SEATED in a wheelchair, a white rug over his knees, Terry James Freeman, didn't look like a callous killer.
But Freeman's surprise confession to the cold-case murders of two prisoners in jail led him to appear for sentence before Justice Peter Applegarth in the Supreme Court at Bundaberg.
Freeman strangled his victims and made the crimes look like suicide to get "in" with a prison gang.
Crown prosecutor Greg Cummings described the deaths as being akin to disposing of human beings as if they were some sort of gang membership token.
Freeman, 44, pleaded guilty to the murder of Jason Lee Evans, 20, at the Sir David Longland prison (now Brisbane Correctional Centre) on February 1, 1995; and the murder of Clayton McFadzean, 22, on March 22, 1998.
In the Crown case, Freeman was charged after walking up to a Brisbane police officer at the Roma Street Transit Centre in March 2014, saying: "I want to confess to a murder".
The mother and brother of McFadzean, a young Toowoomba man, were among family at the Bundaberg Courthouse for sentencing.
Crown prosecutor Greg Cummings revealed the murders - done by Freeman when in his 20s - were simply to ingratiate himself with a prison gang, the Angry Gang, that gained notoriety in the 1990s.
Justice Applegarth called Freeman's deadly actions those of "a foot soldier" for the gang in what had been "a scourge of prison murders".
Mr Cummings said Mr Evans was killed by Freeman "for no other reason than to please people".
"Mr Evans was killed by strangulation. There were three of them and he (Freeman) helped strangle Mr Evans.
"It took at least two minutes and one could not imagine the suffering as his life ebbed away from him for no reason."
The murder was initiated by a note from one of the "elder Kiwi fellas" in the prison.
Freeman walked into Mr Evans' cell, pushed him back on to the bed and grabbed him around his neck, strangling him.
Another inmate put his hands around the neck and helped strangle Mr Evans while a third inmate held his arms.
A white skipping rope was tied around Mr Evans' neck in a knot, his body was lifted off the ground and the rope tied to bars above the cell door.
Mr Cummings said it was pre-meditated murder done so Freeman "could make a bit of a splash with the gang".
Initially considered to be a suicide, it was not until 1999 that Jason Evans' death was identified as one of 10 suspicious deaths in custody thought to involve the Angry Gang.
Freeman also confessed to killing Clayton McFadzean - done because he made an insulting comment to the gang.
The gang was a group of very violent inmates who "ran the place".
Freeman jumped Mr McFadzean, trying to strangle him in his cell but he fought for his life.
The two men wrestled but another inmate, Anthony Barnes (now deceased), ran in to help Freeman restrain him.
It took Freeman two minutes to strangle him.
He then made a noose by plaiting torn material from a white bed sheet.
It was placed around Mr McFadzean's neck and tied to window louvres to indicate suicide.
DNA linking Freeman was found on the sheet but at the time he gave investigators a plausible explanation.
Following his confession, the original autopsy and evidence was reviewed and injuries to Mr McFadzean's neck were consistent with manual strangulation.
Defence barrister Callan Cassidy said without Freeman's confession he would never have been charged.
"He's apologised to one family member in court previously," Mr Cassidy said.
"He simply wishes for the families to know the truth to what happened to their children."
Mr Cassidy said Freeman's involvement with the gang was his attempt to survive the prison environment.
Justice Applegarth said the brutal murders were done on two men who had done nothing to justify the violence, let alone homicide, then concealed to suggest they'd taken their own lives.
He said Freeman was jailed for a series of armed robberies, then while in jail associated with the Angry Gang. Justice Applegarth sentenced Freeman to life in prison and ordered that he be released to parole after serving 20 years.
Taking into account that Freeman has been in jail since March 2014, he will be eligible for parole in March 2034.
Police re-opened the case into Mr Evans' death in the early 2000s as part of an operation to investigate a dozen suspicious deaths in custody after 1994.
Outside Bundaberg Courthouse, Chris Hilton, the mother of Clayton McFadzean, welcomed the sentence as giving some finality for the Toowoomba family.
She remembers her son fondly as being outgoing, a happy-go-lucky fellow who enjoyed the outdoors.
"It changed our lives, nothing was ever the same," Ms Hilton said.
She said Clayton went to jail for offences he did but ended up with an undeserved life sentence.
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