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Paul John Conoley: Homeless man sentenced for murder of Steven Church

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Fiery scenes have erupted at the sentencing of a homeless man who murdered a grandfather in a savage street bashing before trying to stuff his body into a neighbourhood bin.

A family member of slain man Steven Church threatened to get in the dock of Brisbane Supreme Court and slit the throat of killer Paul John Conoley as he sat silently through proceedings on Thursday.

Chilling bodycam footage captured Conoley, 44, smiling and chuckling as he was placed in handcuffs on the day of the murder.

“I’m the murder express, I’m being detained,” Conoley is heard saying to police.

Family members of Mr Church, 50, wiped away tears, with one woman audibly sobbing and calling Conoley a “grub”.

Conoley was supported by his mother and children in court, telling one “I love you” as he was led away to the cells.

After Conoley was jailed for life, Mr Church’s brother Christian said such a sentence could never replace Steven’s life.

“What do you say to someone that’s murdered your brother?” he asked.

“Steven could have lived for another 40 years.”

Christian told reporters he felt “a lot of anger” being in Conoley’s presence – having faced him in court for the first time since his arrest.

“Steven was happy, he did stupid stuff to make people laugh all the time,” he said.

“He was always there for his girls.”

Crown prosecutor Mark Green said Mr Church was out to buy cigarettes and coffee at 3.50am on April 26, 2019, when he crossed paths with Conoley in Woodridge, a suburb of Logan.

The court was told after a brief conversation, Conoley punched and kicked the defenceless grandfather, stomping on his head as he fell to the ground.

He continued “bouncing” on Mr Church’s neck as he lay in the gutter.

Neither of the men were known to each other.

Mr Green said Conoley was seen by witnesses trying to unsuccessfully stuff Mr Church’s body into a bin.

Conoley continued to punch and kick Mr Church’s body when this failed, warning two men nearby to “see no evil, speak no evil”.

He told neighbours he was “just taking the trash out” as they saw him try to dispose of Mr Church’s body.

“It was a sustained use of brutal force against someone unable to defend themselves,” Mr Green said.

“The defendant persisted in his gratuitous violence even when confronted by paramedics and the public.”

Chilling bodycam footage captured a shirtless Conoley rambling about the killing, at times appearing to smile and chuckle as he is detained.

“I’m the murder express, I’m being detained,” he is heard saying.

“No guts, no glory hey?”

In the footage, he brags about “wrecking” Mr Conoley and says he “doesn’t even know him”.

The court was told Conoley had taken a small amount of white powder – believed to be MDMA – on the day in question.

Conoley pleaded guilty late last year to murdering Mr Church, 50, in April 2019.

On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to another charge of spitting on a police officer while in custody.

Mr Green said a handcuffed and “aggressive” Conoley was being interviewed when he spat in a detective’s eye following his arrest.

“He swore at them to take the handcuffs off … said ‘I answer to no one, I’m the boss’,” Mr Green said.

The court was told Conoley continued abusing police and said he had “done a deal with the devil”, threatening to cut the eyes out of one officer and stating: “My Christian brother, I’ll wipe your whole race out.”

Supreme Court Justice Declan Kelly said Conoley’s “random, unprovoked, cowardly and savage” attack had left an irreparable hole in the lives of Mr Church’s family.

“You showed no remorse, laughing at the deceased’s body and taunting first responders,” he said.

Conoley was jailed for life and received a concurrent 15-month jail term for the serious assault charge.

Conoley had a history of psychotic disturbances and drug addiction – sparked by financial strain during his marriage and the death of a relative.

Defence counsel Lars Falcongreen said his client was still experiencing these symptoms on the day of the murder.

He said Conoley was now free of these symptoms in jail.

A letter of remorse was also tendered to the court.

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