'Afraid for his life': Did co-workers plot Jeffrey's murder?
A FRIGHTENED Jeffrey Brooks told a former boss he believed his co-workers were planning to kill him by shooting him and making it look like an accident.
Soon after making this horrifying claim to former employer John Pick, the young scientist was found dead from a shotgun wound to the chest at Beenleigh Crayfish Farm, south of Brisbane, on March 13, 1996.
Police determined it was an accident, despite protests from family and friends, and a plea from co-owner Greg Milham to "treat this as a homicide'' due to threats and animosity on the property.
Mr Pick, who has since passed away, sent a letter to Coroner Trevor Anders, who was conducting an inquest into Jeffrey's death at Beenleigh that ran over three days ending in April 1998.
The Courier-Mail has been granted access by the Office of the State Coroner to the full brief of evidence in the case.
In Mr Pick's letter, he revealed how Jeffrey had come to see him before Christmas in 1995, and told how hostilities on the farm had turned his dream job into a nightmare.
"Jeffrey stated that he was afraid for his life,'' Mr Pick said in the letter to Mr Anders.
"That he was scared of being shot while undertaking bird predation control and that they would try and make this look like an accident.
"My reply was one of sorrow that I had introduced Jeff into a working environment that had degenerated into such a circumstance, that this was his perception.''
Mr Pick wrote that he had tried to put Jeffrey's mind at ease, telling him he had been "watching too much American TV drama'' and that, if anything, he would receive a punch in the mouth, but he was big enough to give back what he received.
"This attitude was not successful, as he again reiterated his apprehensions and beliefs. Jeff left, and my best wishes went with him,'' he said.
"It was not until Wednesday, the 13th of March, that I received a phone call from my ex-partner's wife informing me of Jeff's death and the circumstances surrounding it.
"Immediately, the recollection of my last meeting, and (the) conversation where Jeff was insistent about his being shot and it being made to look like an accident, came back to me. For me it was stunned disbelief.''
Mr Pick also told the Coroner about an incident where a hole had been found in one of the fences on the farm and the manager thought a neighbour was using it to poach crayfish.
"He then set up an elaborate trap mechanism to maim the person using the cut fence access.
"Both Mr Milham and myself pointed out that we, the owners, could be liable if an intruder injured himself, due to our neglect or intent.
"His reply was, 'Don't worry; I'll make it look like an accident'. We had to order its dismantling.''
In other evidence at the inquest, Mr Milham said Jeffrey's co-workers - the farm manager and his wife and the farm worker - were "antagonising in every way they could'' be in their dealings with Jeffrey, who had been employed as an aquaculturist and given the task of turning the struggling operation around.
On the stand, he talked about the conflict and how Jeffrey was bullied by the others. Mr Milham said they had changed the locks and alarm codes at the farm office so Jeffrey could not get in.
"I do have a lot of written correspondence about this back and forward … there's documented stuff. We did this. He did this.''