EXCLUSIVE: A couple murdered inside their small unit in an inner-city boarding house may have been the victims of a “gay hate crime”, allegedly at the hands of a methamphetamine-addicted neighbour who was also responsible for killing another man in eerily similar circumstances a few streets away just under a decade ago. Serkan Ozturk reports.
41-year-old Christopher Bouggas was arrested by NSW Police earlier this week on Monday, January 31 over the double murder of a gay couple inside a Redfern boarding house late last month.
A neighbour of the murdered couple, Bouggas was arrested at the same boarding house in which the killings are alleged to have taken place.
Bouggas was not present at his first court appearance, where bail was formally refused.
The accused murderer is next expected to face Sydney Central Local Court on March 29.
The bodies of Steven Finlay and his partner, 32-year-old Mitch Watson, were discovered last weekend late on the night of Saturday, January 29 inside the Cleveland Street boarding house room which Mr Finlay had been residing for the past few years.
Murdered: Steven Finlay (Image: Supplied)
Murdered: Mitch Watson (Image: Supplied)
The men were both well-known and much-liked amongst Sydney’s inner-city LGBTIQ community with tributes widely flowing on social media following news of the couple’s murder.
Police made the discovery of the dead men’s bodies after already being on their way to the unit having received a Triple 0 phone call for emergency assistance made by 52-year-old Mr Finlay.
When police arrived just before midnight, Mr Finlay was reportedly dead but still clutching his phone.
FAMILY ALLEGES ‘GAY HATE CRIME’
Police have so far not provided any details publicly about how the men were killed or any possible motive that Bouggas may have held.
““We do know that both males suffered significant injuries, but that’s all I can say at this stage,” Superintendent Rodney Hart from NSW Police told the media this week.
“It was a very difficult and confronting crime scene.”
But the family of one of the dead men has now claimed that the couple were the victims of a brutal hate crime.
Sister of murdered man Steven Finlay says he was the victim of a “gay hate crime” (Image: Facebook / Supplied)
Following Bouggas’ arrest, Monita de Varge – the sister of Mr Finlay – posted on social media that the alleged killer was fueled by homophobia and hatred of gay men.
“Steven and his partner Mitch had been brutally murdered, we believe it was a gay hate crime,” Ms de Varge wrote on Facebook.
Following the family’s claims, True Crime News Weekly contacted NSW Police with a series of questions on whether the murders are being considered a gay hate crime.
“As this matter is now before the courts, we are unable to provide additional comment,” a police spokesperson said.
ALLEGED MURDERER HAS KILLED BEFORE JUST STREETS AWAY WHILE HIGH ON METH
While police remain tight-lipped on how and why the men were murdered, True Crime News Weekly can exclusively reveal that the alleged murderer has killed before, and in the very same vicinity.
Just under a decade ago, Bouggas was found guilty of killing another man at one of Sydney’s notorious high-rise public housing commission blocks, only a few minutes walk from the boarding house were Mr Finlay and Mr Watson were murdered.
In September 2013, Bouggas was charged with murder after his friend’s flatmate fell from a sixth-floor balcony during an argument about prescription drugs.
Christopher Bouggas: Alleged murderer of gay couple inside a Redfern boarding house also killed a man in 2013 just a few minutes walk away (Image: Supplied)
50-year-old Ryan Dewhurst fell to his death when Bouggas held him over the edge of the balcony of his friend’s housing commission unit in Waterloo after an argument broke out when Bouggas accused Dewhurst of stealing some Xanax tablets.
Upon being brought in front of the courts for the first time over Mr Dewhurst’s murder, Bouggas is said to have “cried with his head bowed” while his parents were seated in the public gallery.
During his murder trial, the court found Bouggas “had been drinking and had also taken methadone and methamphetamines on the day Dewhurst died”.
Bouggas would eventually plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced in July 2015 to eight years in prison with a minimum non-parole period of five years.
In sentencing Bouggas over the crime, Justice Lucy McCallum stated the killer’s cognitive faculties were seriously clouded by his long-term drug addiction to methamphetamines.
“The use of ice severely exacerbated [his] anxiety and paranoia,” Justice McCallum said.
“There can be no doubt that the offender’s use of illicit drugs contributed to his offending.
“Although I am satisfied that the offender did not foresee or intend that the deceased would fall from the balcony, I would nonetheless regard the offence as one of considerable seriousness.”