Vic artist's killing was 'self defence'

John Spencer White pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of an artist more than 17 years ago.
John Spencer White pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of an artist more than 17 years ago.

A talented Melbourne artist was shot twice, dumped in a wheelie bin and left in a storage locker for 17 years by the man who'd given him a hand up when he needed it.

John Spencer White, 63, faced the Supreme Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to the June 2001 manslaughter of John Christianos, whose remains weren't discovered until last year.

White had hired Mr Christianos to paint portraits of Sir Donald Bradman and Gary Ablett Senior to be sold in his sporting collectables store, Memorabilia Headquarters, in Melbourne's east.

As well as a job, he gave Mr Christianos - an alcoholic with mental health issues - a place to live, having watched his own mother battle the same problems.

For the first few months things went well, but Mr Christianos' drinking made him become irrational, prosecutor Kevin Doyle said.

As he did every Friday, Mr Christianos went to see White on June 11, 2001 to pick up his weekly poster sales money.

After a few drinks together, Mr Christianos began to threaten White with a knife, the court heard, based on White's confessions to police.

He'd bought a WWII handgun to protect himself from the man who, it was revealed, had killed kittens and threatened to "massacre" shopkeepers when he was drinking.

When Mr Christianos kept coming at him, White fired.

"In self-defence I protected myself. In self-defence I shot him," White admitted to police.

White then covered up what he'd done, stuffing his friend's body head first into a bin, which he took to a storage facility where he kept posters and other memorabilia.

He panicked, his barrister Philip Dunn QC said.

White had worked all his life to build himself into a success out of the disadvantage he experienced as a boy.

The son of an alcoholic sex worker, he'd become a ward of the state until 15 when he moved home to look after his mother and two siblings, who still relied on him in 2001.

He lied about Mr Christianos having been suicidal in order to cover his tracks. Then for some unknown reason, Mr Dunn said, he stopped paying the storage fees, leading to the discovery of Mr Christianos' remains.

"Some would say closure is a good thing," his sister Victoria said, but he'd always been a roamer and she hoped he would show up one day.

It didn't take long for police to find White, who they'd spoken to when Mr Christianos was reported missing in 2001.

"It's pretty obvious the jig is up," Mr Dunn told the court.

Retired antique dealer Max Engellenner knew both men at the time and spoke of White as trustworthy, reliable and honest and added Mr Christianos was a friend, but "the demon drink got to him".

White will be sentenced at a later date.

Australian Associated Press