Hitman 'in the worst category'

A JUDGE has been urged to impose a life sentence on a Cessnock man convicted of the contract killing of a Tamworth farmer, whose family spoke yesterday of their devastation at his ‘‘terrible’’ death.

Justice Elizabeth Fullerton formally convicted Kenneth Harold Brooks, 47, in the Supreme Court in Sydney yesterday for the murder of Jeffrey Ryan on October 23, 2009, after a jury found him guilty of accepting $30,000 from Mr Ryan’s wife Helen to carry out the killing.

A neighbour discovered Mr Ryan’s body on the ground near some sheds at the Ryans’ Duri property, near Tamworth, on the morning of October 24, 2009.

He was shot in the back with a high-powered weapon, probably a shotgun, the night before.

Crown prosecutor Wayne Creasey said Brooks’s case could be counted in the worst category, putting it in the range of a life sentence.

Helen Ryan, who has been sentenced to 36 years’ imprisonment, had contracted out the death of her estranged husband seeking ‘‘revenge’’ as well as financial gain.

But Brooks, an unemployed pensioner living in Desmond Street, Cessnock, had ‘‘taken on the job to kill a complete stranger for money’’ and had a greater culpability, Mr Creasey said.

Brooks’s barrister Carolyn Davenport, SC, argued there should be parity with Ryan’s sentence as her evidence about her motivations for revenge could not be believed, and Brooks’s previous criminal history did not include violent acts.

Earlier, Mr Ryan’s son Brodie struggled to read a victim impact statement to the court and wept as he described his father as a friend and ‘‘all round good bloke’’ to whom he had grown closer in the last year of his life.

Brooks will be sentenced in Newcastle next month.

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