58-year-old Mr Ingham's two pet dogs were discovered in his burnt-out car about a kilometre away from the body.
Mr Ingham's head has never been recovered.
During the trial, 54-year-old Gale's defence lawyer told the court that Mr Ingham's death was caused when he collapsed into a fish tank in the pair's home and that Gale was not home at the time.
The court heard the pathologist employed to investigate the cause of Mr Ingham's death could not reach a conclusion as "he did not have a head to examine".
Justice Wood said Mr Ingham "generously took Gale into his well-kept West Ulverstone home" after the pair met only weeks earlier at an emergency accommodation facility.
Witnesses told the court Mr Ingham purchased thousands of dollars worth of furniture and white goods from a furniture store in Ulverstone before his disappearance — items later sold by Gale.
One witness described Gale offering to sell him belongings that matched the description of Mr Ingham's possessions in the weeks after his disappearance.
Witnesses estimated the possessions Gale sold off to be worth about $5,000.
A missing persons investigation was sparked in October 2016 after the housing authority from which Mr Ingham rented his Ulverstone unit raised concerns with police.
Investigators initially scoured the local tip in the hopes of finding him, before finding his headless body at Dulverton outside Railton.
In sentencing, Justice Helen Wood described the crime as a "vicious and senseless killing".
"The defendant murdered a physically vulnerable man in his own home who had taken him into his home and trusted him," she told the court.
Justice Wood said the "terrible details that emerged after his death has compounded the trauma" for Mr Ingham's daughters.
She said Mr Ingham had been murdered "on or about July 28, 2016".
The court heard after the murder, Gale used Mr Ingham's phone to message people, to give the impression he was still alive, also telling neighbours Mr Ingham was in Hobart for medical reasons and writing to Housing Department pretending to be him.
Justice Wood said Gale's "lies and deception were maintained for months".
Gale, who has short grey hair and was wearing glasses and a prison-issue maroon tracksuit in court, muttered "bullshit" as Justice Wood read her sentencing statement.
She sentenced him to 23 years in prison, to serve a minimum of 14 years before he is eligible for parole.