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27-minute torture before balcony fall

Cian English died after he fell from a balcony on the Gold Coast in May 2020. Picture Supplied
Cian English died after he fell from a balcony on the Gold Coast in May 2020. Picture Supplied

The three men who callously tortured a man before he fell to his death from a fourth-floor balcony during a drug-fuelled party will each spend less than a decade behind bars, a court has been told.

Cian John English, 19, died after falling from the fourth floor of the View Pacific resort in Surfers Paradise on May 23, 2020.

What should have been a fun night with friends turned quickly to tragedy when Mr English and a mate were tortured and assaulted in the fourth-floor hotel room directly above theirs for 27 minutes.

Cian English died after he fell from a balcony on the Gold Coast in May 2020. Picture Supplied
Cian English died after he fell from a balcony on the Gold Coast in May 2020. Picture Supplied

Lachlan Paul Soper-Lagas, 21, Jason Ryan Knowles, 25, and Hayden Paul Kratzmann, 23, have each pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr English.

The court was told Mr English and his friend were invited by Kratzmann to his room after the two groups had began chatting while each were on their respective balconies.

The men then continued to take a cocktail of prescription and non-prescription drugs as they partied.

Crown prosecutor Caroline Marco said just before 2am things changed when Kratzmann began to accuse Mr English and his friend of stealing the drugs.

Mr English and his friend, who had protested their innocence, were then for the next hour assaulted, intimidated, taunted and threatened with a knife.

The court was told Mr English was also stabbed in the arm, although it’s not clear by who.

The court was told it was an acquaintance of Kratzmann who was later charged with possessing the drugs.

Some of the abuse was captured on video by two juvenile females whose charges are still before the court.

Ms Marco said the three men spent time “inflicting pain and suffering” on Mr English and his friend.

In an effort to flee the assaults, Mr English ran to the balcony after he realised it was unlikely he’d make it to the front door safely, the court was told.

Hayden Kratzmann has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr English.
Hayden Kratzmann has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr English.
Jason Robert Knowles has also pleaded guilty.
Jason Robert Knowles has also pleaded guilty.

Ms Marco said “most likely he tried to climb down to the floor below which is where his unit was and fell.”

“They each threatened and intimidated Mr English (and his friend) and encouraged the others,” Ms Marco said.

“This forced him to seek to escape by climbing over the balcony and falling to his death.”

The court was told the three men failed to help Mr English and instead packed their bags and left the apartment 16 minutes after he fell.

Kratzmann later made a triple-0 call, telling the operator he saw someone on the ground outside the apartment while riding his bike but lied about his name and phone number.

Mr English was declared dead by paramedics at 3.53am.

The court was told the trio stole another man’s shoes, belt, wallet, bag and Apple AirPods.

Lachlan Soper-Lagas has been on bail awaiting sentencing.
Lachlan Soper-Lagas has been on bail awaiting sentencing.

They were then later seen wearing items of clothing or with property belonging to the victims, with photos being posted on social media.

Kratzmann also later “drew a crude piece of graffiti about the incident involving the deceased on a pole” at a train station before his arrest.

Ms Marco submitted that Kratzmann and Knowles should be sentenced to 11 years in jail, while Soper-Lagas, who had no prior criminal history, should receive nine years imprisonment.

Kratzmann’s barrister Tim Ryan said his client had expressed a wish “go back in time and fix his mistakes”.

Knowles’ barrister Damian Walsh said the 25-year-old had written to the court about the consequences “he now has to live with” after that fatal night.

COURT- BALCONY FALL
Crown prosecutor Caroline Marco accepted the guilty plea to manslaughter. NCA NewsWire/ John Gass

Mr Walsh said his client would never “forgive himself” and expressed deep remorse despite the prosecution’s objecting.

The court was told Ms Marco had objected to Knowles’ referral of the night as an “accident” in his letter to the court.

However, Mr Walsh explained that his client had poor literacy skills and he was remorseful.

The court was also told 32 character references had been submitted on behalf of Soper-Lagas, with his parents detailing how the 21-year-old had donated his time to help neighbours whose houses had flooded in 2022 while on bail.

Soper-Lagas’ barrister Jack Kennedy said the last thing his client thought about when he fell asleep was Mr English’s face, and he’s “the first thing he thinks about when he wakes in the morning”.

“He’s demonstrated real and tangible steps to rehabilitation, hasn’t had drugs since (being on bail),” Mr Kennedy said.

COURT- BALCONY FALL
Supporters of Soper-Lagas, Knowles and Kratzmann outside court. Picture: NCA NewsWire / John Gass

The Crown accepted the three men’s guilty pleas and withdrew its original murder charges.

The three men also each pleaded guilty on Thursday to two counts of armed robbery in company, two counts of torture, and one count of stealing.

Kratzmann also pleaded guilty to a separate offence of entering a premises with intent to commit an offence.

Chief Justice Helen Bowskill Kratzmann and Knowles to nine years and six months imprisonment.

Both men will be eligible for parole after six years serves.

Soper-Lagas was sentenced to eight years in jail, with a parole eligibility date after he’s served three years and three months.

Justice Bowskill said she had found Soper-Lagas hadn’t physically hurt Mr English and his friend but had threatened them while armed with a knife and encouraged his friends to continue their assault on the pair.

She said Soper-Lagas had been “emotionally immature which might explain why you went along with” Kratzmann and Knowles.

She said the three men had engaged in a “pack mentality” in how they each acted that fateful night.

Justice Bowskill said while Kratzmann was the “instigator” the two other men were responsible for their part in the physical and mental abuse the pair.

She said she found while Kratzmann was the one responsible for stabbing Mr English in the arm, the 19-year-old felt he had no other choice but to flee the trio by trying to climb over the balcony.

“I feel sure now nearly three and a half years later....you all bitterly regret your actions and you have now taken responsibility by pleading guilty,” Justice Bowskill said.

“I can only hope it has pierced your hearts and brought home the enormity of your actions to be used by you in the future.”

Cian English had checked into the Surfers Paradise hotel hours before his death.
Cian English had checked into the Surfers Paradise hotel hours before his death.

She said the three men’s behaviour was “despicable” and callous towards Mr English and his friend.

“(Mr English was) a young man very much love by his family and friends who have suffered unfathomable grief and pain as a result of his death, compounded by the awful circumstances in which they occurred,” Justice Bowskil said.

“Your conduct also caused severe harm in particular psychological harm to a second young person.”

Speaking outside court, Knowles’ lawyer Andrew Bale said “it is a tragedy on many levels”.