A court has been told the prosecution case against the four accused in the murder of a Ballarat mother relies on "inferences" in the circumstances rather than hard evidence.
It came during the fourth day of a committal hearing for Shannon Jeffrey, Jacob Ford, Renee Reynolds and Brendan Prestage in the Ballarat Magistrates' Court on Friday.
The four accused have each been charged with one count of murder in relation to the death of Kobie Parfitt, 43, last year.
The hearing was adjourned on Thursday due to the ninth witness in the hearing asking for further time to prepare before being cross-examined, resulting in the case being adjourned until Friday. But on Friday the witness, who cannot be named due to a suppression order, refused to give evidence.
"You can charge me, I don't care. I'm not saying anything," they told the court.
After some minor delays, the proceedings continued when the lead detective on the case, Detective Senior Constable Jason Stewart, was cross-examined by several defence lawyers.
The detective, attached to the Missing Persons Squad in Melbourne, was questioned at length about the evidence gathered and relied upon to charge the four accused with Parfitt's murder.
He told the court that when the squad received the brief they started looking into Parfitt's background and those of her close contacts.
Detective Senior Constable Stewart said that throughout the investigation police obtained "a lot of information" from the community and followed up leads.
During the hearing the court was told Parfitt had been living in fear and that Jeffrey was "angry" at her.
Police believe Jeffrey and Ford attended the address in the days before Parfitt was last seen to retrieve some of Jeffrey's belongings and that she may have arranged for Ford and Prestage to be there on the 28th.
Speaking with one neighbour police learned all four of the accused were seen at Parfitt's Hickman Street address on April 28, 2020.
Early in the hearing this neighbour gave evidence that she saw Reynolds pull up in front of her house sometime around 11.30am that day.
After Reynolds left the car and rushed into the house, the neighbour spoke to Parfitt, who was seated in the passenger seat. She allegedly told her neighbour "they were going to put her in a boot" but she was too afraid to call the police in case "they would find out it was her" who had called.
The neighbour spoke with Ford and Jeffrey while Parfitt "sat on the steps, not engaging - she kept her head down and drank her coffee".
During the conversation Ford and a man the neighbour identified to fit Prestage's description carried an old television across to her house.
The neighbour later observed Parfitt resume her seat in the car and Reynolds jumping back in the driver's seat.
Ford opened the gate to the house and the car was driven around the back and the gate locked.
"There is evidence four people were present and one or two of them, if not all, had a grievance with [Parfitt]," Detective Senior Constable Stewart said.
Police believe an altercation occurred between Jeffrey and Parfitt shortly after this. The court heard investigators listened back to recordings of calls between Jeffrey - while she was incarcerated - and Parfitt.
"There is a clear deterioration in their relationship. It is clear [Jeffrey] has a serious grievance with her and she references going around [to her house] when she gets out."
Police also believe Reynolds was upset with Parfitt due to some missing sentimental watches.
He said there were no eye witness accounts for the murder itself but there was a "strong, clear inference that can be drawn, given the circumstances".
It is believed her body was driven to Snake Valley and dumped later that night, based on Prestage's phone records.
After police began searching for Parfitt as a missing person last November, her remains were found down a mine shaft in Snake Valley on December 22.
The court heard her body was wrapped in material and plastic but no DNA or fingerprints could be extracted. A forensic examination of Parfitt's former Hickman Street address was then undertaken.
Detective Senior Constable Stewart said an examination of potential blood staining in the laundry did not return a DNA result and no other DNA was found in the house but it was "eight months later".
Due to the advanced state of decomposition of Parfitt's body, forensic experts could not determine a cause of death but Detective Senior Constable Stewart told the court he believed she had been strangled or asphyxiated, though there was no evidence to support this.
The court heard police are still investigating lines of inquiry which "may or may not progress", but they cannot say who they relate to.
All four lawyers for the accused submitted various reasons for why there was not enough evidence in the case for murder charges and submitted each should be discharged.
Magistrate Ron Saines will consider the evidence and deliver his decision and reasons as to whether the case will proceed to trial next week.
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