16 December 2021

Woman cleans up evidence in bloody crime scene after her friend was shot in the face

| Albert McKnight
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A woman aged in her 30s has been sentenced for destroying or concealing evidence after a shooting. Photo: File

After intruders burst into a woman’s home and her friend was blasted in the face with a gun, she cleaned up the crime scene they left behind.

However, the ACT Magistrates Court heard the woman, who legally cannot be named out of concerns for her safety, went on to provide significant help to police investigating the bloody incident.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said on 11 March 2021 there was an exchange between the woman, aged in her 30s, and several others who thought her friend was a pedophile.

Several people went to the woman’s home, one shot the friend in the face and torso with a sawn-off rifle, then they all fled.

The shooter is alleged to be 23-year-old Sugimatatihuna Bernard Gabriel Mena, who is fighting his charges.

Sugimatatihuna Bernard Gabriel Mena

Sugimatatihuna Bernard Gabriel Mena, 23, is fighting allegations he was involved in a shooting. Photo: Facebook

Magistrate Walker said after the shooting, the victim refused to go to hospital as he didn’t want the woman, who had been released on parole for another sentence at the time, to get arrested, so another person took him. The victim was placed in a medically induced coma for about a week.

The woman tried to clean up the blood in her house with towels and dishcloths, then put them in a washing machine. She also collected spent cartridges and put them in a bin.

When she later spoke to police she told them she goes into “cleaning mode when stressed”.

Magistrate Walker said while she was not involved in the shooting herself, her criminal conduct of cleaning up the crime scene had the potential to undermine the criminal justice system.

However, she also said she thought the woman began cleaning as an avoidant strategy to address her flight or fight state.

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In November, the woman’s lawyer, Emma Bayliss, said the woman had gone on to give “a significant amount of assistance to police”, but because of that, she had been receiving threats while being held in custody.

She also said the woman relapsed into drug use because she witnessed the “horrific” incident and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prosecutor Soraya Saikal-Skea said the woman was a witness, “but if anything she was on the side of the complainant” and there was “no doubt” she would have been shocked to see someone she knew shot in the face.

She noted the woman tried to stop the intruders from entering her house and tried to give assistance to the victim.

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She said the woman would be a witness in a trial that was likely to go ahead in April 2022, for which one person had been charged with attempted murder and two others were facing associated charges.

The woman was taken back into custody earlier this year after breaching her parole for a separate sentence that totals several years.

Magistrate Walker said the woman’s evidence corroborated the victim’s and while her assistance had come “quite late” she still gave her a 40 per cent discount on her sentence.

The woman pleaded guilty to a charge of destroying or concealing evidence.

On Thursday (16 December), she was sentenced to an extra five months’ jail on top of her current sentence, but was eligible to apply for parole from that day.

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