A TASMANIAN man who pleaded guilty to the murder of a Chinese student told police it was her own her fault because she asked him for sex.
Stavros Papadopoulos, 22, pleaded guilty to murdering Zhang “Tina” Yu, an accounting student, at his apartment in the Hobart suburb of New Town on June 25 last year.
His co-accused, Daniel Jo Williams, also 22, pleaded not guilty to murder, but has been found guilty of her manslaughter. Papadopoulos has admitted using a concrete brick to bludgeon the 27-year-old student, before strangling her and drowning her. Her body was dumped in the Tyenna River, 60km west of Hobart.
At their sentencing hearing in the Tasmanian Supreme Court on Thursday, crown prosecutor Tim Ellis SC quoted from an interview Papadopoulos gave to police on June 30, in which he said he thought Yu was a prostitute and had tried to initiate sex with him.
“I was saying no. I’m in a two-year committed relationship,” Papadopoulos told police. He then told police Ms Yu “pretty much drowned herself”. In a second interview with police, Papadopoulos said Ms Yu’s actions had contributed to her death. “I’m saying whose fault is it? Every girl knows not to jump in stranger’s cars,” Papadopoulos said.
“I’m saying if I wasn’t pushed to the point where I was pushed, it would not have happened.” Papadopoulos rolled his eyes, shook his head and smiled as Mr Ellis read his evidence to the court. Mr Ellis described the crimes as a “planned thrill murder”.
“A young person comes to this state to further their education and is killed by a complete stranger,” he told the court. “It is as if the whole community has let them down.” Papadopoulos’ lawyer Kim Baumeler said her client had been “disgusted” by his own actions. “I realise that a life has been taken because of a cowardly act on my behalf,” she read from a letter Papadopoulos had written to the court.
“I fully accept my part in taking the life on an innocent person.” During his trial, Williams said he had “smoked dope” because he “didn’t want to be in reality” as the murder took place.
At the sentencing hearing, Williams’ lawyer Greg Richardson said his client should be given “the shortest possible” non-parole period in jail because he had acted out of fear of Papadopoulos. “Ms Yu was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He (Williams) was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he told the court.
“This was a play enacted in front of him.” But crown prosecutor Tim Ellis SC said Williams had shown no remorse for his victim. “He is still guilty of extreme culpability, of appalling moral failure, of almost incomprehensible cowardice,” Mr Ellis told the court. Mr Richardson asked Justice David Porter to sentence his client before hearing any more evidence about Papadopoulos.
Earlier, a victim impact statement prepared by Ms Yu’s brother Yi Yu was read to the court. “Ever since last July, when my parents came back from Australia, they spend every day immersed in memory and pain,” the statement said. “They don’t go out. I often see them shedding tears alone. “They feel as if their life has no colour.”
Justice Porter adjourned the sentencing of both men until June 30.