A police photograph of Barry Grant.
A police photograph of Barry Grant.

Man faces court over drug killing

ACCUSED killer Barry Grant went from growing strawberries to crops of cannabis because of financial problems.

A committal hearing in the Lismore Local Court yesterday heard that Grant, 52, was struggling with a big mortgage and needed money to buy a new home for his estranged wife.

Grant, a farmer from Eviron Road, near Murwillumbah, is pleading not guilty to the murder of Jethro Matheson at his property on January 15 last year.

Instead, defence lawyer John Weller raised the issue of self-defence, alleging Matheson went to the property that night carrying a weapon and wearing camouflage clothing, intent on stealing cannabis.

Grant is accused of gunning Matheson down at his front door before disposing of his body over a deep slope in remote bushland in the Border Ranges National Park.

No murder weapon has ever been found and police said they never found a tyre lever or crow bar that Matheson was said to have.

Grant also faces charges of growing a hydroponic cannabis crop at his farm with a street value of $3 million.

Detective Senior Constable Peter Curran, cross-examined by Mr Weller, said police had investigated the activities of Matheson and found there had been a previous incident at Grant's property in August 2008, with allegations of violence.

Mr Weller said Grant told police the reason he went from growing hydroponic strawberries to 1549 cannabis plants was to escape financial difficulties and 'to assist his wife establish a new home for her and their children'.

Grant had a substantial mortgage at the time.

According to the Crown, a Brisbane carpenter lied to police about why he went to Grant's property on January 15, when he was apprehended the next day.

He acknowledged his car had been left parked on a ridge overlooking Grant's farm on the night of the shooting.

Mr Weller said that man first told police they were there on a road trip, to go hiking and enjoy the views.

The man agreed he lied because he did not want police to know the real reason for their visit.

"Having seen my friend get murdered in front of me sort of impaired my judgement," he said.

The man said he was outside Grant's house when he heard two gunshots and saw Matheson run from the house.

He fled the scene and later had to break into his car because he did not have the keys.

The man said he sent a text message to his brother in Brisbane saying he had been shot at.

When police discovered the decomposing body of Matheson on January 30 last year, the man's car keys were found with the body, along with a mobile phone, bolt-cutters and a doona.

The hearing before Magistrate Robyn Denes continues today.

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