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Pair face jail for home invasion murder


Two men have pleaded guilty to impersonating a police officer to deceive a small-time drug dealer they brutally murdered in a home invasion in the Hunter.

Philip Steele was repeatedly stabbed when three masked-and-gloved men, armed with a machete and baseball bat, stormed into his family’s Whitebridge home, in the Lake Macquarie LGA, in the early hours of December 17, 2018.

As the 60-year-old cement renderer lay dying from his wounds after the home invaders fled, he told his two brothers: “I never thought it would come to this. Not for a couple of thousand dollars.”

Jeremy Josh Garvey, 26, and Luke Jones, 23, faced a sentence hearing in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday before Justice Robert Allan Hulme.

Garvey had pleaded guilty to Mr Steele’s murder, while Jones – who had admitted going to the home – was found guilty by a Newcastle jury.

The third assailant, who cannot be named and who pleaded guilty to murder, was jailed by Justice Hulme in 2020 for 15 years, with a non-parole period of 11 years and three months.

Mr Steele suffered 23 wounds and 28 blunt force injuries during the attack. 

On Tuesday, Garvey and Jones both pleaded guilty to stealing Mr Steele’s wallet and cash and to impersonating a police officer, purporting to exercise the power and function of an officer, with the intention of deceiving Mr Steele.

Jones also admitted driving recklessly during the ensuing police pursuit.

Justice Hulme noted Garvey was due to be sentenced in the District Court in Newcastle on Friday after pleading guilty to charges related to a fatal car crash months before the murder.

When sentencing the third man, he said the trio broke into the house to get money and drugs before one of Mr Steele’s brothers raised the alarm, crying out: “People are here and they have knives.”

Mr Steele confronted the home invaders and grabbed one of them around the neck, wrestling with him in the hallway before being repeatedly stabbed.

“This was no ordinary break and enter,” Justice Hulme said.

“It was a targeted home invasion.

“It is the type of crime that strikes fear in people who value the sanctity of their own home.”

Justice Hulme will sentence the pair on 26 August, although this may be delayed if Garvey’s fatal crash sentence does not go ahead on Friday.

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