The four people accused of murdering a Ballarat mother have been directed to stand trial in the Supreme Court.
Magistrate Ron Saines delivered his decision on Friday morning, following a four-day committal hearing at Ballarat Magistrates' Court last week.
On Friday morning all four of the accused - Shannon Jeffrey, Renee Reynolds, Jacob Ford and Brendan Prestage - entered not guilty pleas to their individual charges of murdering Kobie Parfitt.
The prosecution has alleged Ms Parfitt, 43, was killed at her Hickman Street home on April 28, 2020, before her body was dumped down a mine shaft in Snake Valley that night.
Mr Saines told the court he was satisfied the accused could be found guilty based on the prosecution case.
"Although a jury may have a reasonable doubt about the guilt of some or all of all accused, I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence upon which a jury could be satisfied about the guilt of each beyond reasonable doubt," Mr Saines said.
Although a jury may have a reasonable doubt about the guilt of some or all of all accused, I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence upon which a jury could be satisfied about the guilt of each beyond reasonable doubt,Magistrate Ron Saines
He was "satisfied" the crown case had established facts which demonstrated Jeffrey "held a serious grievance about Kobie Parfitt, which was expressed and acted upon".
During the hearing the court heard investigators had listened to recordings of phone calls between Jeffrey - while she was incarcerated - and Parfitt and they had determined there was a clear deterioration in their relationship during that time.
Mr Saines said there was also evidence that Ms Parfitt "feared the gravest of danger from Jeffrey and others who may assist her".
"The crown case also includes evidence that despite being friends, or at least appearing to be so, a lesser but similar grievance was held by Renee Reynolds."
The prosecution has alleged Reynolds was upset with Parfitt over some missing sentimental watches.
Early in the committal the court heard evidence from a former partner of Parfitt's, who said she had been imploring him for help in the weeks before her death.
Parfitt sent him a desperate message on April 24, saying she needed "to get out of the house ASAP" as she had been "warned on what's being planned soon" and that Jeffrey was behind it.
The court also heard evidence from a neighbour who spoke to Ms Parfitt on the morning of April 28, who she described as being quiet and fearful in the presence of all four accused.
She said Ms Parfitt had confided she was scared as "they were going to put her in a boot" but was too afraid to call police in case "they would find out it was her" who called.
The neighbour also told the court Ms Parfitt told her she was experiencing issues with a "very angry" Jeffrey.
The neighbour later watched on her security cameras as Ms Parfitt walked back onto the street and resumed her seat in the car, with Reynolds jumping back in the driver's seat soon after. Ford opened the gate to the house and the car was driven around the back.
"Jacob shut the gate and that was the last time I saw them," the neighbour said, adding her family went out for a few hours afterwards and when they returned the house was "really dark and quiet".
In handing down his decision Mr Saines said: "Evidence also shows all four accused were with her at times on the day and prior to her death in circumstances which demonstrate some level of control, if not intimidation.
"A jury is well entitled to find these facts.
"The evidence can also support a conclusion that there was ample opportunity and cooperation amongst the four accused about these grievances, both before and on the day of the death which included, but is not limited to, the taking of Ms Parfitt's mobile phone."
"Telecommunications evidence is capable of confirming involvement in the death by two of the accused and of implicating the other two."
He added there was also evidence of "dishonesty" on behalf of some of the accused, who he said were "prepared to commit less, but nevertheless criminal offences, to further their needs or objectives".
RELATED COVERAGE: Court hears Kobie Parfitt's cause of death could not be determined
Police believe an altercation occurred between Jeffrey and Parfitt shortly after the car was driven around the back of the house.
The lead detective on the case, Detective Senior Constable Jason Stewart, told the court last week that while there was no DNA or eye witness accounts for the murder, there was a "strong, clear inference that can be drawn, given the circumstances".
It is believed Ms Parfitt's body was driven to Snake Valley and dumped later that night, based on Prestage's phone records.
During the committal a forensic pathologist told the court she was unable to determine how Ms Parfitt was killed due to the advanced decomposition of her body by the time it was found on December 22 and an autopsy was later performed.
While Mr Saines said the prosecution had no hard evidence for the murder, he explained that it was not uncommon for such cases to be built upon inferences that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Inferences may or may not be drawn from proven facts but do differ from the process of conjectureMagistrate Ron Saines
"Inferences may or may not be drawn from proven facts but do differ from the process of conjecture," Mr Saines said.
He said the role of the Magistrates' Court was to determine if sufficient weight to support a conviction existed.
"This is a committal hearing and it is not the role of the court to determine if any accused is guilty or not guilty," Mr Saines said.
The elements that must be proven to satisfy a murder charge are firstly that an accused caused Ms Parfitt's death and secondly that the acts were conscious, voluntary and deliberate.
Thirdly, that an accused acted with intent to kill or cause very serious injury, that the killing was without legal justification and finally, that if an accused did not do these he or she assisted, encouraged, directed or entered into an understanding to do these things with others who did.
"The court is not to stand in place of a jury but is to identify if there are sufficient facts whereby a jury could be satisfied of these elements beyond reasonable doubt."
For these reasons he proceeded to make committal orders for all four accused to stand trial in respect to the charges of murder.
The four accused will attend a directions hearing at the Supreme Court at Melbourne later this month.
There, counsel for Ford and Prestage are expected to make applications for their clients to be bailed.
There have been no indications Jeffrey or Reynolds' lawyers will do the same.
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