On 5 June 2019, the quiet of Darwin was shattered by a killing rampage through the city centre. The carnage that followed left four men dead and one woman injured after the alleged killer, Benjamin Hoffmann went on a shooting rampage. The suspect was already well known to police, was on parole and was wearing a monitoring bracelet at the time of the incidents. Reports at the time suggested Hoffmann had been searching for a man he believed was in a ‘secret relationship’ with his then girlfriend.
Following the shooting, Hoffmann was reported to have apologised to the court saying he was “very sorry about what’s happened.”
Hoffmann plead guilty to three counts of murder and one of manslaughter part-way through his 2021 trial. Shortly after, Hoffmann fired his legal team claiming he had no confidence in them. Following this, Hoffmann was granted a second legal team through Legal Aid.
Hoffmann again fired his legal team on 21 April 2022, just weeks before sentencing for the four charges were to be handed down. In response to the latest legal team sacking, Justice Burns stated that, “the reason you are without legal representation is your own fault…you have chosen to dispense with the services of two sets of lawyers who have been subject to grants of legal aid.”
Hoffmann has claimed that the second legal team ‘coerced’ him into pleading guilty to the four murders and further claimed “I’m not guilty, I’m mentally ill”.
Media reports from March 2022 claimed Hoffmann believed there was a “broad-ranging conspiracy relating to an outlaw motorbike group here in Darwin, which is aimed against him, and which seeks to have him convicted and imprisoned”. He also believed the prosecution; his own legal team and Justice Burns were part of this conspiracy.
In explaining his decision to fire the legal team, Hoffmann sought permission to read three ‘crisis’ letters to the court. In the first letter, Hoffmann claimed he had been coerced in to pleading guilty and that due to his high level of medication he should be granted a re-trial. The second letter sought to sack the two senior members of his legal team whilst retaining the services of a third. Justice Burns responded that there was no evidence of misconduct on the part of Hoffmann’s legal team and that due to ethical reasons, the third lawyer, Dr. Peterson, was “unwilling to act on [his] behalf unless there were other lawyers engaged”.
Hoffmann is due to reappear in court on 5 May 2022 for a further directions hearing prior to sentencing currently set down for 27 May 2022. Hoffmann has two weeks to make any further applications to delay sentencing.