Ballina man to face trial by jury

ANDREW Stephen Benn was yesterday committed for trial to the Supreme Court in Sydney charged with the murder of Lismore man Peter Timothy Allen in November, 2000.

After a two-day hearing in Lismore Local Court, Magistrate Annette Sinclair said she was satisfied there was a case to answer and committed Benn for trial by jury.

“It is not for this court to decide if he is guilty or innocent,” she said.

Ms Sinclair said the evidence heard in the Local Court was appropriate to be considered by a jury.

“There is a reasonable prospect a jury would convict,” she said.

Benn, 32, of Ballina, is also charged with maliciously damaging property by fire.

He was arrested and charged by police officers from Task Force Carraboi in February last year.

Mr Allen, 43, died inside his home in Avondale Avenue, Lismore, either before or during a fire that engulfed his weatherboard home.

His charred body was found lying in a doorway inside the house.

Police initially listed Mr Allen's death as accidental from incineration and smoke inhalation, but the case was reopened in 2006 after a tip-off from members of the public.

During the hearing yesterday, Benn did not enter a plea to the charges and called no witnesses for his defence.

Three witnesses for the prosecution took the stand to reveal the content of alleged conversations Benn had with each of them in which they said he told them details about the incident.

The conversations allegedly took place within weeks of the incident, but the witnesses told the court they were reluctant to tell police at the time.

It was not until 2006 that the contents of the alleged conversations were revealed to police.

A date for the trial is yet to be set. Benn was granted bail, but remains in custody awaiting sentence on other matters.

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