Braddon Charles Peter Butler pleads not guilty to the murder of Jay Brogden in Airlie Beach

The seedy underbelly of a tropical paradise is revealed as a cold case murder case tries to uncover what happened to 21-year-old Jay Brogden 15 years ago.

On Monday, Peter Charles Butler pleaded not guilty in the Supreme Court in Mackay Braddon to the murder of the young father, who was last seen in Airlie Beach in April 2007.

Mr Brogden’s body has never been found.

“Suddenly, very suddenly, instantly, he disappeared,” Crown Prosecutor Nathan Crane told the jury of seven men and five women during his opening speech.

Mr. Crane warned the judges that they would hear about a city that was familiar to them, but the world that would be revealed would probably sound strange.

“Frankly, a nice place to visit – but what you will hear about Airlie Beach about this particular time is that there is an underworld of it, there is a taste of those who use drugs, use drugs and sell drugs in this trial ,” he said.

A young man leans over a table with a smile.
Jay Brogden was last seen in April 2007.(Provided: Gina Merritt)

Mr Crane told the jury that Mr Butler was Mr Brogden’s boyfriend and his drug dealer.

He told the court that Mr Brogden often owed Mr Butler money.

Mr Crane said Mr Brogden had experienced “growing pains” and was “not perfect”, but loved his family and was loved in return.

Mr Brogden was described as an adventurous man who loved to share his passion for fishing with his young relatives.

“Jay loved fishing,” Mr. Crane said.

“He did [it] almost every day while living in Airlie Beach.

“He would work and build his own lures — he had a tackle box that was almost his bible.”

A young man stands on a beach, staring into the distance.
Braddon Butler has been in custody since his arrest in 2019.(Facebook)

‘Fed him to the sharks’

During his opening statement, Mr. Crane told the jurors that they would hear up to 30 witnesses, several of whom had allegedly heard Mr Butler alluding to Mr Brogden’s murder.

Mr Crane told the court that Mr Butler had threatened those people if they ever repeat what he said.

Mr Crane said a witness would recall a conversation between Mr Butler and a second man where they related a story of coaxing a man to Funnel Bay where they “got him off the hook and fed him to the sharks” .

Mr Crane told the jury that Mr Butler allegedly showed up in 2017 at the home of a former friend, Britt Neal, and threatened her after she posted on Facebook about Mr Brogden.

The court heard six witnesses following Mr Crane’s opening: Jay Brogden’s mother Gina Merritt, his aunt Caroline Merritt, Detective Sergeant Luke Scells, his former partner Patricia Heath and his former colleagues, Ray Hadley and Tony Hadley.

During her investigation, Gina Merritt cried when she told the court how often she would talk to her son.

Mysterious Phone Calls

During the cross-examination, Mr Butler’s lawyer Scott Lynch asked Ms Merritt about phone calls she had overheard between her son and another person while Mr Brogden was visiting her in Newcastle for his 21st birthday.

A smiling young man with wispy hair.
Mr Brogden’s mother said her son appeared to be getting sick after being contacted by an unknown caller.(Delivered: Queensland Police)

The court heard that the visit took place about a month before his disappearance.

Mrs. Merritt said that Mr. Brogden was planning to go back to be near her, but first he had to finish a job for

She said that during his three-week visit in March, her son received repeated calls on his phone.

“I don’t know who he got the calls from,” Ms Merritt told the court.

“All I know is that they made him physically ill.”

The court heard that Mr Brogden would vomit and tremble after receiving them.

During Mr. Lynch’s cross-examination of Sergeant Scells, he inquired about the rumors and theories circulating on Airlie Beach at the time about who had killed Mr. Brogden.

The detective confirmed that several people were involved in the rumours.

The trial continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court in Mackay.

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