SENSELESS LOSS: Flowers left at the scene in Hill St, North Ipswich, where Brandon Matthews (pictured) and Brad Girling were killed.
SENSELESS LOSS: Flowers left at the scene in Hill St, North Ipswich, where Brandon Matthews (pictured) and Brad Girling were killed. Rob Williams

Senseless act of violence tears families' lives apart

IT'S a Saturday night and Brandon Matthews and fiancée Clara Nguyen are sitting on the deck of their mate's North Ipswich home.

Brad Girling is also enjoying the cool breeze serving as a reprieve from the January heat on the Queenslander veranda.

He and girlfriend Tessa Rackemann invited their friends over for a catch-up after returning home from a trip in NSW.

Tessa's friend Marie is intermittently checking her phone between conversations.

Across town Zachary "Zac" Moloney and Luke Jackson are getting ready for a night out despite being cash-strapped.

More than 500km north Paula Matthews is enjoying a similar night to her son, but in her home town of Gladstone.

Within hours, the friendly conversation will cease, the sun will set and all of these lives will catastrophically descend on Hill St in North Ipswich.

The families will take the steps too many Queenslanders have taken before them: opening the front door to those uniformed figures and confirming the lifeless body on the metal trolley is one of their own.

Like many, their story will be told in hope their life-shattering losses to street and alcohol-related violence will not be in vain.

According to the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, alcohol-related hospitalisations in Queensland increased by 57% between 2002 and 2012.

Unlike other states, Queensland does not keep record of what portion of those hospitalisations are due to assaults.

But there is no doubt within the medical and alcohol research circles the violence is increasing in severity and numbers.

Just before midnight on January 7, 2012, police and ambulance found two young men, a stone's throw apart, and both with stab wounds, on Hill St, North Ipswich.

A yellow butchering knife was found in a nearby street while its black-handled companion was found ditched in a drain.

Tessa stood over Brad that night as he died on the roadway from a stab wound to the abdomen.

Eighteen-year-old Brandon was rushed to hospital where he died from a knife wound to the chest that punctured his heart.

Zachary Michael Moloney and Luke Michael Jackson, both from Ipswich, faced court this month charged with the two young men's murders.

On Monday night after three days deliberating, an emotional jury found Zac guilty of murdering Brandon but not guilty of Brad's death.

Luke was not guilty on all murder and manslaughter charges.

The trial in Brisbane Supreme Court revealed the minor dispute between old friends that led to the tragedy and the shattered families of the young men who drank and engaged in violence.

Brandon had recently moved down to Ipswich from Gladstone and gained work for the council, where he met Zac.

Zac and Brandon's friendship splintered when, the court heard, Brandon disagreed with Zac continuously borrowing money off Zac's former girlfriend, Marie Gascoigne, a mother of two.

The friendship did not recover and Brandon began spending time with Tessa and Brad, who were friends with Marie.

Marie had come into $20,000 after winning big on the pokies and often heeded requests from Zac for loans.

On January, 7, 2012, Zac enlisted his good mate Luke to do the asking.

When Brad heard Marie agreed to the loan, he took the phone and began yelling: "You shouldn't be borrowing money off her, you are not together anymore", Marie recalled.

Confused and torn between friends and her ex, Marie retreated to the bathroom to tell Zac out of ear shot she would meet him on the street with the money.

But her friends spotted her walking towards two male figures on the street and Brad and Brandon followed.

All men had been drinking.

"Whose friend are you?" Zac challenged Brandon on the street.

After Brandon punched him, Zac had his answer.

"He went for another swing and at that point I stabbed him in the side and yelled at the girls to get him to hospital," Zac told police in a recorded interview played to the court.

Luke and Brad punched on before wrestling each other to the ground.

Within minutes the fighting ceased and friend Dave Barker spotted Brad lying on the nature strip and Brandon in a similar state on the road.

Brandon's mother constantly relives what happened next.

"This was the night that I received a call from my son Owen asking me if I was still at Mick's place. I said, 'Yes, son, why is that?'" Mrs Matthews told the Supreme Court this week.

"Owen said, 'Mum, it's Brandon. He has been stabbed. I will be there soon'.

"I then called Brandon, but he didn't answer the phone, so I called Clara, his fiancee, and I will never forget the screams that I was hearing, I still hear those screams echoing in my mind."

What followed was the heartbreaking viewing at the morgue to confirm her "bear, her baby" was dead.

The mother of four is a former shell of herself.

She is yet to return to work and struggles to get out bed each day.

All for an argument over $50.

"Every night I am awake with a movie going through my head," Mrs Matthews said.

"It is on a loop and my breath constantly fails me when I think of the hatred in these boys to take two lives, each life worth only $25 apiece."

 

Alcohol and violence produce deadly cocktail

CHANGING Australia's drinking culture and attitudes towards street violence must begin with an increase in grog prices and decrease in availability, a leading researcher believes.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) chief executive Michael Thorn said research showed violent incidents and the severity of violence in Queensland had increased.

"In days gone by someone might have got a thump and fallen on the ground and that's it," he said.

"What happens now is the fight takes place, someone goes to the ground, then the boot goes in or someone gets stabbed."

Mr Thorn said the answer to addressing the problem lay with cultural change.

"We have to increase the price of alcohol, reduce its availability and cut back on the way it's marketed to people," he said.

"Once we do those things we will then start to get change in attitudes and the way people drink."

ALCOHOL AND VIOLENCE IN QUEENSLAND

  • Alcohol related hospitalisations increased by 57% between 2002 and 2012
  • Alcohol-related emergency department presentations increased by 29%
  • Queensland Police recorded a 29% rise in serious assaults in 2011-2012
  • 110 serious assaults were reported in Gladstone in 2011-2012
  • Mackay recorded 330 serious assaults
  • Ipswich reported 430 serious assaults

Source: FARE, Queensland Police



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