Was missing man Robert Dickie murdered by a former sex worker in a romance gone wrong?
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Or could his mysterious disappearance be tied to Dubbo's drug underbelly?
Despite seven long weeks of evidence before the NSW Supreme Court in Dubbo, judge Justice Mark Ierace still has many questions about the circumstances surrounding the Elong Elong man's disappearance.
Crown prosecutor Liam Shaw said if one looks at "all the factors" a picture can start to be painted of what happened on that fateful day seven years ago when Mr Dickie disappeared.
However, defence counsel Ian Nash said, if true, rumours circulating around Dubbo in the days following Mr Dickie's disappearance could point in a different direction.
As the defence and prosecution delivered their closing addresses over three days, accused killer Kylie So sat in the dock flanked by corrections staff and a Vietnamese interpreter, a set of white rosary beads hanging around her neck.
The 51-year-old, who was extradited from New Zealand in 2020, maintains her innocence.
So was staying at Mr Dickie's Wattle Road road home at the time of his disappearance. Questioned by police the day he was reported missing, she said he "went to a party" and never returned.
However, the crown alleges So killed Mr Dickie in an altercation after he tried to kick her out of his home.
A major hurdle for the prosecution, Mr Shaw conceded, is the fact Mr Dickie's body has never been found, despite extensive searches.
However, Mr Shaw said there was strong "circumstantial evidence" Mr Dickie had died at the hands of So.
"It is a circumstantial case, one has to look at all of the factors," Mr Shaw concluded.
"The Crown submits the court would be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused murdered Robert Dickie."
Since the morning of June 14, when he and So visited the home of neighbour Sandra Weavers, Mr Dickie has made no contact with friends, family or government agencies.
Mr Shaw argued that the fact Mr Dickie's sister Annette O'Reilly contacted the police about her concerns within just a few hours of her phone calls going unanswered showed they had regular contact.
He said Mr Dickie's wallet was found on the property so he was "unlikely" to have left and, although it was never found, Mr Dickie's mobile phone was pinging cell towers in the Elong Elong area until it ran flat.
Evidence of a "significant blood shedding event" was also found in the bedroom of Mr Dickie's home.
In 2017, investigators found cleaned-up blood spatter on three walls of the room, blood staining under the carpet and spots of blood on the bed frame and mattress.
They also found evidence of a clean up - bleach stains on the carpet aligning with the blood stains underneath and a red nail brush with carpet fibres from the bedroom in the laundry sink.
Although there is no way to prove when the blood was shed, Mr Shaw argues that the blood all being found in one part of the room pointed to it being shed in one event.
He said the pattern of the blood "does not align" with an innocent explanation like a nosebleed.
So was the only other person at Mr Dickie's address at the time he is alleged to have died.
The pair first met in 2011 when So was doing sex work in Dubbo. They started talking again online in 2016 and Mr Dickie eventually professed his love to So, asking her to move to Elong Elong to be with him.
In police interviews seen by the court, So said she thought Mr Dickie loved her. But Mr Dickie's friends and exes said he had a long history of infidelity and short-term relationships.
He also frequently gave young women from the Dubbo area drug money in exchange for sex.
Mr Shaw argued So's motive for killing Mr Dickie was her anger at being kicked out of his home and finding out his professions of love were a "ruse".
He said So - being early on in her gender reassignment at the time - had the physical capacity to "assault and kill" Mr Dickie.
He noted a text message So sent to her brother the day after Mr Dickie disappeared claiming he was "crazy" and "drinks every day".
"It fits with the relationship moving to a point where Ms So is realising the representations made by Mr Dickie that it was to be a long term relationship simply aren't true," he said.
"She also asks her brother not to contact her by [Mr Dickie's] phone. If this was entirely innocent she would have no reason to ask him not to contact her by that number."
He said So's behaviour after Mr Dickie disappeared was also "suspicious".
"[There was] no raising of any alarm, no mentioning that Mr Dickie wasn't coming home to the people she had contact with after the time he was meant to return," he told the court.
Pressed by the judge as to how So could have raised the alarm without a phone and why she tried to contact Mr Dickie as soon as she bought a phone on June 15, Mr Shaw said she was potentially trying to cover her tracks.
Asked how So could have disposed of the body, "without a trace", Mr Shaw argued the animals on the property may have had something to do with it.
"It is the prosecution case that the pigs and or dogs were utilised by Ms So for the disposal of the body," he said.
Mr Dickie's body isn't the only missing piece of the puzzle.
Mr Nash said there were "insurmountable barriers" for the crown to be able to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, So played a part in Mr Dickie's death... if he did die.
"The accused accepts that it would be open for your honour to conclude that Robert Dickie is dead," Mr Nash told the court.
"However, for at least three reasons the court would not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an act of the accused caused Mr Dickie's death."
Mr Nash argued there was no direct evidence that Dickie had tried to kick So out of his home or of an altercation.
He said it would be unlikely So could have killed Mr Dickie, cleaned up the evidence and completely disposed of the body within the 36-hour window between the visit to the Weavers' and the police first arriving.
Police who attended the property on the evening Ms O'Reilly raised the alarm earlier told the court they saw nothing suspicious.
Even if Mr Dickie did tell So to leave his home, Mr Nash said it would still be a "stretch" to assume she killed him in response. He said So had no history of violence, despite sex work being a "high risk" industry.
"Even if [Mr Dickie's] tendencies can be established it's a stretch to conclude, absent some other evidence, my client would have reacted by assaulting and killing him," he said.
"The evidence of the blood stain isn't evidence of the assault until the assault can be proven."
Mr Nash said So's account of Mr Dickie leaving to go to a party could also not be ruled out. He said inconsistencies in So's story could be explained by witnesses misremembering the details and So's non-mastery of the English language.
"Much of the detail of Ms So's account is corroborated by other witnesses and evidence," he said.
He said claims Mr Dickie was a "man of routine" who "wouldn't go to a party" couldn't be relied upon as there were many parts of his life he kept hidden, like his links to the supply of cannabis.
"The evidence suggested Mr Dickie lied or was duplicitous about many aspects of his life," Mr Nash said.
"A number of witnesses gave evidence about him condemning the use of drugs. He said he wouldn't tolerate [drug use] at his home ... but shortly thereafter he assisted [a young woman] in coming into Dubbo to purchase ice.
"[Another young woman] gave evidence of him supplying her in her home with oxycontin."
Five weeks into the trial new evidence came to light, changing its course completely. As a result of the new evidence four eleventh-hour witnesses were called to the court.
The names of many of these people and others they associated with, and the evidence they gave, can not be published for legal reasons.
But Mr Nash said the court has heard enough to cast doubt on So's guilt.
He said "for all its thorns, and all of its rough edges" the evidence given by one last-minute witness of hearing someone admit they were involved in Mr Dickie's disappearance, and naming others they allege also were, had to be taken into account.
"Yes [the witness] was on drugs, but the way he gave his evidence was careful. He said he urged [the suspect] to come forward first and when he didn't (the witness) did," Mr Nash said.
One of the people named was the de facto partner of a woman whose family owned the property directly across the road from Mr Dickie. His bank records show no activity from the day Mr Dickie went missing until a week after.
But in his closing, Mr Shaw said the witness's account could be ruled out as a "product of the imagination of a long-term user of prohibited drugs".
However, another witness told the court she heard the named man and two women known to Mr Dickie talking about doing something to Mr Dickie before he disappeared.
"She was firm about that," Mr Nash said.
"Perhaps in isolation it's not very much, but when you combine that with unsatisfactory evidence from [the named man], his need for money, him disappearing off the face of the Earth for six days ... and a very clear link to Mr Dickie despite his denial.
"None of this can establish to a criminal standard that [the man] was responsible for Mr Dickie's death, but what it does do is prevent you from excluding the reasonable possibility he was involved."
Mr Nash said an alternative theory could be that Mr Dickie went in a car that evening with people involved in the supply of drugs who were familiar to him and that these people killed him in the process of trying to extort money from him.
"The crown case is a weak circumstantial case, it relies almost entirely on the blood staining," he said.
"The fact that she was there at the time of the disappearance, yes that gives her the opportunity ... but coincidences happen. Your honour couldn't in any event dismiss the reasonable possibility of So telling the truth or the involvement of others."
Justice Ierace - who is presiding over the case in a judge alone trial - will hand down his verdict at the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney in late October.
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