9 violent gun crimes that shocked the Valley

Police tape marks where a bullet has believed to have struck a wall of a house in Through St, South Grafton.
Police tape marks where a bullet has believed to have struck a wall of a house in Through St, South Grafton. Tim Howard

THIS week a bullet hole was found in an external wall following an alleged altercation at a South Grafton home.

While no one was injured and the police investigation is ongoing, the incident piqued interest in the community, particularly due to the proximity of the incident to neighbouring homes.

Regardless of their nature, shooting incidents are always a shock to the community. Here's nine other gun crimes that made the headlines in the Clarence Valley.

1. CHRISTMAS EVE CAR PARK MURDER

ON Christmas Day, 1986, a 23-year-old Grafton man was charged with the murder of a 21-year-old man who was shot after leaving a Christmas Eve party.

Lindsay David Davis of Grafton was shot twice as he left the Grafton District Services Club shortly before midnight. One blast from a pump-action shotgun struck him in the back. A second blast hit him in the chest as he lay on the ground.

Police said a man gave himself up one and a half hours later.

2. YAMBA TRUCKIE SHOT IN HIGHWAY AMBUSH NEAR GRAFTON

DISTRICT Court heard two members of a motorcycle club had acted in a 'joint criminal enterprise' to murder Yamba truck driver Jonathon Koen.

David Charles Brown, 40, and Spyro Sophiadakis, 45, were found to have shot with intent to murder Mr Koen while he was seated in his prime mover near Grafton on May 26, 2006. In October, 2006 the two men were each sentenced to 15 years' jail with a non-parole period of 10 years.

Koen had been travelling south along the Pacific Highway with Sophiadakis. The two men stopped about 11km from the intersection of the Wooli Road and Pacific Highway, where Koen, who had been sitting in the driver's seat of the truck, began to fill out a vehicle log book.

Soon after stopping, Brown appeared at the driver's window and shot Koen in the right side of the chest. It was alleged that Brown attempted to fire the gun a second time, but the pistol jammed, so he jumped from the vehicle.

Koen 'accelerated away as fast as he could' but was ambushed again, this time by Sophiadakis, who the court heard had been 'holding onto the truck with his left hand and holding a pistol in the right hand'.

With a fresh gunshot wound, Koen attempted to shake Sophiadakis from the truck, driving about 800m down the highway before the truck stopped in some bushes.

Koen lived to tell the tale.

3. CANGAI SIEGE AT HANGING ROCK STATION

MURDERERS Leonard Leabeater, Robert Steele and Raymond Bassett went on a nine-day rampage across Queensland and New South Wales in March, 1993, resulting in their taking hostages in a siege in a farmhouse at Hanging Rock Station, Cangai, near Grafton, New South Wales, and threatening to kill people indiscriminately.

Whilst on the run for five days the trio murdered five people after kidnapping then 11-year-old Trevor and nine-year-old Tonia Lasserre.

During the 26-hour siege numerous shots were fired by the trio at NSW Police Tactical Operations Unit officers.   Leabeater killed himself the following day; Steele and Bassett surrendered to police, and Steele was later sentenced to five consecutive life sentences plus 12 years without parole. He hanged himself in prison on 23 December 1994. Bassett was later sentenced to two consecutive life sentences with a non-parole period of 34 years for his part in the killings.

The siege is also infamous for the actions of news reporters Mike Willesee who was heavily criticised for telephoning the gunman and speaking with the children being held hostage whilst live on air, and Mike Munro who with his news crew landed a helicopter close to the homestead despite an exclusion on such flights.

4. MAD MAX-STYLE SHOOT-OUT AT COPMANHURST

FAMILY feud shoot-out which left one man with a gunshot wound and three men - 41-year-old Lloyd Death, his 37-year-old brother Wade Death and 29-year-old Kurtis Young - facing serious charges, was likened to something out of a Mad Max film.

>> Death walks free after 'Mad-Max-style' shootout

According to the facts, there had been a "long history of animosity" between the Death brothers, but it was on March 14, 2015, that things escalated.

The confrontation began when Lloyd Death rode his motorcycle past Wade's parked vehicle on Stockyard Creek Rd, near Copmanhurst, on his way home. The pair exchanged "hand gestures" before Wade got into the car and followed him dangerously close. On overtaking the motorcycle, Wade threw a half-full Jack Daniels stubby at Lloyd, and and for the next 4km threw bolts and screws from the car.

The police facts stated that on arriving home, and after hearing his brother's car doing burnouts, Lloyd took a Winchester rifle out of his gun safe and placed it on his bed with ammunition.

Wade, accompanied by Young, then drove up Lloyd's driveway, both men holding rifles, and when they started shooting at Lloyd he loaded his gun and fired back, hitting Wade's vehicle.

After a dangerous exchange Lloyd ran to the house and reloaded while Wade and Young moved into scrub down the road, from where they continued to fire shots at Lloyd and his property.

When police arrived to investigate they found bullet holes in a tractor, Jeep, shed and caravan on the property, as well as shattered windows.

Wade Death was sentenced to two years' jail with a non-parole period of 12 months for the shooting, which, due to time already served, saw him sign his parole papers the day of the sentencing.

The defence counsel dismissed allegations that Lloyd was firing a gun at them while riding a motorbike as fanciful and said that while the facts read like a "Mad Max movie", he indicated that the charges against Lloyd Death would be defended. Lloyd Death walked away from court in December with a nine-month good behaviour bond.

None of the three men were licensed firearms holders and none of the weapons used were registered.

5. NEAR MISS IN DRIVE-BY SHOOTING

A BULLET fired from the road outside a South Grafton home narrowly missed an elderly man as he watched television in February, 2010.

The bullet, later confirmed to have been fired from a large calibre rifle, passed through the front lounge room window of the house, through a vertical blind then hit a glass cabinet on the opposite wall. It smashed the door of the cabinet, ricocheted off a side wall, smashed a mirror at the back of the cabinet and came to rest near the shattered door.

The passage of the bullet was less than a metre from the man as he sat in his favourite lounge chair watching television. Much of the room was covered in small pieces of glass.  

Bullet holes following a shooting attack on the home of a South Grafton couple in 2010.
Bullet holes following a shooting attack on the home of a South Grafton couple in 2010. The Daily Examiner

"I heard a bang and I knew it was from a gun," he said. "I got up and went to the front door and looked outside, but I didn't see anything. It was dark.

"Just before the shot, I thought I heard a car engine, going taka-taka-taka, but I couldn't be sure."

The man and his wife called police immediately and were shocked to hear that only one police car was available for the entire Clarence command between 6pm and 6am on the night.

"We rang triple-0 and had to answer a lot of silly questions before they put us through," said the man's wife.

Police investigating the attack played down speculation that it was a drive-by shooting.

"Police are trying to determine the exact nature of the projectile. There is nothing yet to confirm that it is a bullet," Coffs-Clarence crime commander Cameron Lindsay said.

"I've seen a lot of 'shootings' that turn out to be slingshots," he said.

The victims later criticised the police handling of the publicity surrounding their case.

"When it first came out they (senior police) said it might be a slingshot. We felt they were making light of our situation," the elderly woman said.

"The police that came here to investigate the matter said it was a bullet at the time. All of the police who have come to our house have been genuine and terrific and understanding, but you can't say the same for their superiors."

Police were critical of reports in The Daily Examiner that said the couple were the victims of a drive-by shooting.  

"There's nothing to suggest the house had been targeted and there's nothing to show it was a case of mistaken identity," Detective Senior Constable Grahame Burke said.

"The fact is that it appears to be a random act, which makes it harder to investigate."

6. DRAMATIC STAND-OFF AT MULLAWAY

A LONE gunman kept police at bay for almost four hours in a dramatic stand-off at Mullaway, south of Grafton in February, 2007.

  Woolgoolga police initially responded to reports at 11.03am that the 53-year-old had barricaded himself in a house and that he had a firearm.

Additional police were deployed from throughout the district, along with heavily-armed officers from the State Protection Support Unit and police negotiators. None of them were taking any chances, wearing bullet-proof vests throughout the emergency.

A few anxious moments came at 12.22pm when a shot was fired from inside the house, possibly into the roof, but word came through that the man was okay and was still talking to negotiators.

Police gradually took up strategic positions around the home and the yard, and about 2.40pm, the man surrendered.

Some locals scaled their roofs to get a better look at the action, while at least one gardener continued working away, seemingly oblivious to the hive of activity only 200 metres from his backyard. One resident described the alleged offender as 'a really a quiet, harmless guy'.

7. WIDESPREAD NATIVE BIRD SHOOTINGS

Not all shooting incidents involve people. Shooting animals - in particular native animals - can attract severe penalties. Several cases have appeared in The Daily Examiner over the years.

One particular spate of native bird shootings angered the community in 2005. 

Clarence Valley WIRES calling for urgent action following the apparent shooting of an increasing number of wedge-tailed eagles, white-bellied sea eagles, pelicans, jabirus, black swans and other birds in the Whiteman Creek and Seelands area.

"The majority of raptors from that area are gone," one WIRES representative said. "All raptors are protected and endangered. The native birds of the area have been decimated. Now all that is left are lorikeets, magpies and a few thousand crows.

A DEC spokesman said if a person was convicted of killing a protected species, such as the wedge-tailed eagle or the white-bellied sea eagle, they could face fines of up to $11,000 and/or a six-month jail term.

Red Centre Bird Week - Wedge-tailed Eagle
Red Centre Bird Week - Wedge-tailed Eagle

 

8. IS THAT A GUN IN YOUR PANTS?

IT WAS a gun in his pants, but he wasn't pleased to see them.

Police charged a man with numerous firearms offences after locating a loaded firearm in his pants during a vehicle stop in the Clarence Valley in March, 2015.

About 1am police stopped a white Holden Commodore near the intersection of Bent and Ryan Sts, South Grafton, and spoke with the four male occupants.

Police conducted a search of the vehicle and located a machete, a knife, methyl amphetamine and .22 calibre bullets. During a subsequent search of the men, officers located a loaded .22 calibre sawn-off rifle down the pants of a 23-year-old man. He was charged with possess loaded firearm in public place, alter/deface identification mark on a firearm, possess ammunition without licence, possess shortened firearm (not pistol) and possess unlawful firearm.

9. SPATE OF FIREARM THEFT

FIVE firearms stolen from a Grafton address in June this year brought the total number of guns stolen from the Clarence Valley in a six month period to 18.

The registered firearms, including a Winchester .22 calibre rifle, a Weatherby Mk22 Sporter rifle, a Browning 17 bolt action rifle, a Harrington single-barrel shotgun and a Tikka T3 204 rifle, were stolen from a safe during a break and enter into a house on Turf St.

At least three other houses had already been subjected to the loss of registered firearms since late December. In all but one instance the gun safes had been forced open.

* Investigations for some of the incidents in this list are ongoing. Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.



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