Although Knowles’ partner told The Age the father was turning his life around, a photograph published by the local news site suggested sentiment about his passing in the community was mixed. The photo showed a sign on the gate of a property in Kirkstall. “Free. Trav, you and the Kirkstall community are now free from Kevin Knowles. RIP,” the sign read.
Ray, meanwhile, was described by a friend as a “good-hearted man” and a drifter who had recently moved to NSW but was planning a return to Victoria.
Ray arrived in Kirkstall earlier in the week from Gulargambone, a rural town of 400 people on the Castlereagh River, north of Dubbo in NSW, where he had moved earlier this year after buying a dilapidated two-bedroom home.
Friend Tim Tincknell said Ray purchased the property without visiting the town and soon found he disliked the area. He was due to return to Dubbo to sign some paperwork to sell the house and relocate to Victoria when he was shot.
In a message to Tincknell the day before he was killed, Ray said something had come up and he would be delaying his return to NSW.
“Hey mate, still coming to Dubbo. I won’t be there on Monday, sorry mate. But will be there next week. Something’s come up that I have to attend. See you mate when I get there. Bye,” the message read.
Tincknell, who was helping Ray renovate the Gulargambone home, said he felt sick in his stomach when he learned of his friend’s death. He said Ray was a quiet and good-hearted man who wanted to fit in and was often taken advantage of.
Tincknell said Ray had become depressed after the death of his second wife and flirted with drugs, but he had been clean for a while. Both of his wives died unexpectedly.
Ray had been estranged from his family for years and had recently reconnected with his father, Tincknell said.
Tincknell speculated that Ray, who met Knowles at a bus stop, had probably been caught in the middle of a feud. He said the 48-year-old would have struggled to defend himself.
The circumstances of the shooting are still being investigated but Knowles’ partner of five years, Tracey Leske, previously told The Age she believed the men were “ambushed” by Cashmore.
Leske said Knowles and Cashmore “indirectly” had disagreements in the past, and Cashmore occasionally gave Knowles a lift into Koroit.
On Monday, residents in the Kirkstall area said people were still trying to come to terms with the brutal end to three men’s lives. More than 100 people packed into the Kirkstall Hotel in the hours after the tragedy to try to comprehend what happened.
The coroner’s office is where details of the fatal dispute will probably be unearthed, as police prepare a report for any inquiry.
Knowles’ criminal history spanned close to 300 charges. He and his then-girlfriend of him, Amanda Bourke, were also questioned about the death of father Stephen Johnston after the 57-year-old’s badly beaten body was found on the floor of his Warrnambool home on December 8, 2016, but no charges were laid.
Forensic investigators were unable to explain exactly what caused Johnston’s catastrophic injuries but found blood splattered across five rooms of the home, with an autopsy finding Johnston had suffered more than 100 injuries in the attack.
The trio had spent the night drinking alcohol at the property before Johnston was found.
Bourke later drowned while swimming with Knowles at Killarney beach, between Port Fairy and Warrnambool. A coroner found her death of her was not suspicious.
Coroner Simon McGregor found in 2020 that Knowles was responsible for the injuries and neglect that caused Johnston’s death.
He referred the suspected murder to the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider charges against Knowles.
With Jackson Graham
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