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Emily Woods

Five years jail for servo killing of elderly postmaster

Troy Maskell (centre) was sentenced to a minimum of five years over the death of John Burke, 73. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

A killer could be released from prison in almost three years after his "despicable" unprovoked attack on an elderly postmaster at a service station.

Troy Maskell, 44, was handed a minimum five-year prison term on Wednesday, after being found guilty by a jury of manslaughter over the killing at a Shell station in Victoria's north.

Strathmerton postmaster John Burke, 73, lived alone and would often visit the servo in the evening for something to eat and to have a chat with the attendant.

On August 8, 2021, Mr Burke had smiled at Maskell's girlfriend and daughter and asked how they were as they entered the shop.

The woman then wrongly accused Mr Burke of being a pedophile.

Maskell was high on cannabis and drunk, after consuming a box of Carlton Dry and shots of Jack Daniels, when he picked up a bottle of sports drink and hurled it at Mr Burke.

The one-litre bottle struck Mr Burke in the head and he fell onto the hard-tiled floor.

Maskell kicked Mr Burke's hip as he fell, stomped on his glasses and returned to kick his victim again, before asking the attendant where the CCTV cameras were kept and leaving. 

Mr Burke was taken to hospital but he could not be saved and he died after 11 weeks due to blood clots that developed on his brain.

Justice Lex Lasry condemned the killing as an "entirely unprovoked" attack on a physically inferior victim, and said kicking Mr Burke as he lay on the ground was "despicable".

"Yours is the kind of violence that society abhors, but I'm no longer confident that that's true, the use and acceptance of gratuitous violence shows no sign of diminishing," he said.

Mr Burke's death had affected the broader Strathmerton community, where he was a postmaster for 45 years and a "central part of many people's lives", Justice Lasry said. 

He said middle-aged men, in particular, felt the need for "some kind of machismo acceptance" regardless of who the victim is, although often it was a woman.

"In this case, it was a vulnerable man in his 70s, who had no hope of defending himself," Justice Lasry said.

But the judge accepted Maskell had "genuine regret" about what had happened, suffered from PTSD and had served much of his time on remand in COVID-19 conditions.

He handed Maskell a maximum eight-year prison term and he will have to serve five years before he can apply for parole.

Maskell has already served 21 months of his sentence.

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