German backpacker sentenced over death of Chinese sex worker in Tasmania in 2020, husband only knew of her profession after she died

Jingai Zhang

By Erin Cooper,

6th December 2022 – (Hobart) A German backpacker has been sentenced to five years’ jail over the death of a sex worker in Tasmania in 2020. 

Tobias Pick, 29, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and stealing in the Supreme Court in Launceston last month after the charge was downgraded from murder, to which he’d pleaded not guilty.

Chinese-born Australian Jingai Zhang, 49, died on Boxing Day 2020 after Pick had strangled her with her dress during sexual intercourse.

The court heard Pick, who’d been in Australia for around 14 months on a working holiday visa, didn’t seek help for Ms Zhang once he realised she was unconscious.

“He ran away because he was scared, he didn’t call an ambulance,” prosecutor Elizabeth Avery told the court.

“The accused failed to render any assistance whatsoever, instead, he ran away.”

In sentencing, Justice Robert Pearce said Pick’s “conduct after her death added to the seriousness of the crime”.

Ms Avery told the court Ms Zhang had requested to be lightly strangled for “heightened sexual pleasure” but not to the extent that occurred.

David Simmons described his late wife as “kind, caring and always worrying about others”.

Cash, phone stolen

Justice Pearce told the court “consent does not justify or excuse acts that cause death”.

He also told the court he accepted the evidence of a forensic doctor, who said significant force would have been applied for at least a minute and resulted in serious bruising and bleeding around Ms Zhang’s neck.

Justice Pearce additionally found Pick stole $2,400 in cash and Ms Zhang’s phone, which he later threw in the North Esk River.

“The stealing compounded the indignity of Ms Zhang’s death.”

In sentencing submissions, Ms Avery read a victim impact statement from Ms Zhang’s husband, David Simmons, who didn’t know she was a sex worker.

Mr Simmons described his late wife as “kind, caring and always worrying about others”.

“She was naturally friendly and got along with everyone … you just couldn’t imagine this happening,” he wrote.

“What [Pick] did ruined everything in every way.” 

The phone Pick stole had family photos on it that couldn’t be recovered — a fact Justice Pearce accepted made life even harder for Ms Zhang’s family.

Offender ‘regrets his actions’

Pick’s lawyer, Olivia Jenkins, told the court he “greatly regrets he did not seek medical attention” for Ms Zhang.

“At no point did he realise she was struggling to breathe,” she said.

She said Pick, who was crying in the stand while details of the crime were being read out, showed “great remorse” for his actions and had no criminal record.

“He regrets his actions every day.”

Justice Pearce accepted Pick was now sorry for what he did and took into account positive character references from friends and employers in Germany.