Benjamin Batterham committal hearing: clinical toxicologist rules out methylamphetamine has cause of death for Ricky Slater-Dickson

HEARING: Benjamin Batterham has been charged with murder over the death of Ricky Slater-Dickson after he found Mr Slater-Dickson inside his home at Hamilton in March, 2016.
HEARING: Benjamin Batterham has been charged with murder over the death of Ricky Slater-Dickson after he found Mr Slater-Dickson inside his home at Hamilton in March, 2016.

A CLINICAL toxicologist has ruled out methylamphetamine toxicity as the cause of death for Ricky Slater-Dickson, who was allegedly held down, choked and punched in the head after he broke into a home at Hamilton in March, 2016.

Accused murderer Benjamin Batterham, 34, on Monday faced the second day of a committal hearing into the cause of death of Mr Slater-Dickson, who had a reading of 0.8mg/L of methylamphetamine and 0.05mg/L of amphetamine in his blood at the time of the fatal struggle with Mr Batterham.   

Despite the reading of methylamphetamine, prosecution medical expert, clinical toxicologist Dr Naren Gunja, told the court it was his opinion that Mr Slater-Dickson died from asphyxiation from being strangled. 

"He certainly used methylamphetamine and used it recently," Dr Gunja told Magistrate David Price. 

"That may have led to poor judgement and he may have even been delirious or confused. But in terms of the information sent to me that he had been placed in a choke-hold, autopsy evidence that he had bleeding in the neck strap muscles and the hypoxic brain injury suffered, confirmed on medical imaging, I believe that points to that he was asphyxiated or strangled."

Dr Gunja's opinion contradicts that of Mr Batterham's medical experts, who the court has previously heard say a number of other possible factors could have contributed to Mr Slater-Dickson's death, including what they said was a “toxic” and “potentially lethal” level of methylamphetamine in his system and a pre-existing cardiac disease.

Professor of Pharmacology Macdonald Christie opined on Monday that methylamphetamine toxicity could have caused or contributed to Mr Slater-Dickson’s death.

Mr Batterham's defence, led by Winston Terracini, SC, say he should not be committed for trial for murder and are seeking to neutralise the charge at the local court. 

The court heard last month from Chief Inspector Peter Mahon, who was off-duty when he found Mr Batterham holding down Mr Slater-Dickson in Cleary Street in the early hours of March 26, 2016.

Mr Mahon told Mr Price he tried desperately to drag an aggressive Mr Batterham off Mr Slater-Dickson. 

“I said if you don’t get off him and let him breathe, he will die,” Mr Mahon said.

He said Mr Batterham released his grip, but when Mr Slater-Dickson bit Mr Batterham he responded even more aggressively and violently than before.

Mr Slater-Dickson suffered three episodes of cardiac arrest and ultimately died in hospital the day after the break-in. 

The committal hearing continues on Tuesday.