Peter Keeley was found dead in a ditch in New South Wales, Australia. (NSW Police)
A top Australian court has found two teenagers who lured Peter Keely on Grindr only to bind, gag and beat him not guilty of murder.
The boys, both aged 17 at the time of the incident so legally cannot be named, faced the NSW Supreme Court in May.
Now justice Michael Walton ruled Thursday (16 June) that neither teenagers, now aged 19 and 20, were guilty of Keeley’s murder. Both, however, were convicted of aggravated kidnapping charges.
He suffered severe blunt trauma to the head and facial injuries – but a postmortem examination about the cause of death was inconclusive, ABC reported.
The auctioneer and president of West Belconnen Junior Rugby League Football Club had been “lured” by one of the teens on Grindr with the “promise of a sexual encounter”, Walton said. Another of the boys thought Keeley was a paedophile.
Teens ‘rolled’ Peter Keeley over so he wouldn’t ‘choke on his tongue’
Keeley left his apartment in the morning, drove to Batemans Bay and messaged the teens: “I’m in the Bay now I’ll be about 10 minutes before I leave.” He was also chatting to a friend in Canberra about borrowing money to book a hotel nearby.
As Keely drove, one of the teenagers searched on the internet: “Does holding a metal object in your hand make a difference to your punch?”
He then met up with the second teenager as well as an alleged third boy to plot to tie up and attack Keeley, NSW Police said.
One of the teens met Keeley at Bourlee’s tennis court and drove him to nearby bushland by a powerline easement where other boys lay in waiting at 3:30pm.
The teens tied Keeley’s wrists and ankles, gagged his mouth with packing tape and struck him repeatedly. He was then dragged to the place where his body was later found.
A teen ripped the tape off Keeley’s mouth as another “rolled” him onto his side so “he wouldn’t choke on his tongue”.
The victim, one recalled, was “just sort of groaning” and not “saying anything”.
Crown prosecutors argued that Keeley likely suffered a cardiac arrest by a craniofacial trauma and suffocation.
The defence, meanwhile, claimed the drug methamphetamine in Keeley’s system could have contributed to his passing.
Walton ultimately said that Keeley’s death could not be attributed to suffocation, with forensic pathologists disagreeing between themselves over whether this was the case. The toxicity of methamphetamine, Walton added, could not be ruled out.
The two teenagers will return to court for sentencing on their alleged kidnapping trials at a later date.