1 December 2022

'Utterly terrifying': attempted murder retrial hears closing submissions

| Albert McKnight
Law Courts of the ACT.

Sugimatatihuna Bernard Gabriel Mena, 24, is facing an ACT Supreme Court retrial charged with attempted murder. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Jurors in an attempted murder retrial have been told how “utterly terrifying” it must have been when two people allegedly forced their way into a Canberra home before a third person entered and allegedly shot a man.

When the retrial began last week, jurors heard 24-year-old Sugimatatihuna Bernard Gabriel Mena was accused of shooting the complainant in the face and stomach at the home in Spence on 11 March 2021.

It was alleged Bradley Joe Roberts, 24, and Rebecca Dulcie Parlov, 25, barged their way into the house where the complainant’s friend lived, and Ms Parlov called the complainant a “kiddie fiddler”.

Mr Mena then allegedly went inside wearing a face covering before he pulled out a sawn-off .22 rifle and shot the complainant who was placed in an induced coma when he arrived at hospital. He awoke a week later.

“How utterly terrifying it must have been for them as it quickly unfolded,” Crown Prosecutor Trent Hickey said during closing submissions on Tuesday and Wednesday (29-30 November).

He said there was no issue the complainant had been shot twice and a doctor told jurors “it was just luck” the injuries hadn’t been fatal.

Mr Hickey said the main issue with the attempted murder charge was whether or not jurors were satisfied Mr Mena had been the shooter.

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He said a forensic chemist estimated the gun had been between half a metre to three metres away when it was fired, while photos of the house showed how tight the space had been.

“Mr Mena wasn’t shooting to scare [the complainant], he was shooting to kill him,” he alleged.

He said the complainant’s friend had texted another person about 10 minutes after the shooting, who asked, “Who shot him?”

“Sugi did. WTF?” the friend replied.

Mr Hickey said when police interviewed the complainant and asked who shot him, he also said it was “Sugi”. Mr Hickey argued this was offered before the complainant knew his friend had sent the text alleging who was involved.

Mr Mena has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder. The trio has also pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated burglary.

Mr Hickey alleged that in the lead-up to the shooting, Mr Roberts messaged the complainant’s friend to say: “I’m not going to let this slide.” He also allegedly tried to make numerous calls to her.

The friend also alleged she heard a car pull up outside her house while on the phone to Ms Parlov, who told her “we’re coming in anyway”.

But Mr Mena’s barrister, Slade Howell, said the complainant conceded at one stage he couldn’t remember the face of the person who shot him.

He claimed when his client was named during the course of the investigation, the other possible lines of inquiry appeared to have come to a halt.

Barrister Mary Keaney, representing Mr Roberts, argued the Crown’s case “rises and falls” on jurors accepting the evidence of the complainant and his friend, including their claims that her client was present.

She argued the reliability of the complainant and his friend was “troubling” and their evidence featured lies, discrepancies, an unwillingness to report, drug use and had been given “in circumstances to achieve their own ends”.

“This may be an uncomfortable fact, but both are practised liars,” barrister Keegan Lee, who appeared for Ms Parlov, said in his address.

He said the friend had been involved in another serious case some time ago during which “she lied to protect herself” and said the complainant also had “serious issues with his memory”.

Mr Lee claimed the complainant had been threatened by people associated with an outlaw motorcycle gang, which he was quitting, in the lead-up to the shooting. These were people who had nothing to do with the three accused, he said.

He claimed the complainant was in fear of this gang and argued the text messages he sent on the topic reflected the actual situation of what was happening at the time, even though the complainant had also said the messages had been lies.

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Ms Keaney said the only evidence, aside from what the complainant and his friend had given, was circumstantial, such as messages. Ms Keaney and Mr Lee said no forensic evidence had implicated their clients.

Ms Keaney said a lot had been made of messages and calls from a social media account alleged to be that of Mr Roberts to the complainant’s friend, but suggested these communications did not contain any accusation that the complainant was a paedophile.

Mr Mena has also pleaded not guilty to other charges.

Justice David Mossop will give his summing up to jurors before they begin their deliberations.

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