A claim has been made in court that the alleged murder of a businessman, whose body was found bound and gagged, was an ‘inside job’.
A claim has been made in court that the alleged murder of a businessman, whose body was found bound and gagged, was an ‘inside job’.

Shock claim about murder of inventor

A surprising theory that the alleged killing of a wealthy Gold Coast investor more than 29 years ago may have been an "inside job" has been aired in a Queensland court.

Hamburg-born inventor Hugo Benscher, 89, was found dead in 1992 but police only charged Philip Michael Stearman with his murder after a breakthrough in the cold case last year.

Mr Stearman, 62, is due to face a committal hearing but claims of Mr Benscher's death being an "inside job" and his troubled relationships with housekeepers were aired at the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Philip Michael Stearman was extradited to Queensland from Tasmania after being charged with the murder of Gold Coast inventor Hugo Benscher in 1992. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Philip Michael Stearman was extradited to Queensland from Tasmania after being charged with the murder of Gold Coast inventor Hugo Benscher in 1992. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Mr Benscher's body was found in his canal-front home in Paradise Point on June 21, 1992. He had been bound and gagged and suffered a head injury.

He is credited with the invention of the inflatable bladder and valve, which are still used in sporting equipment today.

Mr Stearman, who had lived in the Gold Coast years ago, was extradited from Tasmania after being charged.

Dressed in prison greens and supporting a long beard, he frequently fidgeted while on video link.

Defence barrister Tim Ryan said a number of people needed to be cross-examined upon the case going to a committal hearing.

The court was told no DNA evidence was found and only a single bedroom where Mr Benscher allegedly held cash was disturbed.

Mr Ryan said it could have been an "inside job" as whoever was behind the death would have known where to look for the money.

He said as there had been multiple home invasions at estate homes in the area before the alleged murder and two people were under suspicion with their involvement in the break-ins.

"Some latitude should be given to a defendant facing a murder charge … when the allegation is brought almost 30 years after the offence"," Mr Ryan said.

"The real concern is that people have been eliminated as possible suspects when they shouldn't have been."

Hugo Benscher was 89 years old when he was found dead in 1992.
Hugo Benscher was 89 years old when he was found dead in 1992.

 

The court was told Mr Benscher held grudges, was prone to confrontations and had a personality that made him difficult to get along with.

Mr Ryan said one witness had claimed Mr Benscher accused housekeepers he employed of stealing his property.

"When she heard of the deceased's death, her first thought was he'd had an argument with someone," Mr Ryan said.

"She said none of the housekeepers lasted long."

Prosecutor David Finch dismissed the claim as speculative as the woman claimed in the same statement that she "hardly knew" the housekeepers.

The Gold Coast canal home of Hugo Benscher.
The Gold Coast canal home of Hugo Benscher.

 

Mr Ryan said Mr Benscher's banking records were being sought as he was believed to be in possession of a cheque worth thousands of dollars.

Mr Stearman will face a committal hearing on August 3. It is expected to run for four days.

Originally published as Shock claim about brutal murder of Qld inventor


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