A CAMPERDOWN armed robber who held a boning knife to an elderly man’s throat before stealing his car has been jailed for five years.
Damien Allen Searle, 27, of Wright Street, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool County Court yesterday to armed robbery, burglary at the Peterborough Caravan Park, stealing a Mitsubishi van, a Panasonic television and two four-wheel-drive motorbikes and attempting to steal a Hyundai sedan.
Judge James Montgomery said that over two days in May Searle had engaged in a drug-fuelled mini-crime rampage.
He said the armed robbery of the car involving the elderly victim must have been frightening and was appalling behaviour.
The judge said if Searle did not get off drugs he could expect more time in prison and would have a shortened life span. He suggested Searle, who has a lengthy criminal record, should assess the impact on his victims.
Searle was sentence to five years’ imprisonment and will have to serve three years before being eligible for parole. He will also have to pay more than $2000 compensation.
Crown prosecutor Justin Lewis said that on the morning of Saturday, May 18, Searle and a co-accused went to Curdievale-Timboon Road where they stole a Mitsubishi van.
They then drove to Peterborough where they stole a flat-screen TV from a caravan park and used an angle grinder to cut an internal wall and back door off the van before driving to nearby Dawson’s Bush, where they became bogged.
They also stole a quad motorbike from Scotts Creek and put it in the van. The offenders then went to Princetown but couldn’t get fuel and used fuel from the quad bike in the van.
The quad bike fell out of the van and was badly damaged. The van was also later written off by insurers due to the damage it sustained.
The offenders then drove east before running out of fuel near Lavers Hill on Saturday evening.
They then stole another quad bike and attempted to steal a Hyundai at Chapple Vale, north-east of Apollo Bay.
About 10.30am on Sunday they asked an elderly man to drive them to Simpson in a Magna sedan after he gave them a glass of water.
Searle was seated behind the driver.
He put the blade of a boning knife to the throat of the driver who tried to push it away before stopping his car.
The co-accused drove a short way before Searle took over driving. They hid the stolen car at Jancourt behind trees.
Searle later made full admissions to police and showed officers where he hid the stolen car.
Defence counsel David Cronin said his client, who started using illicit substances when he was 16, had been involved in serious offending during “a last hurrah” of amphetamine use before giving up drugs for good.
He said Searle took a significant amount of speed which triggered a “survival mode” and led to him becoming lost and stealing the vehicles in an attempt to get back to near Curdievale, where he had left his girlfriend’s car.
Mr Cronin said Searle’s family knew the armed robbery victim and Searle was deeply ashamed of his actions but had been desperate to get home.
He said Searle had been in a “drug haze” and none of the offending was premeditated or part of a sophisticated plan.
Judge Montgomery said Searle had served an 18-month jail sentence and his parole had ended only 12 months before the May offending.
He said he could do nothing other than jail Searle, adding that it seemed an unusual way to stop drug use — by taking a lot of amphetamine.
Searle’s co-accused is due to appear in court tomorrow.