Duane Hutchings couldn’t sing a note but at Christmas he never let the fact he was tone deaf get in the way of a good sing-along.
His aunt Tina can still hear him belting out carols beside her at church, giving Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Silent Night everything he had, oblivious to the amused looks on those around him.
“His joy was totally unselfconscious and pure,” she said.
The Hutchings family, including Duane’s six children, are facing their third Christmas without him this year.
Tina Hutchings told Victoria’s Supreme Court on Tuesday that she wouldn’t tug at heartstrings with stories of past and future Christmasses missed – that fact is obvious.
Instead the family will focus on the ones they had with him before his life was ended on February 9, 2019.
“For almost three years I have wondered about the man who shot my nephew in the back of the head,” Ms Hutchings said.
“Those words are shocking and its still a shock to me that I have to say them.”
That man is Tony Panagiotou. He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
His sons George, 22, and John, 18, woke him early on the day of the killing.
Some of the DJ equipment they hired through their business was being advertised for sale on Gumtree and they had a plan to get it back.
Panagiotou told police he feared it could be a set-up so he went with them for protection. He took a shotgun with him.
They arrived at the Oakleigh East home 20 minutes after Mr Hutchings, who was visiting the woman who lived there.
Prosecutors told Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry after one person confirmed their equipment was inside, a group of five including Panagiotou went in.
Mr Hutchings was assaulted. Panagiotou told police he raised the gun when he thought he saw Mr Hutchings reaching for a weapon.
He said he didn’t mean to fire the gun but it went off. Mr Hutchings was hit and died soon after. The group fled after dismantling and packing up the DJ equipment.
“I took a man’s life, I’m not a good person. Look what I’ve done,” Panagiotou told police.
His lawyer Malcolm Thomas said Panagiotou had experienced absolute shame and self loathing since the killing.
He said he experienced hyper-vigilance and obtained the weapon after a home invasion in 2006 which had a lasting impact on his mental health. He just wanted to protect his children.
Justice Lasry said if that was the case he should have stopped his children from going to the house.
Police had already told them not to go, after attempts were made to report the equipment stolen.
Officers told them they couldn’t follow it up because it was a civil matter. Mr Thomas said he understood the officers involved had faced disciplinary action over their response.
Justice Lasry said that didn’t excuse the group’s behaviour but questioned what officers expected would happened when they refused to follow up.
“The fact is, if police had said ‘we’ll go around and have a chat with them’ then this wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Panagiotou will be sentenced in January.