Man found guilty of Bobby Medcraft manslaughter lucky to escape murder verdict, judge says

A man found guilty of the manslaughter death of a 23-year-old Burnie man is lucky to have escaped a murder conviction, a judge has told him in court.

Bobby Medcraft died on March 29 in 2020 after being bashed and cut with a sword in a street in Upper Burnie in Tasmania’s north-west.

He died from acute blood loss from a wound behind his right knee, which was deep enough to sever his artery and vein and expose the bone.

Four people charged with murder, but found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, have been sentenced to varying jail terms.

Cody Sheehan, who Justice Robert Pearce found struck Mr Medcraft with the sword, was sentenced to eight years in jail.

In sentencing, Justice Pearce told the court he found Sheehan to bear the most culpability and ought to have known his actions could result in death.

“To any reasonable observer it would have been obvious that death was possible,” he said.

“Cody Sheehan is fortunate to have escaped a verdict of guilty of murder.”

A man wearing a baseball cap pulls a face at the camera.
The sentencing judge told Cody Sheehan he was lucky to have escaped a murder conviction.(Supplied: Facebook)

He also said he held “serious doubts” about much of Sheehan’s evidence, and completely rejected Sheehan’s argument that he used the sword in self-defence.

“I accept Mr Sheehan now understands the severity of his actions, though he expressed no remorse at the time,” he said.

Three others were also sentenced.

Lucas Ford was given six years and six months in jail, Michael Hanlon five and a half years and Kelsey Ford was given a five-year sentence.

Victim not the aggressor

Justice Pearce told the court that while Sheehan administered the injury that caused death, Lucas and Kelsey Ford were the “primary creators” of the violence.

He said a potential fight was defused by police earlier that night, but the accused were “persistent and insistent” in their attempts to track down Mr Medcraft after that.

Justice Pearce found the four chased Mr Medcraft and his friends by car across Burnie before the fatal brawl outside a house on Ritchie Avenue.

“It’s fanciful to suggest Bobby Medcraft was the aggressor at Ritchie Avenue,” he said.

He also found Hanlon and Lucas Ford, along with Sheehan, seriously assaulted Mr Medcraft by kicking and punching him in the head.

A selfie of a woman wearing glasses next to a man.
Kelsey Ford was handed a five-year sentence and her brother Lucas got six and a half for their roles in Mr Medcraft’s death.

.(Supplied: Facebook)

“The blows inflicted to Mr Medcraft from Michael Hanlon and Lucas Ford, were of such a force that they could have caused death independently of the sword,” Justice Pearce said.

Hanlon was found to have been “somewhat of a moderating influence” earlier in the night, but not in the immediate lead-up to Mr Medcraft’s death.

Justice Pearce found Kelsey Ford “played a lesser role” in the attack but still shared in the common purpose to inflict “disabling injury” on Mr Medcraft.

Last chapter in a long case

The case has taken more than two years to go through the courts.

Part of that time was spent deciding where to hold the trial, as the Supreme Court in Burnie was deemed too small for the number of accused, each of their lawyers, plus legal staff and the public gallery.

The trial was held in Launceston, where Justice Pearce instructed the jury “five trials were being conducted at once”, and therefore they must consider the case against each of the accused separately.

The jury was told it could decide whether each person was guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter, or not guilty of either.

Justice Pearce told the court Mr Medcraft’s death was “the culmination of series of events”, including communication between Lucas Ford and Mr Medcraft that “became progressively more angry and aggressive”.

“Neither man was apparently willing to back down and desist,” he said.

Justice Pearce found Mr Medcraft had “threatened to stab Lucas Ford in the face or brain” and said he did not condone his actions.

All the jail terms are backdated to March 2020 and each will be eligible for parole once they have completed half their sentences.

Having already served half her sentence, Kelsey Ford is eligible for parole now.