The man behind a brutal killing on the NSW South Coast was told “you’re not always Mr Charm” by a magistrate when he was hauled back before the ACT Magistrates Court to deal with several shoplifting offences.
“I cancelled all my plans for this your honour!” 38-year-old Matthew Gagalowicz told Magistrate Beth Campbell over audio-visual link from jail on Friday (5 August) after she apologised for taking time to organise the court files before his sentencing.
In February 2003, Gagalowicz beat drug dealer Ricky Mark Smith to death with a baseball bat in Bulli before dismembering his body, putting the different parts in a suitcase and burying them all in a backyard.
He was charged with murder, but in 2005 a jury acquitted him of that charge and instead convicted him of manslaughter.
He was originally sentenced to a four-year non-parole period, but this was overturned on appeal to six years and he was released on parole in 2009.
Late last year, he was handed a partially-suspended 12-month jail sentence over a string of crimes in Canberra, including assault.
But he was back in court on Friday where he was convicted on four counts of minor theft and one of failing to appear in court.
Gagalowicz stole items like sunglasses, envelopes, thank you cards, fountain pens and bottles of cider from places like Dickson BWS, Tuggeranong Officeworks and a newsagency in Greenway in May 2021 and February 2022.
Magistrate Campbell described it as an “odd choice of items”.
“I must admit I’m not quite sure what the defendant was going to do with a bundle of thank you cards,” she said.
Gagalowicz said he didn’t know either.
His lawyer, Mr Chen from Legal Aid, said his client had already spent 73 days in custody.
He said his diabetic client offended again this year because he was released from custody three days before Christmas in 2021 with no accommodation, support, medication or money and spent the first night sleeping near Belconnen Lake without food.
“He was focused solely on survival,” Mr Chen said.
Magistrate Campbell remarked if what he said about his client’s release was true, then it was an indictment of the system.
What had changed this time was that Gagalowicz will have money, Mr Chen said, because he had been granted a compensation payout after becoming a victim of an assault involving grievous bodily harm himself.
“That’s somewhat ironic isn’t it?” Magistrate Campbell asked.
Mr Chen said the fact his client had money would solve some of his issues and he was not going to burn through the “small fortune” he now had because he also had a job.
Magistrate Campbell said Gagalowicz was clearly intelligent and articulate, but was also “a troubled man” and told him, “you’re not always Mr Charm”.
She said while his criminal record was relevant, she could not sentence him for matters that occurred in the past.
She fined him $3900.
He was also re-sentenced to four months’ jail on an assault he had first been dealt with in December 2021, but will be released on a nine-month good behaviour order when he leaves the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
Afterwards, Gagalowicz thanked Magistrate Campbell for her sentence and said if she had been going to release him that day then he would have asked if she could hold off until Monday anyway so he could have better support during the week.
“It almost looks like I know what I’m doing,” she said.
“Oh, I never doubted you,” he replied.