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Fremantle murder trial: ‘Racist’ comment in lead up to Charles McCarthy death was ‘banter’

A comment aimed at two Asian fisherman – which sparked a fight that allegedly ended in a man being fatally stabbed in the head with a screwdriver – was “banter” not intended to be racist, a court has been told.

Andrew Doan, 35, had been fishing with a friend in the Swan River in East Fremantle in the early hours of December 23, 2017, when he allegedly thrust the sharp tool through Charles John McCarthy’s temple, penetrating his brain.

Mr Doan, who is on trial in the Supreme Court charged with murder, claims Mr McCarthy accidentally impaled his head on the screwdriver when he charged at him in a drunken rage after becoming embroiled in an argument with the Irishman, his wife and their friend Jason Curran.

Giving evidence today, Mr Curran said the trio had been drinking at a Christmas party at Swan Yacht Club and decided to walk to the Tradewinds Hotel – where they had booked a room – after an Uber failed to show.

After coming across two fishermen walking up the banks of the river, Mr Curran, who admitted he and the couple were drunk, said he made a “smart arse” comment, saying “better call Fisheries”.

Mr Curran said Mr Doan ran after the group, holding what he thought was a knife, swearing and calling them racist.

He said he tried to diffuse the situation, telling Mr Doan that nothing racist had been said, before walking back towards the fishermen’s cars, intending to take a photo of their numberplates.

The witness said he remembered being pushed or punched in the face before Mr McCarthy, 32, ran towards him, then collapsed.

“It was just a flash, it happened so quickly,” he said. “I saw his lifeless body just drop to the ground.”

Mr Curran said he did not see what caused Mr McCarthy to fall.

Under cross-examination by Mr Doan’s lawyer Michael Perrella, Mr Curran rejected suggestions the Fisheries comment was made to cause offence.

“It’s just a joke,” he said. “It’s just banter.”

Mr Curran also denied Mr McCarthy was “full of rage”, had “shaped up” to Mr Doan, and that he was downplaying just how aggressive his friend was that night.

Anthony Smirk, who lives in a nearby unit, said he woke to loud screaming and “the sort of language I’d never heard before – it was disturbing”.

Mr Smirk said he heard swearing from a man with a “northern England accent”, but said the fisherman was not “saying anything at all” before an “awkward coming together”.

He said he heard the fisherman say “why did you come at me?”

Forensic pathologist Dr Clive Cook, who conducted a post-mortem examination, said Mr McCarthy had a “penetrating wound track” that started with a “slit-like” hole in his left temple and became more circular as it went through the skull.

Asked if Mr McCarthy rushed at the screwdriver, whether the tip could have penetrated his temple, Dr Cook said it was possible.

Mr Doan claims he had the screwdriver in his hands when he held them up to his face to protect himself when Mr McCarthy charged at him, and that the alleged victim was fatally injured in a tragic “freak accident”.

But prosecutors say he deliberately stabbed Mr McCarthy.

The trial continues.

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