Questions over assault victim’s death

BLEEDING around the brain of an elderly man who died in hospital seven weeks after he was allegedly assaulted by two young men outside his Mildura home, could have been caused when he fell in hospital, a court has heard.

Jacob Grant, 21, and Dallin Roberg, 19, have been charged with killing Graham Barnes, 77, as a result of an assault in the early hours of October 1 last year.

During the first day of a committal hearing that will determine whether Grant and Roberg stand trial over Mr Barnes’ death, a forensic pathologist yesterday told Mildura Magistrates’ Court she could not be certain that the assault caused the traumatic injury to his brain observed in an autopsy.

The court heard Mr Barnes sustained severe facial injuries after he was attacked by Grant and Roberg. 

Mr Barnes had suffered two strokes in the two years before his death and was unable to speak as a result.

Mr Barnes’ older brother Brian, who was also allegedly assaulted by Grant and Roberg that night, told the court he awoke that night to shouting outside his home.

When he looked through his bedroom window to the front garden, he saw two men in their 20s throwing punches and his younger brother lying on the ground.

“I got dressed, I went outside and I got clobbered,” Brian Barnes said.

Grant and Roberg fled after attacking Brian Barnes, the court heard, and an ambulance was called to take the elderly brothers to hospital after Brian flagged down a passing vehicle.

Graham Barnes was later flown to The Alfred hospital and returned to Mildura two weeks later, but died on November 19 after entering palliative care.

Dr Joanna Glengarry, who performed the autopsy on Mr Barnes, said hospital staff recorded four occasions when he fell during his stays at The Alfred and Mildura Base Hospital after the assault.

Only the last of those falls, on November 11, caused any visible head injury but Dr Glengarry said none could be definitively ruled out as having caused a subdural ­hematoma.

The court heard Mr Barnes underwent a brain scan about 18 hours after he was assaulted but no bleeding was observed around his brain.

Under cross-examination from Grant’s barrister Luke Barker, Dr Glengarry said she would have expected to see signs of bleeding on the brain that long after a trauma but that some bleeds developed more slowly.

Asked in re-examination by prosecutor Kevin Armstrong whether the assault or the falls were more likely to have caused the ­injury, Dr Glengarry said: “Trauma is trauma and I don’t think I can distinguish between them.”

Dr Glengarry said Mr Barnes’ death was caused by pneumonia with the subdural ­hematoma a contributing factor. 

The committal hearing continues.

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