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Brisbane man sentenced to prison for life for uncle murder

BRISBANE (Australia):  A Brisbane man was handed down life sentence after he was found guilty of his uncle murder, who had vanished 20 years ago.

The Supreme Court jury, which handed down the sentence, deliberated for more than a day and a half before finding Robert James Wagner guilty of murdering his uncle Gerhard Wagner in 1999.

The 61-year-old was last seen leaving his friend’s business in Hemmant on his motorbike on the afternoon of January 7, 1999.

His body has never been found.

Prosecutor Phil McCarthy said Robert Wagner, now 57, had committed a “heinous crime against a person who regarded him as a son”.

Justice Peter Applegarth said the greed was the motivation and reason behind the cold-blooded crime.

“[Your uncle] was generous emotionally and financially to his family,” he said.

“His reward was to be bludgeoned by [you]”.

Gerhard Wagner worked as a merchant seaman and was building a dream yacht boat to sail in his retirement when he vanished in January 1999, aged 61.

He was last seen leaving his friend’s boat-building workshop in Hemmant near the mouth of the Brisbane River on his Kawasaki motorcycle on the afternoon of January 7, 1999.

Justice Applegarth said Robert Wagner had positioned himself to benefit from his uncle’s death.

“You took advantage of Gerhard Wagner’s trust and his poor literacy by having him sign documents which directed all of the assets of a pending house sale to an account that belonged to you,” Justice Applegarth said.

He said Robert Wagner persuaded his uncle “to sign a new one-page document which constituted a will … which would have left all of his estate under your control”.

The court heard Gerhard Wagner, who was born in Germany, had also lent his nephew $300,000 to buy a property and allowed him to live rent-free in a unit.

Justice Applegarth said he was a hard-working, generous man who had planned to spend his retirement sailing his yacht.

Justice Applegarth said Robert Wagner had been waiting for his uncle when he arrived at his Ashgrove unit on the afternoon of January 7, 1999.

Over the following days, Robert Wagner dismembered his uncle’s body and disposed of his remains in “rivers and mountains”.