BRUTAL SCENE: Details emerge of Bill and Pauline Thomas killings

Police at the scene of the murder last year.
Police at the scene of the murder last year.
Forensic pathologist Michael Burke leaves the committal hearing.

Forensic pathologist Michael Burke leaves the committal hearing.

A FATHER-of-five was shot in the chest while his wife of more than 35 years was strangled to death, a court has heard.

Grim details of the murders of Bill and Pauline Thomas — allegedly at the hands of their son Ian David Thomas — slowly began to emerge yesterday during a committal hearing in Wangaratta Magistrates Court.

Mr and Mrs Thomas, 64 and 63 respectively, were killed at their Great Alpine Road property on Sunday, April 21 last year.

Their bodies were found the next evening.

Ian Thomas, 36, of Balga, Perth, has been in custody since he was arrested and charged with their murders several days later.

Forensic pathologist Michael Burke said examinations showed Mr Thomas was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest.

He was likely hit over the head with a blunt instrument afterwards.

Mrs Thomas was strangled, possibly with a cable tie.

It has not yet been stated the order in which the couple died.

Several relatives heeded an earlier warning of prosecutor Kieran Gilligan and turned away as graphic images of the bodies were shown to the court.

Some looked at Ian Thomas, who wore a light blue jumper with the faded lettering “World Class”.

He remained focused on proceedings from behind the dock’s glass barrier.

Dr Burke told magistrate Stella Stuthridge that Mr Thomas seemed to have been shot at a distance and would have collapsed.

“Clearly he had taken a couple of steps across the floor, though I found it hard to believe,” he said.

“Most would go straight down.”

Dr Burke said there was no evidence of a second gunshot wound to Mr Thomas’ body, though he had suffered serious trauma to his head.

These wounds were consistent with “something heavy, forcefully used”, and occurred after the gunshot.

“They were not from falling over,” Dr Burke said. “I think we can quite safely say that.

“It took a long time to convince myself there was no shotgun injury to the head.”

When questioned by defence barrister John Desmond, Dr Burke said he could not say how many times Mr Thomas had been struck.

Shotgun pellet found in Mr Thomas’s hand suggested he may have raised it in defence of the blast, he said.

Dr Burke said he had no doubt Mrs Thomas died from strangulation by something being wrapped around her neck.

“There is no objective evidence of manual strangulation,” he said.

Dr Burke said indentations around Mrs Thomas’s neck were highly consistent with cable ties.

Two ties were sent to him by police for comparison during his examinations.

Questioned by Mr Desmond, he couldn’t say with absolute certainty that cable ties had created the marks.

Dr Burke said Mrs Thomas’ body showed signs of early decomposition, which usually took about two days to develop but “could come on sooner” depending on temperature and other conditions.

Earlier yesterday, evidence was heard from Dr Emma Patterson, formerly a registrar at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, who had examined Ian Thomas after his arrest.

She said while there were two minor marks on his upper arm, she found nothing consistent with shotgun recoil.

She said Thomas had told her police had put boots on the side of his face and rubbed it in gravel, despite him not resisting arrest.

She said he was alert, calm and co-operative, and not affected by drugs or alcohol.

The hearing continues today.