Bartlett’s Tavern armed robbery accused sentenced

A RECIDIVIST offender has been jailed for five years for an armed robbery of a Rockhampton tavern and for stealing a mini van from a car yard and torching it.

Murray John Ezekiela, 28, through his defence barrister Tom Polley said “it was a stupid idea presented to him on the day and he stupidly went along with it”.

Ezekiela (pictured) pleaded guilty in Rockhampton District Court this afternoon to one count each of armed robbery in company, break and enter and commit indictable offence, unlawful use of a motor vehicle and arson.

Crown prosecutor Samantha O’Rourke said Ezekiela, who had a 19-page criminal record, with two other alleged offenders broke into Lawrence’s Holden on Richardson Rd, stole keys from a safe and drove off in a mini van through a perimeter fence.

She said Ezekiela left behind a glove with DNA evidence.

“They then drove to Bartletts Tavern, each armed with a knife,” Ms O’Rourke said.

Video played in court showed all three enter Bartlett’s some time after 1.45am, all wearing hoodies and one wearing a cap underneath.

Ms O’Rourke said two male staff behind the bar, packing up for the night, were told “righto guys, give us all your money. Don’t call anyone. Don’t push any buttons”.

The video showed the men give the offenders tills.

Ms O’Rourke said the trio stole $1100 and left in the mini bus which was later torched.

She tendered photos of the burnt van and two knives located by police.

Ezekiela had been released on parole about a month prior to the armed robbery after being sentenced to 2.5 years prison for burglary, common assault and assault occasioning bodily harm.

Ms O’Rourke said days later, police were at a house for another matter when they overheard a conversation about the robbery.

She said while Ezekiela was in custody, he had an incriminating conversation with his girlfriend.

Ms O’Rourke said his criminal record showed the recidivist’s offending was escalating and this was his first appearance in a higher court with most convictions for property offending and some assaults.

Mr Polley said Ezekiela was wandering the streets of Gladstone at as young as nine years old as his mother suffered from schizophrenia, used illicit drug drug addiction and was absent from the home regularly.

“He had no stability at home,” he said.

Mr Polley said his client was one of seven children with one brother alcohol dependant and a sister with schizophrenia. He now has two children of his own.

He said Ezekiela started using heroin at age 12 and amphetamines shortly after.

Mr Polley said he moved on to ice (methamphetamines) when he was 17.

“My client has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, along with mental and behaviour disorders due to multiple psychoactive substances,” he said.

Mr Polley said hallucinations were part of the diagnosis.

“Drugs have plagued his life,” he said.

However, Mr Polley said Ezekiela was not using drugs at the time of the armed robbery.

Judge Michael Burnett said the only time Ezekiela wasn’t offending was when he was in custody.

He ordered Ezekiela to a head sentence of five years prison with parole eligibility on March 11, 2021.

One other alleged offender has been charged and is yet to be dealt with. The third remains unidentified.

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