Accused murderer of wealthy Gold Coast inventor was dismissed as a braggart

A man accused murdering of a wealthy Gold Coast retiree almost three decades ago boasted of “killing a guy” – only to be dismissed as a bragger, a court has heard.

Dec 09, 2021, updated Dec 09, 2021
Murder victim Hugo Benscher (Photo: Qld Police)

Murder victim Hugo Benscher (Photo: Qld Police)

Philip Michael Stearman, 63, is charged with murdering wealthy Gold Coast inventor Hugo Benscher, 89, in June 1992.

Born in Hamburg in 1903, Mr Benscher emigrated to Australia in 1948, where he made his fortune by inventing the inflatable ball bladder and valve.

After living most of his life in Sydney, he retired to the Gold Coast in 1986 where he lived alone until his death six years later.

The wealthy widower’s body was found on the kitchen floor of his plush Paradise Point home, tied and gagged with evidence of head injuries.

The high-profile crime baffled investigators until a cold case breakthrough when Stearman was arrested in Tasmania and charged with murder in 2020.

Mr Bencher’s now deceased former assistant discovered the body and was considered a suspect, placed under police surveillance but never charged.

Footprints found in the canal sand leading to Mr Bencher’s home prompted speculation that more than one person was involved.

Detectives found no fingerprint or DNA evidence at the crime scene.

Only a bedroom where Benscher hid cash was disturbed, with a canvas bag, cash and traveller’s cheques stolen.

On Thursday Michael Lowther gave video evidence at Stearman’s committal hearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court.

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Mr Lowther said Stearman boasted of “killing a guy on the Gold Coast”.

Stearman discussed the killing “three or four times” over the years, but when asked if he believed the story, Lowther said “not really”.

“I didn’t believe what he said at the time,” Mr Lowther said.

“I thought he was a bit of a bragger … it wasn’t something I was overly concerned about.”

Police have previously alleged Stearman, who was living on the Gold Coast at the time, had been involved in a botched robbery of Benscher’s home.

The crown case involves more than 250 witnesses, with only a fraction called to give evidence at the committal.

The hearing before magistrate Belinda Merrin continues.

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