‘Our son’s descent into a dark road to tragedy’
HE was the type of bloke who'd take the shirt off his own back to help a mate, a hard worker, practical joker and a bit of a ladies' man, but Michael McCabe fell into a world of drug-fuelled evil.
The Charters Towers man was an ice user and it was that insidious drug that led him into the path of his murderers Brent Malcolm Huxley and Jason Douglas Taylor.
He was only 25 years old when he was reported missing in August 2015.
His mother Kathryn, father Danny and brother Justin were worried sick waiting for him to walk back into their lives.
They could never have imagined the heartbreaking reality - Mr McCabe had been killed in an act of brutal and relentless violence.
His remains were discovered on September 17, 2015, in a dried-up creek bed off the side of Mount Spec Rd near Paluma in North Queensland.
He had been punched, kicked, stomped and abused before his attackers hauled him into the boot of a blue Holden Commodore and drove him to the isolated scene of his murder, where large rocks were hurled at him until he stopped breathing.
Huxley and Taylor may be the only men who will ever know for certain who threw the fatal rock on to the skull of Mr McCabe, but each has been found guilty of murder by a jury in Townsville Supreme Court.
Huxley was a drug addict and at his sentencing the court heard he also supplied methamphetamine to people in Mr McCabe's circle.
A stocky, tattoo-covered thug, Brent Huxley's criminal history included threatening to kill others over money.
At Huxley's trial, key witness Darren Hess testified that in August 2015, Huxley visited him more than once and told him he had killed Mr McCabe.
"He said he'd done a hit on a fella for $10,000, told me he dropped a rock on him and showed me his actions how he'd done it," he said.
Taylor was also consumed in a world of drugs at the time of the killing.
He was couch surfing with no real home and was friends with Huxley but had never met Mr McCabe.
If it wasn't for Taylor's interviews with police, Mr McCabe's body may never have been found and justice never served.
Taylor gave several interviews to police, divulging more information on each occasion and despite initially claiming no involvement in the murder, he eventually admitted to being with Huxley as the rocks were hurled at Mr McCabe on the night of August 15, 2015.
Just a few hours earlier Mr McCabe was injecting methamphetamine with a young woman he had just met - Candis Greer.
Ms Greer had driven with Leonie Doyle, the girlfriend of Huxley, to Charters Towers and picked up Mr McCabe.
As the three made their way back to Kirwan, Mr McCabe and Ms Greer flirted in the back of the car.
Ms Greer had split with her boyfriend Matthew Luke Horima Rewha only a few days before.
Jason Taylor would tell police it was Rewha who initiated the attack on Mr McCabe at the Burnda St apartment but a jury found Rewha not guilty of assault occasioning bodily harm.
Regardless of who started the attack, Mr McCabe never had a chance to defend himself.
He was outnumbered and overpowered.
He was beaten, bound and in the words of his father Danny "thrown away like trash".
His killers showed a complete disregard for human life and the impact Mr McCabe's death would have on others.
Danny McCabe said in the four years since his son's murder he had lived with depression.
Not a day passes that he doesn't think of his boy and wish he could have done something to save him.
"My son is dead, why didn't I protect him, why didn't I see the evil that had entered his world?," Danny McCabe said.
The evil Danny McCabe referred to was drugs and he had a clear message for any other young men and women heading down the same path as the one which led his son into the path of murderers.
"Get off it boys and girls … at the end of the day it always ends in tragedy," he said.
Kathryn McCabe visits her son at the cemetery every Sunday, an incredibly kind-hearted woman, she is thankful to the police who found Michael's remains for bringing her son home.
Justin McCabe sees his brother every time he looks in the mirror … he truly is a spitting image of Michael and the tragic circumstances of losing his big brother will live with him forever.
Four years on from Mr McCabe's death his murderers have finally been sentenced.
The court process was long and hard for the McCabe family.
Each murderer was tried separately and a string of mistrials meant that the family have sat through evidence five times in the past two years.
In Huxley's trial, as photos of Mr McCabe's mummified body were shown to the jury, members of his family cried and wiped away tears in the public gallery.
When a close-up photo of his fractured skull appeared, his mother burst out of the courtroom, sobbing.
Huxley smirked throughout the trial, staring intently and shaking his leg when focusing on evidence being heard.
Rewha also smiled as he turned to stare at the Australian Border Force officers watching him at the back of the courtroom ready to deport him to New Zealand once the trial was over.
Candis Greer was never charged over the killing but was viewed as a key witness for the prosecution.
When she was first called upon to give evidence, she refused to be sworn in at the trial and giggled as she was led out of the courtroom into the cells.
Justice David North warned Greer of the consequences her actions would warrant, and sent her back to the cells so she could reconsider giving evidence before she was next called upon.
She was charged with contempt of court and eventually gave evidence about what she saw the night of Mr McCabe's murder.
Justice North sentenced Greer to 18 months imprisonment, she was released immediately on parole.
Leonie Doyle was found guilty of accessory after the fact to manslaughter for her role in attempting to help Huxley avoid police detection. She booked the killers into a hotel in Ingham after the murder and had provided false information to detectives when she knew Mr McCabe was dead.
She was sentenced to four years imprisonment to serve 16 months.
Huxley and Taylor received life sentences.
Taylor is understood to have already commenced appeal proceedings, while Huxley's solicitors have told the Bulletin his appeal will be lodged within days.