Valmai “Jane” Birch was 34 when she died. David Bagster has pleaded not guilty to her manslaughter.

Valmai “Jane” Birch was 34 when she died. David Bagster has pleaded not guilty to her manslaughter.Credit:NSW Police

In his opening address on Monday,Crown prosecutor Chris Todd said neighbours called police when a bad smell from the unit became “progressively worse”,and officers forced entry through a window.

He said Birch was facedown in a bin in the shower recess and “partially hog-tied” with material binding her ankle to her waist. The shower hose was in the bin and the top half of her body was submerged in water.

The Crown alleges Bagster and Birch’s relationship was “volatile”,marked by repeated aggression,verbal altercations and physical violence including him threatening and assaulting her.

At the time of her death,Birch was using multiple illicit drugs including cannabis,heroin and amphetamines and had worked as a sex worker in Port Kembla,Todd said.

Bagster met Birch through a mutual acquaintance in May 2010,and in that period to April 2011,he was using cannabis and methylamphetamine,or ice.

The couple were captured on CCTV near Wollongong train station on March 9,the last day Birch was seen alive,the prosecutor said.

A neighbour found her passed out across the road from her unit about 3pm that day and helped her inside. Bagster was seen knocking on the door that night and was seen outside the unit on March 10 and 21,the prosecutor said.


Todd said a forensic examination of the bin matched two fingerprints to Bagster,allegedly consistent with him leaving them while maneuvering the bin into the position it was found.

He said a DNA profile matching Bagster was found on the wheelie bin handles and a ceiling fan switch,noting that when police entered the unit,they observed a fan in the loungeroom and an exhaust fan in the kitchen both operating.

The Crown alleges a five-page handwritten note in a drawer in Birch’s bedroom was “contrived” and written by Bagster about the events of March 9 and placed there afterwards,“in a manner designed to cast suspicion away from him”.

“In the ‘Dear Jane’ note,Mr Bagster expresses his love and concern for Jane,and on the Crown case,falsely suggests that he had seen other people in the unit,” Todd said.

During conversations with acquaintances after media reports emerged about Birch’s body being found,Bagster allegedly said,“we got on the pills last night,I bashed her in the bathtub,I couldn’t get her out,so I lifted her into the wheelie bin”.

Todd said in police interviews,Bagster denied any responsibility over the death,and told officers he had stayed with Birch after she came out of hospital in February and would always put out her bins.

He said a post-mortem did not determine the cause of death,and possibilities that could not be excluded were positional asphyxia,drowning,neck compression,drug overdose or a combination.

Defence barrister Scott Fraser said the relationship “had its ups and downs”,and it was not disputed that Bagster and Birch “moved in circles” of other drug users.

But he said the assertion the relationship was characterised by violence was “very much in dispute”.

He asked the jury to consider whether witnesses from those circles,called by the Crown regarding the allegations of violence,were reliable or might have “an axe to grind or some ulterior motive”.

The trial,expected to run for three weeks,continues in Wollongong District Court before Judge Andrew Haesler.

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