Accused killer claimed he was ‘forced’
An accused vigilante killer broke down crying in a videotaped interview, thanking police for letting him get “everything off my chest”, a jury has heard.
Recordings of a two-day police interview with Rikki Smith, 26, were played to Victoria’s Supreme Court on Tuesday amid a trial over the alleged slaying of Bradley Lyons, 30.
Prosecutors allege Mr Smith, alongside co-accused Jordan Bottom, 24, and Albert Thorn, 57, was complicit in Mr Lyons’ murder in December 2018 over a belief he was abusing children.
All three men have pleaded not guilty to murder.
In the interview, recorded more than three months after Mr Lyons vanished from the regional town of Lakes Entrance, Mr Smith told police memories of the night in question were being replayed “over and over in my head”.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this … it has f---ed with me (sic) head,” he said.
Mr Smith told interviewers he felt “forced” into participating in the murder after arriving at Mr Thorn’s rural property, where Mr Lyons was allegedly kept for hours in the boot of a car after being savagely attacked.
However, Mr Smith said he was never explicitly threatened or intimidated.
He said he was “out of it” and went along when Mr Thorn and Mr Bottom and allegedly took Mr Lyons to the remote gravesite.
In the interview, he initially claimed both he and Mr Bottom remained in the car and heard two loud gunshots, but later confirmed he helped clear the grave and bury the body.
When asked if he had any evidence Mr Lyons had been sexually abusing children, he said, “I don’t know if anyone knows.”
“I don’t know, that’s for sure, that’s why I feel so stupid,” Mr Smith said sobbing.
“It was dumb he was a paedo (sic) … they said he was a paedophile and what happens to paedophiles.”
The court heard the interview was stopped for the night after Mr Bottom, who was being questioned at the same time, allegedly told police he would take them to Mr Lyons’ grave.
The interview resumed the following morning, where Mr Smith expressed relief that Mr Lyons’ body had been located.
“I’m so sorry for everything, that’s all I have to say,” he said.
“I’ve got everything off my chest thanks to yous (sic).”
Also on Tuesday, part of Mr Bottom’s recorded interview was played to the jury, in which he claimed he was woken by Mr Thorn and told “he has a present for me in the boot”.
“He was pretty badly beaten. I was told I had to drive him out there … put him in a hole,” he said.
“He wanted us (Mr Bottom and Mr Smith) to get him out of the boot, torture him and take him out in the bush, while he sits back and does nothing.”
Justice Andrew Tinney warned jurors anything said by an accused man can only be used as evidence against themselves.
Crown prosecutor Raymond Gibson KC earlier told the court the case against each man was that they participated voluntarily in Mr Lyons’ murder.
He said each had allegedly given conflicting statements and tried to minimise their involvement.
“In this case we say that motive is very clear,” Mr Gibson said.
“This was nothing short of vigilante action.
“And so we rely, in this case, on complicity. We say that the three accused were all complicit in the crimes.”
In his opening remarks, Mr Smith’s lawyer, John Saunders, told the jury his client did not shy away from his involvement in Mr Lyons’ death.
He said Mr Smith was present at the time Mr Lyons was murdered, but he did not fire the fatal shot and was not involved in any plot to kill him.
“What he, in effect, says to you is this: ‘I was involved in some of the events surrounding the death of Bradley Lyons, but I didn’t murder him’,” he said.
James Anderson, Mr Thorn’s barrister, said Mr Lyons left his client’s home alive with the other two accused men.
The trial continues.