INTRUDER Richard Slater's pre-existing heart condition combined with a "potentially lethal" level of ice in his system was more likely to have caused his death than being placed in a "choke-hold" or repeatedly punched in the head, a Newcastle Supreme Court has heard.
Dr Jane Vuletic, the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Mr Slater, gave evidence during Benjamin Batterham's murder trial on Wednesday, telling the jury there was a number of factors that could have caused or operated together to cause Mr Slater's death, including being placed in a "choke-hold", punched in the head, the high level of methamphetamine in his system, his pre-existing cardiac disease and obesity.
But Dr Vuletic said the high level of ice, a reading which another medical expert said "had been reported as associated with death", in combination with the pre-existing heart condition was the most likely contributing factor that caused the three episodes of cardiac arrest that led to Mr Slater's death on March 27, 2016.
She opined that the punches to the head were the least likely, describing them as "not a significant factor", and also gave evidence that the hold Mr Batterham had around Mr Slater's neck was a "minor" contributor to the cause of cardiac arrest.
However, while Dr Vuletic agreed with another medical expert who opined that Mr Slater's extreme exercise combined with the high level of methamphetamine caused the episodes of cardiac arrest, she could not ignore as a possible contributing factor that Mr Slater was held down "prone" on the ground in a way that restricted his breathing.
The jury has heard Mr Batterham, now 36, spotted Mr Slater, 34, inside his Hamilton home about 3.20am on March 26, 2016, and chased Mr Slater 330 metres around the streets before tackling him to the ground and pinning him down.
A number of neighbours have given evidence that Mr Batterham held Mr Slater in a "choke-hold", repeatedly punched him in the head and ignored the pleas of Mr Slater, neighbours and an off-duty police officer to let him go.Mr Batterham has pleaded not guilty to murder and the crucial issue during the trial will be Mr Slater's cause of death, with the jury asked to determine if the assault and choke-hold were a "significant or substantial" cause of Mr Slater's death.
The trial continues.