Thirty-year-old Trevor Tascas of Geelong disappeared in August 2005.

Elapsed time hinders probe into man's disappearance

Posted Mon Jul 7, 2008 4:39pm AEST - ABC


Victorian police say solving the suspected murder of a man missing for almost three years will be difficult.

Thirty-year-old Trevor Tascas of Geelong disappeared in August 2005, but a friend recently told his mother they heard he had been murdered.

Homicide detectives have checked the information and say it is credible.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles says the passage of time makes the investigation difficult.

"In that period of time you've got things like the destruction of evidence and a whole range of issues," he said.

Police say he was dealing heroin and amphetamines at the time of his disappearance.

Detective Senior Sergeant Iddles says it will be tough to trace Mr Tascas' final movements.

"One of the things when you're dealing drugs, you're constantly changing your phone numbers and it's difficult for us to actually piece together his movements." he said.

"We desperately need to locate the house that he moved to in East Geelong and that might then give us a further start."

His mother Pamela Tascas only reported him missing last January.

"Someone would always say they seen him, or you know, he's doing well," she said.

Mr Tascas' car, a maroon Holden Calais, and dog are also missing.

Family urges killer to reveal remains

The father of Geelong murder victim Trevor Tascas has called on his unrepentant killer to reveal where he dumped his son's remains.

Lawrence Butler was jailed for 23 years on Tuesday for murdering his roommate in October 2005, chopping up his body using a hacksaw and then burning it in a barrel in the backyard of their Geelong home.

Butler, 45, placed the ashes and bone fragments into plastic bags and later dumped them.

Mr Tascas' father Joe Van Der Wel pleaded with his son's killer and the public to help find his son's remains.

"If anybody knows where we could start looking, to let us know any information at all," he said.

"We have no closure at this point in time and it hurts every day.


"I would love for him (Butler) to say where he dumped it."

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Betty King said that after the grisly murder Mr Tascas' dog Lulu, his car and furniture from the house were sold.

She said that because Butler did not give evidence in court and there were no witnesses to the murder, she was unable to pinpoint how Mr Tascas was killed.

But she said she was satisfied the victim's body was burnt and disposed of to prevent any forensic testing or examination.

Justice King said Butler, a father-of-three, had played games with officers in an interview he gave police.


"It is chilling to watch," she said.

"It indicates quite clearly that you were playing word games and attempting to outwit and to a degree patronise the officers that were interviewing you over this serious matter.

"The interview does not assist you in any way.

"It also does not give me great comfort for the future in terms of rehabilitation.

"There is no real explanation as to why you murdered Trevor Tascas and your behaviour both immediately after the killing with the destruction of his body and the contemptuous manner in which you used and dealt with his possessions gives me real concerns as to your ability to change and modify your behaviour."


Mr Van Der Wel said the sentence offered little comfort.

"I still feel for his family because they have done nothing wrong," he said.

"I think justice has been done because it's a lengthy sentence, but there are no winners here.

"Butler has not shown any remorse."

Butler was found guilty in October after contesting the murder charge. He must serve at least 20 years before being eligible for parole.


In a written statement to the Geelong Advertiser, Butler's family said they stood by the convicted killer.

"Lawrence's family love and support him and will continue to maintain his innocence," the statement said.

Lawrence Butler's murder conviction quashed, manslaughter trial ordered

MAN convicted of murdering mate has conviction overturned because he might not have intended to kill his victim.

By Norrie Ross
HeraldSunDECEMBER 20, 20112:50PM

A MAN convicted of murdering a flatmate and disposing of his body in the household garbage has had his murder conviction overturned because a court found he might not have intended to kill the victim.

The Court of Appeal in a majority decision which it is claimed contradicts High Court precedent, ruled that Lawrence Butler, 32, should face a retrial for the manslaughter of Trevor Tascas, but not a murder charge.

Appeal judge Justice David Ashley said although it was open for the jury to conclude that Butler killed Mr Tascas and disposed of his body, it was a possibility he did not have "murderous intent".

Butler cut up Mr Tascas's body in the bathroom of a house in Whittington, a suburb in Geelong, in October 2005, burned it in a backyard incinerator and then disposed of the remains with the garbage.

No trace of him has ever been found.

Justice Ashley said the jury heard Butler told a series of lies about the killing, gave no alternative explanation, disposed of the body in horrendous circumstances and asked others to cover up his actions.

Justice Ashley said the jury was entitled to believe the chief Crown witness, Jodi Harris, who said Butler asked her to help him dispose of a hessian bag that she believed contained Mr Tascas's body.

Ms Harris said Butler, who told police he did not know what happened to the victim, said if she believed the bag contained Mr Tascas “you can help me''.

"I do not doubt that it was open to the jury to conclude that the applicant had killed Mr Tascas,'' Justice Ashley said.

"The evidence permitted a conclusion to the criminal standard not only that Tascas was dead, but also that the applicant knew he was dead. But it did not cast light on how Mr Tascas had met his death."

Justice Ashley, who was supported by Justice Ian Ross, ordered that Butler's conviction should be quashed as a miscarriage of justice and he should have a retrial on a manslaughter charge.

Appeal Court president Justice Chris Maxwell dissented with the decision and said Butler's own defence counsel had never suggested his client might have accidentally killed the victim.

"This was a case which called for explanation or contradiction in the form of evidence from the accused," Justice Maxwell said.

Justice Maxwell said the majority appeal court decision went against High Court precedent confirmed on a number of occasions.

"The failure of an accused to give evidence in a circumstantial case such as this means that hypotheses consistent with innocence may cease to be rational or reasonable in the absence of evidence to support them when that evidence, if it exists at all, must be within the knowledge of the accused," Justice Maxwell said.



Girlfriend says she helped dispose of flatmate's body

A man recruited his girlfriend to help dispose of his flatmate's remains when she asked about the contents of a hessian bag in the bathtub, a trial has heard.

Lawrence Alexander Butler initially told Jodi Harris the bag held the contents of a fishing trip, but she in turn asked if the trickle of blood was coming from the remains of her boyfriend's flatmate, Trevor Tascas, the Supreme Court heard on Monday.

The court heard Mr Butler replied: "If you think that you can come and help me."

Prosecutor Patrick Bourke said Ms Harris agreed to help Mr Butler dispose of the remains by putting the bag in a barrel and setting it alight in the backyard of a flat in Whittington, a suburb of Geelong, in October 2005.

Mr Bourke said the couple then put the remains in plastic bags that were then put in a wheelie bin and placed in the boot of Mr Tascas' Holden Calais, which they later drove to Queensland and left in the possession of another man.

Mr Butler, 49, has pleaded not guilty to one count of manslaughter.


Mr Bourke said Mr Butler told Ms Harris he had a "physical confrontation" with Mr Tascas over rent money and that the latter man had hit his head. Mr Tascas, who was 27 at the time, has not been seen or heard from since.

The court heard Mr Butler had told police he had not seen his flatmate since Mr Tascas drove to Bathurst to watch the famous car race, but that he later gave the missing man's dog to a friend and said she could keep it as "Trevor would not be returning".

Mr Bourke said if the jury believed Ms Harris' testimony, they would find Mr Butler's behaviour to be "extreme" and that he was guilty of killing Mr Tascas.

Defence counsel John Desmond also put an emphasis on Ms Harris' evidence, in that she formed the entire Crown case.

He said there were no witnesses to any altercation, no body, no forensic evidence and that the trial would "ask more questions than provide answers".


Mr Desmond said Ms Harris had "cut a deal" with police to turn prosecution witness and blame Mr Tascas' disappearance on Mr Butler, that she had an amphetamine addiction and had involvement in "criminal activities" for dishonesty offences, having also spent time in jail.

"We say she is lying and is, at the least, a wholly unreliable witness. If you [jurors] don't believe her, my client is entitled to be acquitted," he said.

The court heard Ms Harris and her former husband, Troy, took more than $11,000 from Mr Tascas' bank account about nine months after his disappearance.

Mr Butler is on bail. The trial, before Justice Michael Croucher, continues.


Anguished family see son's accused killer around town

The Age 

By Erin Pearson

A Victorian mother has spoken of her loss after a coroner ruled her 27-year-old son's mystery death was murder.

Trevor Tascas’ body has never been found, but police believe his remains were hidden in a white hessian bag in the bathtub at his Geelong home before being burnt in a barrel in his backyard in 2005.

His housemate’s girlfriend later told police she saw bone fragments in the barrel’s ashy remains before they were swept into plastic bags and dumped.

On Tuesday, coroner John Olle declared Mr Tascas' disappearance a homicide.


Mr Tascas' mother Pamela Tascas says the finding has confirmed the family's belief her son was killed.

"I’ve waited 14 years for [my son] to walk up the path and he hasn't come," she said. "We’ve waited all this time."

At the time of Mr Tascas’ disappearance in early October 2005, he had been living with a man named Lawrence Butler.

In 2009 Mr Butler was sentenced to 23 years in jail for his housemate's murder, before his conviction was quashed on appeal.

The alleged killer was later retried for manslaughter before a jury found him not guilty.


Mr Tascas’ family say they are now forced to leave restaurants across Geelong as they bump into the man accused of being responsible for the 27-year-old's disappearance.


During a summary inquest on Tuesday, the Coroners Court heard Mr Tascas, also known as Trevor John Van Der Wel, disappeared from Geelong's east some time between October 7 and 10 in 2005.

After being released from prison in 2000 for a series of burglaries and thefts, he had returned to Geelong to reconcile with his mother.

But he spiralled back into cannabis and methamphetamine use and lost contact with her.


In 2005 he moved into a home in Thatcher Court, Whittington, with Mr Butler. But within weeks he suspected his new housemate was "snooping" in his room and they began to argue over money.

During the Bathurst V8 Supercars weekend in early October 2005, Mr Butler's new girlfriend Jodi Harris attended the property and asked to use the shower.

She told police that there, in the bath, she found a large white hessian bag.

"The water was red in colour and I immediately thought it was blood mixed in with the water," she told police.

Tuesday's inquest heard that when Ms Harris questioned her partner about the bag's contents, he said it was fish.


In statements to police, Ms Harris said she later walked past Mr Tascas' bedroom and saw a blood-soaked sheet. When she told her boyfriend she wanted to leave, he allegedly replied: "You know what you've seen, you are now a part of this."

Ms Harris said her boyfriend then dragged the bag outside into a large barrel.

Days later Ms Harris said she returned to the Whittington home to find "bone fragments" in the ash, some the size of fingers.

The inquest heard that several days later the pair drove Mr Tascas’ maroon Holden Commodore to Queensland, where it was sold for cash.


Months later Ms Harris withdrew $10,000 from the missing man’s bank accounts, giving some to her ex-husband to purchase a blue sports car.

The coroner Mr Olle acknowledged the police investigation was thorough.

"While Mr Tascas' body has not been located, there is sufficient evidence to satisfy me that his disappearance is due to him being deceased and that the death is a suspected homicide," he said.

Sister Kirsty Tascas said the family would never give up hope of finding out what happened to her older brother.

"Hopefully it's chewing [the killer] up inside."


Mr Tascas’ father Joe Van Der Wel died of a heart attack last year, never knowing what happened to his son.