Mandatory Murder

Mandatory Murder

Steven Schubert


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A compelling true story of homicide and injustice in an outback town

At first it looked like a swag, said the grader driver. He'd found the body just off the road outside the outback town of Katherine in the Northern Territory. Police quickly identified the dead man as Ray Nicefero, who'd recently appeared in court for aggravated assault and breaching a domestic violence order.

Three days later, three young local suspects were arrested, including nineteen-year-old Indigenous man Zak Grieve. A month later, Ray's former partner was also arrested. But when the accused faced court in the rough justice system of the Territory, it quickly became apparent that there were few provable facts to be had. Depending on who was talking, a loving friend could be an abusive monster, a battered wife a conniving temptress. And a joke between mates about the best way to dispose of a body could be a conspiracy to murder.

The outcome of the case was no less murky, thanks to the Territory's mandatory sentencing laws, which, the judge said, 'brings about injustice'.

Mandatory Murder is the compelling true story of murder in an outback town and the extraordinary aftermath. It raises several important questions, including how an Indigenous man who didn't attend a murder can be sentenced to jail for twenty years.


Steven Schubert:
Steven Schubert is an award-winning journalist based in Alice Springs. He has spent most of his career as a reporter working in remote northern Australia, including in Mount Isa and Katherine. Steven won the NT Journalist of the Year Award in 2018 for his reporting on the case of Zak Grieve and a series of features looking at police investigations into Indigenous murders in the Northern Territory.