The gunman who brought a night of terror to an innocent suburban family who had only tried to help his ex-partner has been jailed.
Bricklayer and cannabis grower Benjamin Darrell Hallam will spend years behind bars after he was sentenced on Friday (2 July) for shooting the family’s good Samaritan grandfather in the chest – soon after the middle-aged man had undergone open-heart surgery.
His supporters called out, “see you soon, Benny, love you” and “love you, babe”, while another broke down in tears as the 33-year-old was led away by corrections officers after Justice John Burns jailed him for at least two years and five months.
On the night of 30 May 2020, Hallam’s now 21-year-old ex-partner Isabella Denis accidentally knocked on the victims’ door in suburban Belconnen when looking for her friend’s house.
“Oh, sorry, wrong house,” she said after the couple’s eight-year-old granddaughter answered the door. She then went and laid down on the road outside their home.
Worried she could be hit by a car, the couple asked if she was okay, to which she replied, “f–k off”.
Concerned she would be hit by a car, the grandfather picked her up and put her on the footpath – an act of kindness that enraged her. She struck him in the face and yelled obscenities as the couple left, including “go back to your own country”.
Denis called Hallam and told him she “had been bashed by five black guys”, so he told his best friend Paul Fredrickson, now 35, he was going to find out what was happening and asked him to come to help.
Less than an hour later, at about 9:00 pm, Hallam and Fredrickson approached the grandparents’ home, armed with a shortened 12-gauge pump-action shotgun and a blue baseball bat, respectively.
The granddaughter was sitting metres away from the front door watching TV when Fredrickson smashed an adjacent glass window using the bat and the girl started screaming.
As she and her grandmother fled to a neighbours’ house, her grandfather grabbed the bat and struggled to yank it away from Fredrickson before the home invader pulled it free and turned to flee.
But Hallam fired towards the door, striking the grandfather in the left side of his chest with what were later found to be 22 pieces of shotgun pellets.
The grandfather’s teenage son helped him with the bleeding until paramedics arrived.
After fleeing, Fredrickson threw the bat into the West Belconnen Pond and Hallam hid the gun in a pond in the Dunlop Grasslands Nature Reserve.
The grandfather survived, but later told the court he would have to live with the impact of the violence for the rest of his life as shotgun pellets were unable to be removed from his body.
Justice Burns said when police searched Hallam’s home in Charnwood, they found six cannabis plants weighing about 9 kg growing in a hydroponic set up in his bedroom.
He accepted Hallam had not deliberately fired the gun at his victim, but he was “highly reckless” when manipulating the weapon.
“You knew that the shotgun was loaded,” he told him.
Justice Burns also said Hallam’s moral culpability was not reduced just because he had been wrongly led to believe the home’s occupants had attacked his ex-partner.
Even if the assault had taken place, he said, that would not have justified going there with a loaded gun.
But he accepted Hallam was remorseful, saying he had written a letter apologising to his victim.
Fredrickson and Denis pleaded guilty to all charges laid against them over the incident when they appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court, with the former jailed for at least 10 months and the latter given an 18-month good behaviour order.
Hallam pleaded guilty to five charges, including discharging a firearm at a building and recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm.
Justice Burns sentenced him to a total of four years and five months’ jail, but he may be released on parole after two years and five months’ time in November 2023.