Relatives and friends of a man who bludgeoned to death a 10-month-old boy as he robbed a house have lashed out at the jury that found him guilty.
The jury deliberated for five days before finding Harley Hicks, 20, of North Bendigo, guilty of murder, aggravated burglary and two counts of theft amid a robbery spree in the Bendigo suburb of Long Gully early on June 15, 2012.
Hicks bashed baby Zayden Veal-Whitting with a home-made baton made of copper wire wrapped in tape, which was later found in Hicks’ possession and with DNA from Hicks and Zayden on it.
Stunned supporters of Hicks began shouting abuse as they cried and hugged outside the court in Bendigo on Wednesday.
“Shame on the jury! They have just convicted an innocent man! Shame! I hope they rot in hell,” one man said as a woman sobbed nearby.
But Zayden’s mother, Casey Veal, praised detectives who investigated her son’s murder.
“I only wish that (Detective Senior Constable) Tony Harwood (of the homicide squad) was here to see it,” she told journalists.
Ashley Hicks posted a tribute to his twin brother, Harley, on Facebook.
“My dearest brother my best friend my rock my twin. I love you from the moon and back and beyond no matter what happens keep your chin up we will fight this we are fighter’s and believe me matey we will raise the roof and fly once more my little man I love you harley we are twins xoxo love your big brother ash,” he wrote (sic).
During the trial, prosecutor Michelle Williams SC told the jury Hicks bashed Zayden.
“We allege the accused man unplugged the baby monitor and that he struck the baby at least 25 times to the head with that home-made baton, she said.
Police later discovered sunglasses stolen from Zayden’s home at a house Hicks had recently visited, along with the baton, which Hicks had placed in a car.
Defence barrister David Hallowes said Hicks had robbed some homes and cars but was not the murderer.
“He’s a liar, he’s a thief, he’s a drug user – that does not make him a killer,” he told the trial.
“We take issue that Harley Hicks was the only person out that night with dishonest intent.”
He told the jury a second man accompanied Hicks and suggested Ashley could not be excluded from scrutiny because his DNA matched that of the accused.
Outside the court, journalists asked Ashley about the DNA. “It wasn’t mine, so youse can all go f*** yourselves,” he said.