A photograph of Dinh Lam Nguyen wearing a cap and hoodie jumper.

Court hears wheelie bin murder victim Dinh Lam Nguyen was stabbed 28 times over ‘drug debt’

A 51-year-old man, whose body was found wrapped in pink plastic inside a wheelie bin that was floating in a dam, was repeatedly stabbed after pleading to be repaid a debt of a few thousand dollars, the WA Supreme Court has been told.

The detail came at the start of the trial of Todd Nathan Kiernan, 29, and Gervaise Sakib Geoffrey Widdowson, 31, who are accused of murdering Dinh Lam Nguyen on the evening of January 20 last year.

The court was told Mr Kiernan owed money to Mr Nguyen, believed to be about $4000, which Mr Nguyen was pleading to be paid because he was in financial difficulties and struggling to pay the rent.

State prosecutor Justin Whalley SC said an arrangement was then made for Mr Nguyen to visit Mr Kiernan’s home in Mahogany Creek to collect some of the money.

However, Mr Whalley alleged Mr Kiernan “had no intention of anything and instead decided to murder Mr Nguyen”.

“That appeared to be his debt repayment strategy,” Mr Whalley said.

“The preferable course would be simply kill the predator and clear the debt that way.”

Three police officers walking through bushland
Police scoured John Forrest National Park in Perth’s east for clues.(ABC News)

The court heard Mr Kiernan arranged for his friend, Mr Widdowson, to be present at the house to help with the killing, which happened after Mr Nguyen was invited in.

Mr Whalley said a post-mortem examination revealed Mr Nguyen suffered 28 stab wounds, including 17 wounds to his back.

After the killing, Mr Whalley said the men drove Mr Nguyen’s car to a nearby pine plantation where they set it alight.

An aerial image of a burnt out car
The men admit to setting fire to Mr Nguyen’s car, but they deny murdering him.(ABC News)

It is alleged they then returned to Mr Kiernan’s home where Mr Nguyen’s body was wrapped in pink plastic that appeared to be from a mattress that had been delivered to the property.

Body wrapped in plastic that had accused’s name on it

The body was then put inside a wheelie bin and in the early hours of the morning allegedly transported in Mr Kiernan’s vehicle to the Glen Brook Dam in the John Forrest National Park.

Mr Whalley said the bin was weighed down with a bag of cement and a log but “despite the best efforts” of the accused men, it floated to the surface.

Police pull a wheelie bin out of a dam
Police retrieved the wheelie bin containing Mr Nguyen’s body after it was discovered by members of the public. (ABC News)

It was first seen by a member of the public hours later, but it wasn’t until four days later that a 15-year-old boy looked closely at it and recognised human body parts.

The court heard police were led to Mr Kiernan by a label on the plastic used to wrap Mr Nguyen’s body, that had his name on it, as well as a torn-up letter in the wheelie bin that had been sent to him.

Mr Widdowson was arrested after police received information about his alleged involvement.

Mr Whalley said Mr Widdowson took part in a video-recorded interview in which he admitted he was present when Mr Nguyen was killed.

However, he maintained he believed he was there only to intimidate and rob the 51-year-old and he did not know Mr Kiernan had intended to kill him.

Mr Whalley said it was the prosecution case that while Mr Kiernan was the person who carried out the stabbing, Mr Widdowson aided the alleged murder and helped to try to cover it up.

A wide shot of Glen Brook Dam
Glen Brook Dam is located about 30km east of Perth.(ABC News)

While both men have admitted setting fire to Mr Nguyen’s car, they deny murdering him.

Accused acted in ‘self defence’

In an opening address to the jury, Mr Kiernan’s lawyer Elizabeth Needham said her client’s debt to Mr Nguyen, which was alleged to be drug-related, was not denied.

However, she said he did not admit having a plan to kill Mr Nguyen, suggesting instead that her client had acted in self-defence.

“I anticipate I will be asking you … to consider that in the course of an argument that turned into a fight, a ferocious fight between Mr Nguyen and Mr Kiernan, that his actions were those, in a prolonged fight, to stop Mr Nguyen causing serious harm or killing him,” she said.

“… And I also anticipate … that from Mr Kiernan’s perspective, the reason he had Mr Widdowson there was only to ensure that Mr Nguyen did not hurt or kill Mr Kiernan because he feared him.”

An aerial view of John Forrest National Park
Mr Nguyen’s body was found in John Forrest National Park in Hovea, east of Perth.  (ABC News)

Ms Needham also said the alleged cover up, including the disposal of the body, may have just been two men, frightened by what had occurred, and not evidence of a plan.

On behalf of Mr Widdowson, his lawyer Tony Hager told the court while his client admitted helping dispose of the body and setting fire to Mr Nguyen’s car, he did not aid Mr Kiernan in any alleged violence.

“The violence Mr Kiernan was responsible for … if you find him responsible … he was responsible for alone. It was never contemplated by Mr Widdowson ahead of time.”

The trial is set down for two weeks.

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