A Change.org petition to have Newcastle father Benjamin Batterham freed after he was charged with the murder of an alleged home invader at the weekend has attracted more than 75,000 signatures in just 48 hours.
The petition was launched on Monday and within the first 18 hours it had received over 50,000 supporters.
Keith O’Meara, who started the petition wrote: “Benjamin is being charged with murder, for protecting his home and family! What are you supposed to do, lay down and die and let unspeakable things happen to your loved ones while you wait for the police?
“Homeowners should be able to defend their families from criminals who break into their homes – and Benjamin should be released now!”
The 33-year-old man was charged for murder after the alleged burglar subsequently died in hospital in Newcastle, 160km north of Sydney.
Police went to a home in the suburb of Hamilton in the early hours of Saturday following reports that three men were fighting. The found 34-year-old Ricky Slater being detained by two men, including his alleged murderer. The other man has not been charged.
Slater had allegedly broken into Batterham’s home and was spotted inside his daughter’s bedroom at around 3am.
He was taken to John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition. At the time, Batterham, who also went to hospital with facial wounds, was charged with recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm. On Sunday, when Slater’s life support system was turned off, the charge was upgraded to murder.
The cause of death is not yet known.
Slater, a father of three, was released from jail in December after successfully appealing against a four-year sentence for aggravated break and enter and fraud offences.
He had served more than 20 months before the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled his convictions should be turned over due to errors made by the trial judge.
Slater’s family claim he did not break into the house and had been invited to a party there.
Batterham did not apply for bail and did not appear before Newcastle local court on Tuesday. The matter was adjourned until May 25.