Mark Wallace in a photo provided by his family.
Mark Wallace in a photo provided by his family.

Court hears conflicting accounts on Byron man's death

By HELEN JACK DIFFERING accounts of a struggle leading to the death of Byron Bay businessman Mark Wallace were revealed yesterday in Byron Bay Court.

A Gold Coast man charged with the manslaughter of Mr Wallace was granted bail with a $50,000 surety by Magistrate Jeff Linden.

Cyrus Harry Peri, 26, of Coombabah, is charged with the manslaughter of Mr Wallace and has been in custody since the incident on January 5. He has not entered a plea.

According to police facts tendered to the court, Mr Wallace's death was the result of an altercation during an evening out at Tweeds Heads.

Peri, his girlfriend Kylie Newman, Mr Wallace and his girlfriend Donna McKevett began their evening with drinks at the Tweed/Coolangatta Surf Club.

They later left and returned to a holiday unit in Boundary Lane where they were intending to stay overnight and continued to drink.

At 11pm the group ran a short distance in the rain to the Twin Towns Services Club.

In his statement to police, Peri said a discussion earlier in the evening over an old relationship between Mr Wallace and Kylie Newman created friction within the group.

As the group were returning to their accommodation at 4.30am, reference to the discussion was made and Peri said he put his arm around Mr Wallace's shoulders in a conciliatory manner but was pushed away by Mr Wallace.

The pair began to wrestle and both men fell to the ground. Mr Wallace hit his head on concrete paving.

But in Ms McKevett's statement to police she said she saw Peri hold Mr Wallace in a headlock and strike him three times with a clenched fist, after which Mr Wallace fell to the ground, hitting his head.

Peri admitted to police he exchanged punches with Mr Wallace but denied his punches were hard or that he intended to inflict serious harm.

In Ms Newman's statement to police she described how she saw the men wrestling and swinging their arms at each other.

In an attempt to stop the fight, Ms Newman ran over to the men and stood in front of Peri and tried to push him away. Ms Newman had turned to see Mr Wallace lying on the ground unconscious.

Both Ms Newman and Ms McKevett tried to help Mr Wallace and called 000.

An ambulance attended the scene taking Mr Wallace to Tweed Heads Hospital with a traumatic brain injury. He died later that day.

In applying for bail, Peri's solicitor, Chris Nyst, told the court Peri was a New Zealand national who had moved to the Gold Coast with his father in 1996 to complete his schooling.

Mr Nyst said Peri was employed as an excavator supervisor and was a loving son, brother and father.

Peri was not present in court but his father, Johnson Peri, Kylie Newman and her brother Aaron Newman were there to support him in his application for bail.

Police prosecutor Sgt Robert Hanzic opposed bail because of the serious nature of the charge.

He said the conflicting statements negated any argument of self defence that could be made by Peri's defence.

Magistrate Jeff Linden said alcohol was a factor in the incident and agreed that after a disagreement or physical activity, Mr Wallace had fallen and hit his head.

"He is charged with a serious offence, a penultimate offence of manslaughter," he said.

"And not surprisingly there are variations in the statements given to police. "Alcohol was a contributing factor."

Magistrate Linden granted Peri conditional bail with Ms Newman's family offering surety of $50,000.

Peri is due to face Lismore Local Court on March 25 for mention.

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