12 March, 2010

A pub fight goes too far...

31-year old David Wright had a relatively unremarkable childhood, although his parents eventually separated and his mother moved up to Queensland. She remarried, but this was short-lived as her new husband became violent towards her. David, who was very close to his mother, helped her move back to Sydney. Not long after she suffered a stroke, and he had been helping take care of her since then.

He left school at the end of year nine and worked as a welder, before moving on to Scanlons Sweets, then Sydney City Council. However in 1991 he was imprisoned for two years and three months after he was convicted for robbery with wounding, after holding up a milk-bar owner in Cabramatta. Apparently the victim grabbed David, and in the process cut himself on the lip and finger.

After his release he was employed in body works, where he had been working part-time under the prison day-release program. He then decided to work as a nurse's aid in a nursing home, and then as a truck-driver for Linfox. An injury to his foot put an end to that and after that David remained unemployed.

He met his first girlfriend Dorothy when he was 14, and they lived together for 17 years, having two children. Although he was a regular pot-smoker, he started using liquid speed when he was 24, and this was when he committed the robbery and was sent to jail. By the time he got out Dorothy had become involved with another man. David tried to get back together with Dorothy, but they fought over the affair and it didn't work out. Dorothy went back to the other man, and is still with him today.

Around this time his mother also suffered her stroke, and it seems both incidents had a big effect on David. He began using heroin but decided to enter a detox program so he could take better care of his mother, but began abusing prescription medications instead. He started spending time with a woman named Petina, but her boyfriend became jealous, thinking the two were having sex. He often threatened David, saying things like "I know where you live". Ultimately the boyfriend made good on his threats and struck David across the face with a crowbar, as well as smashing in his headlights. After this David began to carry a knife for protection.

He began drinking regularly, and on the night of 16 October 1996 was particularly drunk. He was at the Riverwood Inn with some friends, and saw 23-year-old Geoff Compton making a scene. Geoff was drunk, and disrupting several other people in the pub. At about 9:30pm Geoff started arguing with David. It escalated until both left the pub and went to the carpark to have a physical fight. At one point Geoff had David in a headlock and was repeatedly punching him in the head. David pulled out his knife and stabbed at Geoff. Geoff suffered four wounds - two small wounds to the groin and one on his ear, plus a 2cm wound to the heart, which was ultimately fatal. However it was not immediately obvious that Geoff was fatally wounded - people separated the two men and held Geoff over a car bonnet trying to calm him down, while David walked off in another direction.

David had little memory of the incident - he couldn't remember arguing with Geoff inside the pub, but said that as he was leaving Geoff followed him to the door. When they got to the door at the same time, David says he became frightened. He remembers Geoff grabbing him in the headlock and punching him around the jaw and head. Other witnesses agree it was Geoff who started the fight, and that he had been drunkenly harassing other people in the pub all evening. He became quite aggressive towards David, and had been having a go at him all evening, for no apparent reason. Marc Jones tried to reason with Geoff and ended up being abused. Dean Velovich had also taken him aside and tried to reason with him, with no success.

David was interviewed by a psychologist while in custody, and she felt that he had an "exaggerated sense of danger" and a "hypersensitivity" as a result of his earlier assault by Petina's boyfriend. She also felt his prospects were good, as he was now in a stable, loving relationship with a woman named Sarah-Jayne, who he had been living with just before this incident. She remains loyal to him. He was also very concerned about his mother's health, and wanted to be able to care for her. While in custody he was unfortunately assaulted again, and was placed in protective custody.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, on the basis of an 'unlawful and dangerous act'. The Judge took his good personal characteristics into account, while of course noting that David's decision to carry (and use) a knife did not go in his favour. He also considered David's history, the fact he was drunk at the time, and that it was clearly a spontaneous response to a situation he was already frightened of.

David Wright was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with a non-parole period of four years. Taking into account the time he had already spent in custody, he was released on 16 March 2003.

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