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Here's a chapter from my children's book on crime - Crime Time: Australians behaving badly. It's missing only the artwork by Louise Prout. Enjoy!
THE APRIL FOOL’S DAY STUFF-UP
Parents of two, and armed-robber wannabes, Donna Hayes and Benjamin Jorgensen, will always have good reason to hate April Fool’s day. The pair hadn’t lived together for a while, but when they needed cash badly, they decided to work as a team to raise it.
Benjamin hadn’t taken drugs for years, but had gone back to them after a failed relationship had upset him badly. Donna, also a drug user, had used speed to help her get through a long night of housework in 2006. Two days later, she had still had drugs in her blood when she drove 100 km an hour in a 70 km zone. There was an accident and somebody died.
She was out on bail for that charge when the couple received a tip-off. The manager of the Cuckoo, a popular restaurant in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges, would be carrying over $30,000 in cash after the restaurant closed on Sunday 1 April 2007. This had to be the perfect way to raise the money they wanted so badly!
Benjamin armed himself with a sawn-off shotgun. Later, he said he hadn’t intended to hurt anyone, just frighten his victims. This may be true, but the gun was still loaded. It was going to make trouble for them and send Donna to hospital. Donna took a hammer to use as her weapon. With a third person to drive the getaway car, they went to Olinda, the suburb where the restaurant was located.
After midnight, when the staff members were beginning to leave, they sprang out at the restaurant’s manager, Peter Schmidt, who was carrying a black plastic bag.
‘Give me the bag or I’ll blow your head off!’ shouted Benjamin.
‘What do you want with the bag?’ asked the surprised Peter Schmidt. ‘There’s only bread rolls in there.’
But he handed over the bag and also didn’t think it was safe to argue when Jorgensen demanded his car keys.
That was when things really began to go wrong for the klutzy armed robbers. Jorgensen fumbled with the keys, trying to open the wrong car. His gun went off, but it didn’t shoot the robbery victim. It hit Donna, who fell to the ground screaming with pain.
While this was going on, Schmidt and his boss, Horst Lantzsch, ran back into the restaurant, where they called police.
Poor Donna and Benjamin! They had failed to get their money. One of them was injured. And the rolls weren’t even fresh! Peter Schmidt had been taking them home to feed his chickens.
Somehow, the failed robbers got back to their car and drove to Donna’s home in Belgrave. There, Benjamin asked a friend to take Donna to hospital. If he had taken her himself, perhaps the police would have taken longer to find him, but they caught up with him at the house soon afterwards.
Donna was moved from the William Angliss, a local hospital, to Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, where she was treated, but kept under guard.
Melbourne newspapers, which thought the story was very funny, couldn’t agree on where Donna had been injured. Some papers said she’d been shot in the stomach. Others thought the wound was in her hip, or her hip and leg. There was even a suggestion she had been shot in the bum!
Wherever she had been injured, Donna survived and both she and Benjamin went on trial for the attempted robbery. They must have been very embarrassed. Certainly, the court felt that they had both shown remorse for their crime. Benjamin’s family said that this was just not the sort of thing that he would normally do.
That didn’t stop them from being sentenced to fairly long terms in jail. The judge, who called them fools, took into account their problems and Benjamin’s prospects of rehabilitation. Still, Benjamin received a term of seven years, with a minimum of four and a half years before he could apply for parole. Donna’s sentence was longer. She would have to spend at least five and a half years of her eight-year sentence in jail.
They would have a long time to cringe with embarrassment over their failed attempt to get the dough!