Early one morning three years ago, father-of-one Ben Batterham's life changed forever when he defended his home against a burglar high on ice and armed with knives.

Within a day of the terrifying home invasion, and after a vicious fight with the burglar almost twice his size, Mr Batterham would find himself charged with murder.

The chef would be locked up in one of the state's toughest prisons, separated from his young daughter and fiancee, news.com.au reports.

Only later would Mr Batterham discover the man who had broken into his seven-month-old daughter's bedroom was the convicted rapist of a teenage girl.


Ricky Slater, who was armed with three knives and carrying ecstasy pills, stolen phones and had a lethal level of methamphetamine in his system, was also a convicted drug addict and robber.

Now, three years and nine months later, the cloud hanging over Mr Batterham's life has finally lifted with his trial for Slater's murder ending with his being found not guilty.

But will the trauma Mr Batterham went through because he defended his family home every truly go away?

It was after 3am on Saturday, March 26, 2016 when Mr Batterham and his friend, Paul O'Keefe, were drinking beer at a house on Cleary St, Hamilton, a suburb of Newcastle.

Ben Batterham was bitten and punched by Ricky Slater. Photo / Supplied
Ben Batterham was bitten and punched by Ricky Slater. Photo / Supplied

Mr Batterham had just turned 33 and his young daughter and fiancee, Monique Cameron, were at his parents' house next door, while the men celebrated into the early hours.

He and Mr O'Keefe were in the front room of the slightly rundown house, drinking and listening to music.

At 3.20am, Slater, 34, entered the home through a side door and made his way along a corridor to the nursery.

At the time he was carrying three knives, a pair of scissors, three new Apple iPhones, a smart watch, four MDMA (ecstasy) tablets, two prescription pills and Suboxone Film, an opiate used to treat heroin addicts, plus $570 in cash.


After Slater entered the bedroom and took Ms Cameron's handbag, Mr Batterham heard a noise and ran towards the intruder as he exited via the side door.

Mr Batterham and Mr O'Keefe gave chase, with all three men running onto Cleary St, turning right and running until Mr Batterham stumbled, falling onto his head.

But he got up and continued to pursue Slater, who had then ducked out of sight.

Mr Batterham and his friend ran into people returning home from a party, who had seen a large man carrying a small dark handbag run by.

Upon finding out what had happened, one partygoer suggested they call triple-0.

As Mr Batterham borrowed his phone to do so, they heard sounds from a bush and Slater emerged and ran off.

Ben Batterham was charged with the murder of Ricky Slater (pictured). Photo / Supplied
Ben Batterham was charged with the murder of Ricky Slater (pictured). Photo / Supplied

Still in possession of the partygoer's mobile, Mr Batterham tackled Slater onto the ground.

The pursuit from the house where the home invasion had taken place was 365 metres, and Slater weighed 118kg, had a heart condition and 0.71 milligrams per litre of ice in his system.

Mr Batterham was of course unaware of these details, or that just 0.54 milligrams per litre of methamphetamine could be lethal.

Slater was now face down on the road.

Observers heard Mr Batterham say "you f***ing dog. You f***ing piece of s**t'. I have a seven month daughter and you break into my house".

Slater bit Mr Batterham who told him, "Get off me. You're hurting my arm".

Mr Batterham was heard to say, "you're done for mate, the cops are coming".

From a nearby house, one of Newcastle's top detectives – since retired – Detective Inspector Peter Mahon emerged and grabbed Mr Batterham and said "let him go".

Slater was still struggling and said "I can't breathe, let me go".

Mahon observed that Mr Batterham would not let go of Slater and that the bigger man's face was pressed to one side on the ground, and was "not struggling or speaking as much as before".

A police truck arrived and two constables handcuffed Slater, who was now motionless.

When they could not make him respond, Slater was uncuffed, placed into an ambulance, given CPR and taken to the city's John Hunter Hospital.

Mr Batterham, who was unsteady on his feet and still aggressive and angry, was placed in an ambulance.

He told officers en route to hospital, "Where is he? Give me two minutes with him. I'll kill the dog."

Will the trauma Mr Batterham went through because he defended his family home every truly go away? Photo / Supplied
Will the trauma Mr Batterham went through because he defended his family home every truly go away? Photo / Supplied

Mr Batterham was treated for his injuries, photographed and taken to Newcastle Police Station.

Police charged him with recklessly cause grievous bodily harm, and granted him bail.

Slater's condition continued to deteriorate into the Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

At 11.23am, surrounded by family members, his life support was switched off.

A post mortem fund deep bruising around his throat and skol and a fractured larynx.

At 5pm on Sunday, Mr Batterham presented himself at Newcastle Police Station where he was charged with murder and placed under arrest.

He was taken to Cessnock Maximum Security Correctional Centre, further into the Hunter Valley.

As news of the weekend's incident dominated the media, a "Free Ben Batterham" Facebook page was started.

By the Tuesday after the incident, 8000 people had signed a series of online petitions demanding then NSW Premier Mike Baird and prosecutors release Mr Batterham, who did not apply for bail.

One of the petitions read, "if you cannot legally protect yourself, your home and most importantly your family then 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?"

A rally was held at Sydney Town Hall for "Ben Batterham, a father defending family from an intruder".

Slater's mother Beryl Dickson launched a campaign in behalf of her dead son, saying he had served jail time for offences and was back on "an even keel" before his death.

Mr Batterham engaged prominent NSW criminal defence barrister, Winston Terracini, SC, who argued that the murder charge should be dropped.

Granted $200,000 bail in May 2016, Mr Batterham had it revoked when he breached his conditions by drinking alcohol at a local hotel, and getting caught drink driving.

He was later convicted of high-range drink-driving and given 100 hours' community service, a $500 fine, and ordered to install an alcohol lock on his car.

Solicitor Peter O'Brien argued Mr Battenham had post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, and had been the subject of "very significant threats".

Mr Batterham's Supreme Court trial for Slater's alleged murder began on November 4 and concluded on November 19, when the jury retired to consider their verdict.

The jury had been read a letter written by Mr Batterham in which he wrote he had "never intended to cause" Slater serious harm.

Mr Batterham admitted he had been angry and wanted to get the small, dark shoulder bag Slater had taken from the house.

"I was only trying to keep him from getting away … he bit me on the right arm.

"All I wanted was for him was to stop."

The jury took less than a day to agree Mr Batterham was telling the truth, and find him not guilty of murder.