Inside toolbox murder trial: Pair ‘kicked, screamed’

 

Locked in a large toolbox and strapped to the back of a ute, Cory Breton and Iuliana Triscaru were kicking and screaming, trying to break free.

The resulting drive, a court heard this week, would seal their fate.

Just a few weeks after disappearing in January 2016, police would make the grim discovery of their bodies after the toolbox containing the pair was found in the waters of Scrubby Creek, south of Brisbane.

The bodies of Iuliana Triscaru and Cory Breton were found in a metal toolbox submerged in a lagoon south of Brisbane in February 2016. Four men are on trial accused of their murders.
The bodies of Iuliana Triscaru and Cory Breton were found in a metal toolbox submerged in a lagoon south of Brisbane in February 2016. Four men are on trial accused of their murders.

Both were so decomposed the cause of death - thought to be asphyxiation or drowning - could not be properly determined.

Bags of rubbish had been placed inside the toolbox and the top was weighed down with blocks and tyres.

What exactly happened that fateful night on January 24, 2016, is only being pieced together now.

Four men - Trent Michael Thrupp, Davy Malu Junior Taiao, Stou Daniels and Waylon Ngaketo Cowan Walker - are alleged to have taken part in the pair's killing that night.

All four have pleaded not guilty to their murders while Thrupp, Taiao and Daniels have also pleaded not guilty to torturing the pair.

Mr Thrupp pleaded guilty to the pair's manslaughter, but this plea was rejected.

The Crown alleges Mr Breton and Ms Triscaru were lured to a unit in Kingston, near Logan, before being assaulted and tied up with duct tape and zip ties.

The pair were allegedly loaded into the large metal toolbox and kept there for hours.

It is further alleged the toolbox was loaded onto a ute and driven out to Scrubby Creek by Mr Thrupp and another man, where it was dumped in the water.

Police search for clues after the toolbox containing the pair’s bodies was lifted from Scrubby Creek.
Police search for clues after the toolbox containing the pair’s bodies was lifted from Scrubby Creek.

"The victims were still yelling and kicking on the toolbox as they left the unit at 8.30pm," crown prosecutor David Meredith told the jury during his opening address.

Mr Meredith said if the facts were true, the killing of the pair was "extraordinarily barbaric" and a "breathtakingly evil" act.

"These people were put into a toolbox and kept there for several hours, obviously fearing what might happen to them … (then) taken to a creek and drowned," he said.

John Fraser, acting for Daniels, told the jury they needed to focus on the evidence presented.

He said the crown would fail to prove his client knew of any intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm to the pair and he was not at Scrubby Creek or placed the toolbox in the creek.

"I simply ask you now to keep an open mind," Mr Fraser said.

Tony Kimmins, acting for Thrupp, said his client's plea to manslaughter did not make it "easier" for the prosecution to establish counts of murder.

"The onus of proof remains at all times on the prosecution," Mr Kimmins said.

"His plea of guilty (to manslaughter) does not provide an acknowledgment to you … that at any point did he lay a finger on either one.

"It does not establish that he took the toolbox to Scrubby Creek … (or) was at the dam site when the toolbox made its way into the creek."

Kim Bryson, acting for Taiao, said she would dispute suggestions her client played any part in the murder or torture of the pair.

Stou Daniels
Stou Daniels

 

Trent Michael Thrupp
Trent Michael Thrupp

 

Davy Malu Junior Taiao
Davy Malu Junior Taiao

What allegedly sparked the murder?

In his opening to the jury on February 23, Mr Meredith said Mr Breton was a drug dealer who often used burner phones he purchased from a convenience store.

But it was a photo of Daniels on Mr Breton's phone that allegedly sparked the turn of events.

In January 2016, the owner of the convenience store asked where Mr Breton sourced his drugs from and he replied "Islanders".

He then sent a CCTV picture of Daniels to Mr Breton, confirming if it was him.

"Yeah that's him," Mr Breton texted back on January 22.

Daniels later became aware of the photo and was suspicious Mr Breton was trying to set him up.

Begging for their lives

Lelan Harrington, Mr Breton's friend and a witness in the prosecution case, told the court he was at the unit the night the pair went missing.

Hobbling into court on crutches during the first week of the trial, he told the jury he saw Ms Triscaru attempting to escape her alleged killers after freeing herself from the box.

Lelan Harrington arrives at the Brisbane Supreme Court. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Tertius Pickard
Lelan Harrington arrives at the Brisbane Supreme Court. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Tertius Pickard

 

The toolbox is lifted out of the waters in February 2016. The crown has told Brisbane Supreme Court Mr Breton and Ms Triscaru died either by asphyxiation or drowning.
The toolbox is lifted out of the waters in February 2016. The crown has told Brisbane Supreme Court Mr Breton and Ms Triscaru died either by asphyxiation or drowning.

He said she motioned for him to keep quiet, bringing a hand to her mouth.

But Mr Harrington raised the alarm to the rest of the group.

Mr Harrington claimed he was asked to restrain Ms Triscaru by Thrupp.

He said he saw a zip tie being placed around her neck, causing her to choke on her blood.

"I wanted to let her (Iuliana) go - I knew something would happen to me if I did that," he told the court.

"I would have ended up in the toolbox with Cory or they probably would have shot us right there on the spot."

Mr Harrington said he heard the pair banging on the toolbox and screaming as it was loaded onto the ute.

Despite this, he said he thought the pair were going to be driven somewhere, let out of the box and made to walk home in something akin to a "boot-ride".

He told the court he was asked to drive the car owned by Mr Breton to Beaudesert and burn it.

Mr Harrington went into hiding, his face appearing in missing persons alerts alongside pictures of Mr Breton and Ms Triscaru, until he was located by police.

Mr Harrington was not charged with the pair's murders but received a suspended sentence for his role that night.

'I didn't want to get charged with murder'

Lawyers acting for the four defendants grilled him during cross examination over his drug use, mental health issues and lies he told to the police while giving a statement.

John Fraser, acting for Daniels, accused Mr Harrington of deliberately lying to minimise his involvement and "get into trouble".

"I didn't want to get charged with murder," he said during the combative exchange with Mr Fraser.

Mr Fraser suggested to Mr Harrington that his client never had a knife and did not "wave it" at him or slice Tavita's (Ms Triscaru's) arms.

"Yes, he did," Mr Harrington replied.

Police comb the area around Scrubby Creek. A jury has been told of the final moments of Mr Breton and Ms Triscaru as four men stand trial accused of their murders. Picture: Jono Searle.
Police comb the area around Scrubby Creek. A jury has been told of the final moments of Mr Breton and Ms Triscaru as four men stand trial accused of their murders. Picture: Jono Searle.

"Can I suggest Stou (Daniels) never gave you any directions about carrying the toolbox nor did he push you into carrying the toolbox?" Mr Fraser asked.

"Yes, he did," Mr Harrington said.

Under cross-examination, he told the court he had used methylamphetamine in the lead-up to the events and he had a few days of "bingeing on it".

Mr Harrington said he was not taking medication for his mental health at the time.

Mr Fraser questioned him about his actions after driving Mr Breton's car to Beaudesert.

"When the police first arrived, you bolted, correct?" Mr Fraser asked.

"Yes … I didn't trust anyone," Mr Harrington replied.

"They had to find you and effectively take you into custody … then you told them any number of lies, including the raising of the alarm by Trent."

Partner's tragic last calls

The court also heard from the late Mr Breton's partner, Miranda Parkinson, who became emotional as she recounted her desperate attempts to reach him while she was out of the state.

Ms Parkinson told the jury the last time she saw Mr Breton alive was during an airport drop-off on January 20.

Miranda Parkinson, partner of the late Cory Breton.
Miranda Parkinson, partner of the late Cory Breton.

She was heading to Newcastle with their daughter to briefly visit family.

The warning signs first emerged when Mr Breton wasn't answering her calls.

She said she last heard from him on January 20.

"I believe I called him, he missed the call and then returned it," Ms Parkinson said.

Tearfully, Ms Parkinson recounted how she would call him daily, "probably" every couple of hours, in the hope that he would answer.

She said her partner was meant to pick her up from the airport on January 29.

By this time, Mr Breton had met his grisly fate but she was unaware of what had unfolded in her absence.

A day later, she reported him missing to police.

She took part in a media conference on February 9 with Ms Triscaru's mother asking for information about the pair's disappearance.

Two days later, the toolbox was pulled from the waters of Scrubby Creek.

The trial, before Justice David Boddice, continues.

Originally published as Inside toolbox murder trial: Pair 'kicked, screamed'


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