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Police 'copy and pasted' details in murder review but forgot to change dead man's name, inquiry told

ABC News (AU) logo ABC News (AU) 7/02/2023
Ross Warren, Gilles Mattaini and John Russell were all victims of suspected gay hate murders in Sydney. (Supplied: NSW Police) © Provided by ABC NEWS Ross Warren, Gilles Mattaini and John Russell were all victims of suspected gay hate murders in Sydney. (Supplied: NSW Police)

NSW police appeared to copy and paste key details in a review of one suspected gay hate murder to another, but forgot to change the dead man's name, an inquiry has heard.

Warning: This story contains graphic details

The Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTIQ hate crimes has begun a third round of hearings in Sydney this week, as it examines dozens of unsolved deaths in the state between 1970 and 2010.

It is also looking into the operations of Strike Force Parrabell, established by NSW Police in 2015 to review the circumstances surrounding 88 deaths between 1976 and 2000.

Today counsel assisting the inquiry, Kathleen Heath, said it appeared strike force officers in one case had directly replicated information on two individual "bias crimes indicator review forms".

These forms detailed findings about whether a victim's death could have been motivated by LGBTIQ bias.

She told the inquiry that on three pages of a form relating to the case of 35-year-old Graham Paynter, passages had been copied and pasted from another case.

"It appears that the officers … copied and pasted from the form relating to another deceased person," she said.

The replication had been obvious because the officers had forgotten to change the dead man's name on Mr Paynter's form.

"This is concerning and perhaps indicative of a lack of care taken with respect to very important subject matter," Ms Heath said.

The deaths of seven men are being revisited by the Inquiry this week.

They include the case of 45-year-old gay man John Gordon Hughes, who was the victim of what was described by police as a "particularly brutal" murder in May 1989.

The Potts Point resident was strangled to death with an electrical cord in his apartment.

In 1992 a man known to Mr Hughes, Ian Jones, was put on trial for this murder but was ultimately acquitted and has since died.

Strike Force Parrabell subsequently found that Ian Jones was the likely perpetrator, but ruled there wasn't enough evidence to categorise the crime as motivated by anti-gay bias.

Instead it found the primary motive was the theft of drugs and cash. 

But today Ms Heath told the inquiry it was "more probable than not" that LGBTIQ bias was a factor in the killing.

She pointed to the brutal and graphic manner of the murder and the derogatory language one witness claimed Mr Jones had used when speaking about Mr Hughes after his death, which included referring to him as a "f*****g f*****t dog" who "deserved to die".

"It can be hypothesised that Mr Hughes' status as a gay person made Mr Jones perceive him as a target that would be less protected by police and by the courts," Ms Heath said.

"A robbery motivation does not provide a sufficient or complete explanation of the manner of death."

The Inquiry before Commissioner John Sackar continues.

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