THE BODY of a man who vanished from a village near Tamworth more than a decade ago has never been found, but his neighbour is now on trial accused of killing him with a baseball bat.
Bruce Anthony Coss, 49, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Darren Royce Willis on a Bingara street in the "dead of night" in December 2010.
His judge-alone supreme court trial opened in Moree on Monday.
The court heard Coss had denied having anything to do with the disappearance of his 45-year-old neighbour.
"He denied that he was in any way responsible for the death of Mr Willis," defence barrister Peter King said.
"He denied it over many years and to many, many people."
The Crown case is that Coss dealt a deadly blow to Mr Willis with a modified baseball bat, and will rely on recorded conversations, phone calls and evidence from two key witnesses.
The court heard one witness claims to have seen the fatal strike.
Mr King attacked the credibility of the two men, arguing neither of them came forward for many years and their versions had shifted.
He told the court the witnesses had been open about drinking alcohol and using cannabis on the night of the alleged murder.
"Pissed and stoned is a phrase the court will hear more than once in this trial," he said in his opening address.
Coss and Mr Willis had an unfriendly relationship at times and often exchanged words over the fence or through the gate, the court heard.
Mr King said the accused had been open with detectives about an argument the pair had had over sheep.
"They had a complicated ... relationship," he said.
Mr Willis was last seen leaving a pub on December 10, 2010 and was reported missing in the weeks following.
An investigation into his disappearance was launched and culminated in a coronial inquest in 2014.
The case was reopened after new information was reported to police in January 2018.
Coss was arrested in October 2019, and the court heard his 10-hour long police interview would reveal his continual denials about having anything to do with the death or disappearance of Mr Willis.
The trial heard the earlier inquest was told Mr Willis was often "on the drink", "in trouble with police" and that he could have come across the wrong person.
An investigating police officer had said another possibility was that Mr Willis tried to cross the Gwydir River on foot and was swept away.
Crown prosecutor Liam Shaw said the officer-in-charge of the murder probe would be called as a witness in the three-week trial.
He anticipated the officer would give evidence as to why other theories about the disappearance of Mr Willis could be excluded.
Documents tendered to the court outlined the evidence the Crown relied on to show that Mr Willis had died.
The trial continues before Justice Hament Dhanji in Moree.
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