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Man denies murdering 'drug farm' worker

AAP logoAAP 7/11/2016 Margaret Scheikowski

A man present when a grave was dug had not actually believed a cannabis labourer would be murdered and buried there nine days later, a jury has been told.

Shaun Steven "Shorty" Zanker, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the July 2014 murder of Jacob Munro, whose body was found months later in a grave at Bulahdelah State Forest, north of Newcastle.

At the start of his NSW Supreme Court trial on Monday, defence lawyer Iain Todd said people had said things about killing Jacob Munro in a "flippant or black humour-type way".

"We say Mr Zanker never intended or believed the murder would take place," he said.

But crown prosecutor Lou Lungo said even though Zanker was not present when Mr Munro was stabbed and tasered to death, he was nearby ready to assist if need be.

Zanker's "significant" role involved the "planning and motivation" for the murder, helping dig the grave nine days before the killing and helping to dispose of the body, he said.

Two other men, Stanley Forward and Donald Cameron, pleaded guilty to the murder, while David Ian Wilkinson admitted being an accessory after the fact.

The trio received discounts on their jail sentences after agreeing to give evidence against Zanker, Mr Lungo said.

Mr Munro was killed in a two-storey shed which housed a large hydroponic cannabis operation in Schofield in Sydney's west.

The prosecutor said Cameron would tell the jury about an ongoing dispute between Zanker and Mr Munro and of an incident when they were both on the top level of the shed.

"(Mr Munro) grabbed the accused by the throat and put him through a wall," he said.

But for the intervention of Cameron, Zanker would have fallen metres to the concrete floor below, he added.

"Mr Cameron will tell you that the motive (for the murder) was that Mr Munro was causing issues at the crop site and Mr Cameron was fearful Mr Munro would tell someone about the crop site," he said.

Mr Todd urged the jury to listen carefully to the evidence about the conversations involving his client and note the things he did not do.

The trial is continuing.

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