ON the terrible scale of murderous acts it was shockingly callous and gratuitously cruel; a man set on fire and left to die by an isolated stretch of road in the middle of the night.
But as he screamed in agony by the side of lonely Oakdale Road at Whitebridge in the early hours of August 20 last year, Wade Still made a "dying declaration" that helped catch, and convict, his killer.
On Wednesday that man, David John McCauley, 36, appeared in Newcastle Local Court via audio visual link from Wellington Correctional Centre and pleaded guilty to murder, admitting to what Mr Still had told first responders - that he had set Mr Still alight and left him for dead.
Guilty pleas to murder in the local court are somewhat rare, so Magistrate Robert Stone read the indictment to McCauley as he sat patiently on the AVL screen.
"Between 11.18pm on August 19 and 2am on August 20, 2018, you did murder Wade Still," Mr Stone began. "How do you plead?"
"Guilty," McCauley responded.
McCauley, who is represented by solicitor Chris O'Brien, will next appear in Sydney Supreme Court on November 1 to get a sentence date.
He faces a maximum of life in jail for what was undoubtedly a gratuitously cruel and gruesome killing.
Meanwhile, Troy McCosker, 50, who is also charged with Mr Still's murder, intends to plead not guilty and will be committed for trial, the court heard.
Mr McCosker, who is represented by solicitor Mark Hanlon, will next appear in Newcastle Local Court on October 9 after McCauley gave a "fresh interview" to police about Mr Still's death.
A taxi driver told police he was driving along Oakdale Road about 1am on August 20, 2018, when he saw a small fire in grass by the side of the road at the entrance to a quarry.
He did a u-turn and called triple-zero before hearing screaming and seeing Mr Still "sitting, huddled on the ground" near the fire.
A Fire and Rescue NSW officer arrived a short time later and asked Mr Still his name and what happened.
"David McCauley poured petrol on me," Mr Still replied.
"David McCauley did it."
Detectives claimed that due to the fact Mr Still believed he was about to die from his injuries, that those statements to witnesses could be classified as a "dying declaration", one of the exceptions to the ban of hearsay evidence being used in criminal proceedings.
David McCauley poured petrol on me. David McCauley did it.Wade Still's dying declaration.