A man who bashed 22-year-old Korean exchange student Eunji Ban to death in Brisbane’s CBD, saying he was being instructed by a demon, has been found guilty of her murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Ms Ban suffered horrific facial injuries after being repeatedly punched and stomped on by Alex Reuben McEwan in Wickham Park while she was walking to work as a hotel cleaner in the early hours of November 24, 2013.
It took the jury one day to reach the unanimous verdict.
McEwan, now 25, did not show any obvious signs of emotion when the jury found him guilty of murder.
Ms Ban’s family broke down in tears and hugged after the verdict was read out.
During sentencing, Justice Roslyn Atkinson said McEwan had been drunk. And although she accepted he had expressed remorse, he had given in to “sadistic and violent urges”.
She said he was in control of what he was doing and knew it was wrong.
“I accept that after these terrible events occurred you developed a psychotic condition and a schizophrenic illness [but] the fact is that was not the reason why you committed this terrible crime,” she said.
“I accept that you have expressed remorse of what you did, although whether you have complete insight into the terrible nature of this crime, I’m not so sure.”
Justice Atkinson told the court McEwan had committed the “most brutal, horrible crime”.
“You decided to go out and to kill someone … you treated that poor young woman with cruelty, degradation and contempt,” Justice Atkinson said.
“You bashed her in the face. You stomped on her face. You broke virtually every bone in her face and, not content with that, you dragged her across the road and up the stairs to hide her body.
“She was a visitor from a foreign country. She was just doing something completely normal.”
Justice Atkinson said she personally expressed her great sorrow to Ms Ban’s family.
“Bright, intelligent, young woman — she has left behind a family with fathomless grief,” Justice Atkinson said.
“You and you alone are responsible for that, and somehow you must live with that for the rest of your life.”
Justice Atkinson said McEwan remained a “dangerous person” and his crime had affected the community.
“It instils fear and suspicion to ordinary people going about their lives,” she said.
Killer ‘full of excuses’, family says
Speaking through an interpreter, Ms Ban’s mother Suk Bun Jung read a letter outside court that she wrote to her daughter.
“Nothing can bring you back — it’s been four years and nine months … it was a lifetime for us — it’s been devastating,” she said.
“I wish I could turn the clock back … I miss you so much.
“With your love and our beautiful memories I will keep on going, my dearest daughter.”
Ms Jung also said her daughter was close to her younger twin brothers.
“She was a lovely daughter and she was my dearest friend and she was a lovely older sister to her two twin brothers,” she said.
“In fact, on the day of her death her two twin brothers celebrated their birthdays, so it left a very big hole in their lives.”
Ms Ban’s father, Hyeong-Gyu Ban, said through an interpreter the family was not completely happy with the sentence.
“It is a life sentence, so it gives us little comfort knowing that he will be in prison for the rest of his life, but he can still see his family his parents and his loved ones. But for us, Eunji is gone forever until we meet again in heaven,” he said.
Mr Ban also said he did not believe McEwan was truly sorry.
“We were willing to forgive him, but what we saw in court, the way he carried on we felt that [he] was full of excuses — we didn’t see a genuine regret, remorse and apology,” Mr Ban said.
Manslaughter plea rejected
At the beginning of his Supreme Court trial in Brisbane, McEwan admitted to killing the 22-year-old but denied it was murder.
The crown rejected his plea to manslaughter and argued the 25-year-old intended to kill Ms Ban.
Ms Ban suffered horrific head injuries after being repeatedly punched in the face, dragged up stairs and left under a tree.
During his trial, McEwan took the stand and told the court he was being instructed by a demon to carry out the random killing.
McEwan told the trial a demon named “Jazzy” made him kill Ms Ban, and that he decorated a tree with her hair “like a Christmas tree”.
While McEwan was sitting in the police station after he was arrested for murder, he wrote a letter to Ms Ban’s family wishing he “could take all back and give her [a] bunch of roses instead”.
His defence team argued he suffered from schizophrenia and should not be found guilty of murder because of his mental state at the time.
Evil, not psychotic, prosecution says
The prosecution suggested McEwan exaggerated his symptoms to psychiatrists in order to be found unfit for trial and said he was evil, not psychotic.
During the trial, the court heard McEwan was Christian, his family would regularly attend church, and he had previously done missionary work in China.
McEwan had told the court at the trial he first started feeling an evil presence when he was around six or seven years old, but had not known it was a demon until he was 18.
“He’s been following my whole life … I call him Jazzy,” McEwan told the court.
“I could feel his presence beside me as I slept. Just evil … it makes you sick.”
When asked why he named the demon “Jazzy”, McEwan said it was because he started listening to jazz music at the time.
This is the second time Ms Ban’s family has travelled from Korea to attend a trial.
Last year, McEwan claimed he was being told by demons during a hearing in that trial to attack the prosecutor and the jury was discharged.