20 April, 2010
"I didn't know if I'd killed him good enough"
42-year-old Steven Jarvis’ body was found on the morning of Sunday March 9th 1997 by a couple walking their dog, in a lonely public area reserve near the banks of the Richmond River.
It was obvious he had been stabbed several times in the neck, and a post-mortem examination revealed six such wounds. The majority were only a couple of centimetres deep but the major one was a zig-zag shaped wounds over 4cm long and over 5cm deep. It indicated at least two thrusting movements of the knife, severing the muscles of the neck and going through the back of the tongue to the front of the spine in two places.
There were also cuts on the left side of his neck and bruises to the right that were signs of choking or strangulation, as well as bruises to the chin, above the left ear lobe, and inside the mouth that were signs of punches to the head. There was also obvious bruising to his chest and left arm, plus cuts and scratches on his right arm that showed his arms were held down by somebody’s knees.
Steven also had considerable internal injuries. His chest wall was also bruised, and he had fractures to several of his ribs. These were accompanied by tears in the lining of the rib cage which would have allowed the lungs to collapse. The lungs themselves showed some tears and bleeding into the lower parts, and there were tears around the kidneys. All these showed he had been jumped upon by his attacker.
The medical examiner concluded that the cause of Steven’s death was the combined effect of the stab wounds to the neck, strangulation, and the blunt force injuries to his chest and trunk.
18-year-old Adam Bowhay and his 14-year-old girlfriend Rachel left their homes on the Central Coast in mid-February and travelled to Macksville, where they committed three break-and-enters on the night of the 19th. This included a break-in at the Macksville Trading Post, where Adam stole a number of Swiss Army and other knives. After that they stayed at Nambucca Heads for a few days, before heading up to Byron Bay.
The couple left Byron on March 3rd, deciding to steal a car and drive to Beaudesert, across the Queensland border. They stole petrol from an Ampol service station there on the 6th, then headed to Kyogle to stay with a friend of Rachel’s named Terri Leahy.
The next day they hitched a ride to Casino, arriving at about 9pm on the night of Saturday 8th March. They soon met Steven Jarvis at the Oxford Hotel, where he had had bought them both a drink. Once Steven became too drunk to be served at the Hotel, he gave Adam money to buy them all drinks.
Needless to say, Steven was known to be an alcoholic, a fact which was confirmed at his post-mortem. He has also previously been diagnosed as a schizophrenic, and had been living alone in his room at the Commercial Hotel for about two weeks.
They kept drinking together until around midnight and although Steven hadn’t met Adam and Rachel before this night, he invited them back to stay with him in his room at the Commercial Hotel. The three remained there for about an hour before heading off to the park area, where Steven’s body was eventually found.
Adam and Rachel went back to Steven’s room at the Commercial Hotel and ransacked its contents, taking a small amount of money and other items, including an ATM card.
They hitched a ride from the southern outskirts of Casino to Whiporie, a small village, where they stayed until Monday, when they hitched to Grafton. After that they made their way to Wauchope where they stole a car and drove to the Central Coast. Rachel phoned her mother, and Adam spoke to his step-grandmother, who told him to give himself up to police. He ignored this advice, and the two headed to the South Coast, to Jindabyne, then over the Victorian border to Tallangatta, where they were eventually arrested when their stolen car broke down.
When Adam was first asked by Detective Hunt in Tallangatta whether he knew anything about the murder of Steven Jarvis in Casino, he denied having anything to do with the killing, but said he was with “the bloke” who did it, and said “He wasn’t pissed but only half-pissed”.
He then took part in a lengthy recorded interview at Wangaratta (NSW) with Detective Campbell. This time he immediately confessed that he had been the one who killed Steven, staying he had stabbed him, strangled him, and jumped all over him. He said his reason for doing it was because Steven “pissed him off and kept on touching Rachel”:
“Q: And what happened then?
A: I looked, told him, I said ‘What would you do if I punched you in the mouth‘? He said ‘Id probably ask ‘Why‘? So I smacked him a good one in the head. I told him I was going to keep going, and he pulled out a knife. So I pulled out a knife as well. I know how to use a knife, he didn’t.
Q: What happened then?
A: Well, I stabbed him, strangled him to make sure he was dead, jumped all over him, dragged him down. I took his wallet first and his hotel keys, dragged him down to the side of the river, just left him there. Went back to his hotel, took what I wanted out of his room and left Casino.
Q: Were you alone at the time you say you killed Mr Jarvis?
A: Yeah. Me girlfriend was there but she wasn’t close enough to know really what was going on.”
Adam told how he and Rachel had met Steven Jarvis at the pub that night, and he had bought them between six and twelve beers over the course of the night. Adam said once they went back to Steven’s room at the Commercial Hotel, he began paying too much attention to Rachel. Adam said that Steven was touching her, putting his arms around her, trying to put her hands on her breasts and telling her that she was his. So Adam said he asked Steven to come for a walk with him to go to a party, but of course there wasn’t actually any party. Adam intended to take Steven out and “flog him”.
Adam said that when they got down to the reserve, he punched Steven in the face with force, at which point Steven pulled out a knife. Adam pulled out one of the Swiss Army knives he had stolen from Macksville, and put his arms around Steven’s neck to throw him to the ground. He then straddled him by pinning him down with one knee on each arm, and strangled him. After that he punched him to the head and finally stabbed him in the throat, on one occasion “hacking into his throat with it”. Still unsure whether he had “killed him good enough”, Adam jumped on his chest and head, and kicked him in the ribs. He said “I just schitzed right out on him … I never thought he could get enough, so I just kept on jumping on him”.
“Q: Why did you stab him then?
A: Because if I had of left him there he could have jumped up. He could have had a crack at me. I didn’t know if he was dead or what. I made sure he was dead. I stabbed him. He deserved it anyway. I’m not sorry I done it.
Q: Why did he deserve it?
A: Because mate, look at the way he talked to my girlfriend, touched her. He was probably a child molester …
Q: After you left Casino, lets say, when you were on your way to Whiporie, how did you feel about what happened with Steve when you stabbed him?
A: Didn’t worry me.
Q: Do you still feel that way?
A: Yep. I regret stabbing him, yeah. He probably still should be alive, but if he hadn’t pulled out a knife on me, if he had of treated my girlfriend with a bit more respect then he wouldn’t have got it, would he. Anyone who doesn’t treat her with respect will get the same thing.
Q: Is that the reason you stabbed him?
A: Yeah. I was only going to bash him to start with, but he wanted to pull out a knife, thinking he was a hero. He ain’t no hero now.”
Adam also gave evidence at his trial, in which he conceded that Steven Jarvis had never actually pulled a knife on him, so his actions were never in self-defence. Instead he said he had been provoked into taking Steven down to the park area and giving him a ‘flogging’, by the way Steven was talking to and touching Rachel, which Adam felt was unwelcome and inappropriate.
He said that when he and Rachel got to the Oxford Hotel Steven had introduced himself to them, and early on Steven told Adam that he used to be an ASIO agent, and had been banned from a number of hotels in Casino. Adam said Steven told him he was going to take Rachel away from him. He said Steven had put his arm around Rachel within ten minutes of them walking into the hotel, and she had pushed it off. Adam told him he shouldn’t be doing that.
More beer was drunk, and after that Steven invited them both to go back to the hotel where he was staying. Adam said that on the way back to the hotel, Steven moved from walking alongside him, to around the other side to Rachel and put his arms around her, with his hands on her breasts, rubbing them. Rachel moved away, to Adam’s other side. Adam said this happened about four or five times, and he got really angry, as he had warned Steven several times not to do it. Adam said the thought that Steven was “off the planet, drunk and crazy”.
Despite all this both Adam and Rachel went back to Steven‘s hotel room and drank more. Adam said he took two Seranace tablets that he found in Steven’s room. He said Steven again put his arm around Rachels neck and touched her breasts, and after that became “quite angry”. He said that he decided that he would take Steven out and “flog him“. “It crossed my mind he may have been a child molester or a rapist or something of that nature.” Adam said he told Steven “This is the last time I’m going to warn you. You shouldn’t be touching her like that.”
Adam said he then made up a story about a party, and got the three of them to leave the room. He said once they got to the reserve he punched Steven about three or four times, then threw him to the ground where he started screaming and yelling, so Adam sat on his chest. Steven was still screaming and trying to scratch his face, so he told him to shut up, and pinned his arms down with his knees. Steven still didn’t stop screaming, so Adam put his hands around his throat to make him stop, but every time he released his grip Steven would scream again. Adam said at this stage, Steven “didn’t look too healthy in the face”. Adam asked Rachel for a knife so he could threaten him and scare him into keeping quiet. Rachel, who was nearby, opened the blade of the Swiss Army knife and handed it to Adam.
Adam then told the court he had no recollection of what happened next, but he realised he must have stabbed Steven because he saw lots of blood, and the knife was in his hand. He said he then lost control, and jumped on Steve’s chest a number of times. “I didn’t know if he was dead or not proper - didn’t know if I had killed him good enough, so I jumped on his chest, jumped on his head, kicked him in the ribs. I just schitzed right out”. He insisted that he had no memory of the actual stabbing.
He was asked why he and Rachel didn’t just leave Steven’s company, if they were so offended by his behaviour as Adam claimed. He replied “I don’t know” and said that he now regretted the killing, saying that when he planned to fight him, he did not want him to die and that he wished he was still alive.
Adam said he was very drunk on the night of Steven’s death, and had also been smoking pot, doing speed, and also heroin, which he’d been doing constantly since leaving the Central Coast over three weeks beforehand.
He also insisted that he had been threatened by police in the cells before he took part in the recorded interview, and that he had not been fed properly between his arrest and interview. He claimed that he lied in the interview because he was just saying the first thing that came into his mind, and because he thought it was what the police wanted him to say.
The trial Judge however thought Adam was a “most unsatisfactory witness”, and after reviewing all the evidence surrounding Adam’s arrest, detention and interview, was “most strongly convinced” that he had not been threatened in any way before the interview, and had been properly fed whilst there.
The Judge did not accept Adam’s claims of the amount of drugs he was using at the time. Despite Adam’s claim that at the night before, at Terri Leahy’s place in Kyogle, he had injected himself with a large dose of heroin, smoked about seven or eight cones of pot, and did a good deal of drinking, Terri‘s statement to police said that before they left for Casino, only Rachel had smoked some pot, and Adam had not done anything. He did not seem at all drug affected by the couple who gave them the lift from Casino to Whiporie, and despite his claim that he was ‘out of it’ when he was interviewed, he seemed lucid and intelligent in all his responses.
In addition, during the ‘spree’ leading up to the killing, neither Rachel nor Adam had any money, apart from the proceeds of their break-ins in Macksville, which did not seem to be much. They had no money to pay for petrol at Beaudesert. Yet Adam claimed he was constantly buying and using hard drugs, describing two incidents - one at Ballina where he said he sold some people crushed panadol to rip them off, and one at Byron Bay where he said he ripped off a dealer and got away with it. The Judge rejected this evidence.
At trial, Adam’s claims of provocation, and a defence of diminished responsibility (the ‘loss of control’ when stabbing Steven) were clearly rejected by the jury when they returned their verdict of murder.
Steven was just a lonely drunk who wanted some company. He may well have made some inappropriate comments about Rachel, but he was so drunk he would have been incapable of doing any real harm. The Judge found that even if Steven had in fact touched Rachel’s breasts, his Honour did not believe that this was the real cause for the bashing and murder that followed. Adam and Rachel could have got up and left at any time.
The Judge was of the view that Adam saw Steven as a helpless drunk who was an easy target for his own aggression, and that Adam thought he could have some fun at Steven’s expense. However his Honour doubted that Adam had decided to kill Steven when the left the Commercial Hotel, and may well have only intended to belt him up. Nonetheless, Adam clearly found himself enjoying bashing Steven up, and during this decided to kill him, which he did by stabbing, strangling and stomping on his victim until he was sure he was dead. The way he answered his questions in his interview left little doubt that Adam knew what he was doing, he did it because he wanted to, and that he was proud of it, boasting about it in the interview. Adam never showed any genuine remorse for his actions - any regrets he expressed seemed to be more about his own predicament, than for Steven Jarvis’ lost life.
Alcohol and possibly pot may have made him less inhibited, but this did not reduce is responsibility for his actions. “This was a deliberate and callous attack on one of the less fortunate members of the community, who was quite incapable of defending himself”.
In sentencing Adam, the Judge took into account his background. His parents were separate before he was born, and his mother had married his stepfather. When he was four she deserted the family, taking one of his sisters. His upbringing was left to his step-grandmother, who was not a blood relative, but took him and his remaining sister in with her.
He got into trouble at school, often being suspended. He began drinking and smoking pot at 13, and after New Years Eve in 1995-96 he started using heavier drugs such as speed, pills, cocaine and heroin.
His criminal record showed two arrests in January 1996 for violent disorder, and four charges of malicious damage and stealing. He was also arrested in January for cruelty to a dog, and having stolen goods. He was sentenced in the children’s court to a ‘control order’ which is time in a juvenile justice institution. After his release he was arrested again in Coffs Harbour in August 1996 for stealing a car, driving dangerously and failing to stop after an accident, among other traffic offences. He was imprisoned for four months, during which he was charged with four other break, enter and steal offences.
As the Judge noted, “he does not appear to have learned anything beneficial from his time in custody… He appears to have embarked upon a life of crime and to have decided that Society’s rules do not apply to him.”
Adam Bowhay was sentenced to 23 years in prison for the murder of Steven Jarvis, with a non-parole period of 16 years, making him eligible for release on 19 March 2013.
Adam appealed his conviction and sentence. In handing down the Appeal Court’s decision, one Judge stated “Reflection on [Steven’s] injuries alone is chilling. So also is a consideration of [Adam Bowhay’s] actions. So also is viewing the video record of his interview with police where, at least unemotionally, he talks of what he did. Even were I to set aside the findings of the [trial Judge] that [Adam] set out to have fun and enjoyed some of his actions, and in the ERISP was boasting, I would nevertheless regard the sentence imposed as a proper one. But for [Adam’s] youth, the sentence could well have been considerably longer. One can but hope that before [Adam] is released, he will have taken the opportunity to learn and accept the standards of behaviour required in any civilised society.”