A young man allegedly fatally struck a pedestrian with his car before his mother helped load the woman’s body into a ute, and they buried it in bushland outside Darwin, a court has been told.
The discovery of the Indigenous victim’s dismembered leg on the Northern Territory’s Stuart Highway on Tuesday morning triggered a police investigation which led to the pair’s arrest the next day.
Joshua Gary Mason, 23, allegedly hit the woman with a car on the busy highway on Darwin’s outskirts at about 8.30 pm on Monday.
Mother-of-three Deborah Karen Mason, 50, allegedly helped collect, move, and conceal the woman’s body in bushland 15km south of the collision site, the NT local court in Darwin heard on Friday.
On Tuesday morning, part of the woman’s leg was discovered on the Stuart Highway in the rural suburb of Coolalinga, about 30km south of the city center.
Her body was allegedly found partially buried in scrub in Bees Creek on Wednesday night after the Masons were arrested earlier in the day.
On Friday, the pair appeared in court on several charges, including misconduct with a corpse, destroying evidence, and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Defense lawyer Peter Maley said Joshua Mason would likely plead guilty to the charges and the additional hit-and-run charge. He did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody.
Former Woolworths worker Deborah Mason would likely also plead guilty once the facts had been agreed, Maley told the court.
Her bail application heard Joshua Mason called his mother after the collision, and she went to the scene to help him.
The pair looked for the deceased woman in the darkness with a member of the public who had stopped to help.
“They couldn’t find anything … but Mr. Mason knew he had struck something with his vehicle and was not confident that he had not hit a person,” judge Therese Austin said.
The Masons left the site empty-handed but allegedly returned later in the night when they again searched for and found the dead woman.
“They then took the body, put it in the car, drove off with it, and formed the intention to dispose of the deceased and not call the authorities,” the judge said.
“They disposed of the body, and then they went home. It’s a very serious incident. By the sound of it, they’ve done a very poor job of disposing of any evidence. It was all over the ute. Forensics were not properly cleaned up.”
Prosecutor Jessica McLean said Deborah Mason drove the ute, allegedly found with blood in its tray despite the pair’s attempt to hose it out.
Investigators also allegedly found blood-soaked towels in the laundry at home Deborah Mason shares with her daughter.
Maley said it had been a tragic accident, and there was no suggestion Joshua Mason had been driving erratically or was legally responsible for the woman’s death.
But the judge said text messages between Deborah Mason and her daughter potentially showed there had been a callous disregard for the woman’s death.
She said attempting to pervert the course of justice was a serious offense, and the crown had a strong case. She ordered that a bail assessment be completed before she made her decision.
Police have not released details of the victim’s identity or her age. A forensic pathologist who examined the partial leg on Tuesday determined she was either a teenager or an adult.
A traveler on the four-lane highway linking Darwin to Alice Springs and Adelaide spotted the limb.
Deborah Mason is scheduled to reappear in Darwin local court on 14 June, while her son is due back in court on 27 July.