Entertainment Celebrity Judge in Guy Sebastian fraud case dies
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Judge in Guy Sebastian fraud case dies

Sebastian
Guy Sebastian said there were lots of emotions in his final meeting with his manager. Photo: AAP
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NSW District Court Judge Peter Zahra, who was presiding over the trial of singer Guy Sebastian’s former manager, has died after suffering a stroke.

Last week Judge Zahra began presiding over the high-profile case involving the pop star and his former manager Titus Day, who is accused of embezzling $900,000 from the Australian Idol winner.

The trial was listed for mention on Monday before Judge James Bennett, who informed the jurors of Judge Zahra’s death and adjourned the case until next week.

“He’s a very good friend, I might say, and everyone here is feeling the loss, as you might imagine,” Judge Bennett told the court, the ABC reports.

Sebastian, 40, was due to resume testifying in the case on Thursday but that was unable to do so after the court was told that Judge Zahra was ill.

Also on Thursday, Sebastian also confirmed he had tested positive to COVID, throwing further doubt on the trial’s progress as he began seven days’ isolation.

In a social media pos, Sebastian said he was “absolutely gutted” by his positive test result and the impact it would have on his national tour. Shows in Cairns and Townsville this week were to be rescheduled.

“I am so sorry to disappoint my fans and I promise to do something even more special once I’m able to perform as a thank-you for your patience and understanding,” he said.

Later, however, Judge Zahra suffered a suspected stroke. He was taken to Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred hospital.

A statement released by the Zahra family on Monday said he died peacefully on Sunday, surrounded by his family.

They described him as a “special soul who touched the lives of everyone he met”.

“We have received many lovely messages and memories that demonstrate the type of person he was, he had a big heart and wanted to see everyone achieve more than what they ever thought possible,” the statement said.

“In honour of our dad and his life, we encourage everyone to have a hot chocolate and share a dad joke in his honour!

“Those who knew him would know he loved a good (bad) joke!”

Judge Zahra was a defence solicitor before being appointed to the NSW District Court in 2007.

He has presided over numerous high-profile cases, including the trial of Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes, who was convicted of sex offences, and collar bomb hoaxer Paul Douglas Peters.

NSW Bar Association president Michael McHugh said the entire legal profession mourned his death.

“Judge Zahra was a leader in the legal profession and a role model to many,” he said.

“We have lost an esteemed judge and a very good man.

“Judge Zahra’s passing is a great loss to the administration of justice in NSW.”

The Aboriginal Legal Service described Judge Zahra as a close friend.

“He was a mentor, friend and role model to many of our lawyers over the years,” Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) chief executive Karly Warner said.

“Since receiving the sad news of the judge’s passing today, my colleagues have shared their memories of him as a warm and generous leader, and a proud working-class man who rose to the highest tiers of his profession through hard work and passion,” she said.

-with AAP