"It's Like A Horror Film In Our Neighbourhood"
Mark Hutchinson survived the jungles of Burma and New Guinea, fighting the Japanese. He made it home, and two decades ago, returned to the New South Wales country town where he had first signed up for what had then been promised to be, "The Great Adventure".
Too many old War World 2 veterans have been murdered in terrible ways in the past decade in Australia. Muggings gone wrong, home invasions, mowed down outside their local RSLs.
But Mark Hutchinson's death is one of the most unusual of all.
An elderly man living in a small country town, regarded as quiet and friendly by the locals, he was found dead in his own backyard by visiting relatives. He had been decapitated.
And, for now at least, no-one can seem to work out why. There appears to be no motivation behind this brutal murder that has shocked the whole town of Armidale.
The way in which Mark Hutchinson was murdered holds errie parallels to the jungle wars he survived in World War 2, where at least a few dozen young Australian men were decapitated by their Japanese enemies, by the use of ceremonial swords.
From 'The Australian' (excerpts) :
Family members discovered the 82-year-old World War II veteran's severed head next to his body in his backyard on Saturday afternoon.
The pensioner and old gunner had lived alone at the same house for two decades and was well-liked by neighbours in the New England city in which he enlisted 63 years ago.
The quiet northern NSW town has been shattered by the news.
Local resident Dianne Burton said: "Armidale is a pretty small town and most people know each other, but apart from being very sad this is pretty scary.
"It's like a horror film in our neighbourhood, in our streets. Everyone is talking about this. Everyone is stunned."
Local RSL president Keven Smith told Seven News: "He was just a mild mannered, fine, upstanding gentleman, and I just can't possibly imagine why anybody would do what they've done."
Mr Hutchinson served as a gunner in the 2/12 Field Regiment in World War II, having enlisted on May 10, 1943, fighting in New Guinea and Borneo.
From the Sydney Morning Herald :
Police have searched the adjacent parkland for a possible murder weapon and other clues.
"He was just a mild mannered, fine, upstanding gentleman, and I just can't possibly imagine why anybody would do what they've done,'' local RSL president Dr Kevin Smith told Seven News.
Armidale mayor, Peter Ducat, said the murder was distressing.
"I'm shocked to think that something like this could happen in Armidale.
Most people would be sickened that an 82-year-old person has been murdered in their own home,'' he told Nine News.
Neighbours said Mr Hutchinson had lived alone at the house after moving there in 1985.
Neighbour Jenny Schultz said the man was well-liked in the area.
"I just can't believe it, he was so friendly. The whole neighbourhood thought he was wonderful,'' she said.