Gun in my face: ‘I didn’t want harm to come to me and my son’

IN DISTRESS: Krystal Garland was robbed at gunpoint at her Louth Park shop.When an armed robber pointed a gun in a Louth Park shop owner’s face she was shocked but doubted it was real.
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The robber threatened her life and that of her young child about 8pm Wednesday if she did not give him the money from the till.

Louth Park Take Away owner Krystal Garland was on Thursday finding it difficult to deal with the reality of what had happened.

She has not slept, cannot eat, and is constantly looking over her shoulder because the man has not been caught.

A toy gun was found a short distance from the shop behind the ticket box at the showground on Thursday afternoon. A Lions club member made the discovery and police believe it might be connected to the crime.

Ms Garland said her partner John Reis had only left the shop four minutes before the robbery to retrieve a Play Station cord from their home for their five-year-old son Malaki.

“[The robber] must have been watching the shop, because within a few minutes of John leaving, he had come in,” she said. “At first I thought it was a joke. I asked him if he was serious and he said: ‘Give me the money.’

“He put the gun in my face. I didn’t want harm to come to me and my son, so I stepped back and said: ‘Take it, just take it.’”

Ms Garland said the robber took the till and ran from the shop along Louth Park Road before turning into Evans Street.

She was full of praise for the police, who responded within minutes of her call.

A police dog found the cash register near the shop with the money still inside.

Ms Garland, who has owned the shop for three months, said Louth Park was a tight-knit community and many residents had offered her support.

“No one realises how this affects you mentally, it completely destroys you,” she said. “I’m reconsidering opening after dark; I don’t want to go through that again.”

Anyone who witnessed the incident is encouraged to phone Maitland police on 4934 0200 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Police hunt armed robber

Hunter detectives are appealing for public help after an armed robbery at a South Maitland takeaway shop last night.
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A man armed with a firearm entered the shop at the intersection of Louth Park Road and Blomfield Street just before 8pm.

The offender threatened the female employee before picking up a cash register and fleeing the store.

He was last seen running along Louth Park Road before turning left into Evans Street.

Police from Central Hunter Local Area Command responded quickly to the incident and a crime scene was secured.

The 25-year-old woman was uninjured in the incident.

Her five-year-old son, who was also present in the shop at the time of the incident, was unhurt.

A police dog found the cash register a short distance away with the money still inside.

Local detectives are appealing for public help as they continue their inquiries.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or any suspicious activity is urged to contact Maitland Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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A family stranded

HEARTLESS: Lorraine Jones with her daughter Brodie, who is housebound without her motorised scooter.A Rutherford family has been left stranded after thieves stole their car on Tuesday night.
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Lorraine Jones and her partner Matthew Swain were devastated when their dark blue 1992 VP Holden Commodore with registration BM5-6HJ was stolen from the Rutherford Hotel car park about 8pm.

The car had the sides of their 21-year-old daughter Brodie’s mobility scooter in the boot.

Brodie relies on the scooter to travel out of the house because she has multiple disabilities and without the sides, the scooter is useless.

Now she is confined to the family home because the car and her scooter have not been found.

Ms Jones was worried about how the family would cope if Brodie had another epileptic fit and needed to go to hospital.

She has four other children and they could not all fit in the ambulance.

“The scooter is so important to get her around; she has problems with her balance and does not pick her feet up far enough to be able to get up the steps of the bus,” Ms Jones said.

“She can’t walk long distances either because she trips if the ground is uneven and we can’t use taxis because the fares would cripple our finances.”

The family survives on the pension and could not afford to insure the car.

They have appealed for information and encouraged anyone who has seen the car to tell police.

“It has made our lives very hard – Brodie needs constant care and we can’t take the other kids out to do things because we don’t have a car,” she said.

Anyone who sees the car is asked to phone Maitland police on 4932 0200 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Thornton business owner’s road to ruin

BUSINESS HAS SUFFERED: Vicki Fetterplace of Future Real Estate. Thornton business owner Vicki Fetterplace wants compensation for the loss of income suffered because of the construction of the road bridge.
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Ms Fetterplace said the clientele at Future Real Estate had significantly diminished since construction began, prompting a clear drop in profits.

And she fears her business will be permanently disadvantaged if the three parking spaces outside the Railway Avenue business are not reinstated.

“The RMS has cut off half of our footpath because the space was needed for the approach to the new bridge and I can’t see how there will be enough room to have cars park out the front,” she said. “It’s not only me that’s affected, it’s the three businesses here and [the parking spaces in front of the building are] terribly important so customers can park out the front and have a look at our window.

“Customers are not going to park around the back and then walk around to the front of the shop – it’s too much effort.”

Ms Fetterplace has received letters from potential clients who have cited the lack of parking as the reason they took their business elsewhere.

She said people felt their property would not have a good chance of being sold if potential buyers could not easily park and see what was for sale.

An RMS spokeswoman said the organisation did not usually compensate business owners for loss of income.

She said parking would be available outside the businesses at the completion of the project, which was on track to finish later this year.

“Continued access has been provided to all properties throughout construction,” she said. “Parking in this area was temporarily removed on July 10 as part of a traffic switch, and is anticipated to be reinstated in three to four weeks.

“RMS has been consulting adjoining property owners throughout the construction period through letterbox drops and through meetings for which minutes are kept.”

The spokeswoman said RMS met with Ms Fetterplace and the two other business owners in the complex on June 26, where the project progress and the recent traffic switch were discussed.

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Vandals force game transfer

Maitland Saints will be without a home training base for up to a month after vandals left a large section of Max McMahon oval a muddy mess.
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The club is hoping to transfer this Saturday’s Black Diamond AFL Second Division game against Newcastle City to the leagues

headquarters at No. 1 Oval Newcastle.

The other alternative will be to transfer the game to Singleton, where the club has already played three transferred games including last week’s impressive 155-point victory against Singleton, with several under-16 players included in the Saints team.

Saints coach Steve Mitchell said the club discovered motorcycle tracks and a large area stripped of grass 30 metres from the school end of the oval.

Mitchell said an alternative

training venue would be needed for the next three weeks to a month.

“We are hoping to get this Saturday’s game transferred to No. 1 but it will depend on scheduling,” he said.

“We will have to find a temporary base as well, but there’s no

alternative as we would do long-term damage to the surface if we trained on the ground as it is.”

Mitchell said he hoped to know by Friday where the game would be played.

The Saints are expecting a

different look Newcastle City to the team they defeated by 122-points in round eight.

Boosted by a number of

experienced players Newcastle City lost by eight point to fourth placed Lake Macquarie last weekend.

Mitchell said the Saints were just about to celebrate having a full-list of players when they learned work commitments may deny them of the services of key swingman Justin Smith for the rest of the season.

“We will certainly miss Justin but the rest of our squad, barring injury, will be available from now on,” he said.

“We were really impressed with the effort of the under 16s who

came up to play and if they train opportunities may open for them.

“We have to manage the development of the youngsters

carefully, because they are the future of the club.

“But the young players who have come up from the beginning of the season in Patrick McMahon and Damon Taylor have come along in leaps and bounds and will be the long-term leaders of this club.”

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A matter of life and death

The emergency department at Maitland Hospital is a vital part of our community.
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It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and if you are seriously ill or injured you don’t need an appointment to be treated.

Its staff deal with life and death situations on a daily basis and anyone who has had a health emergency will tell you they do a fabulous job – often under difficult


However, a spike in winter ills such as influenza,

respiratory illnesses and gastroenteritis has stretched our emergency department to its limit.

Many of these winter illnesses can, and should, be treated by general practitioners, instead of clogging up the emergency department.

That’s why John Hunter Hospital general manager Michael Symonds urged Maitland residents this week to use other health services unless it was a critical medical matter.

Mr Symonds said emergency departments do not work on a first-come, first-served basis and the hospital triage system ensures that people who need urgent

treatment are cared for first, while those with less serious conditions might have to wait longer to be seen.

While emergency departments will never turn people away, those with minor winter ills should first seek treatment from their local GP, an after hours GP or healthdirect Australia where they can speak with a registered nurse.

This will free up emergency department staff to deal with life and death situations.

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Art or art-breaking? It’s a matter of opinion

Bill Cummins sees his intricate metal sculptures as art . . . but not everyone agrees. Bill Cummins has unwittingly become embroiled in a community tug-o-war over his display of intricate metal sculptures.
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Since the beginning of the year the Paterson boilermaker has displayed his wares on a friend’s property that adjoins Tucker Park.

But as his collection grows, so have the views of those living and visiting the village, with some choosing to air their views in the popular Paterson ‘Psst’ Newsletter.

The controversy began when a letter published in the newsletter, from the anonymous Pato Crew, described Mr Cummins’ work as “a marriage of waste and inappropriate thought”.

What followed was both support and criticism for the budding artist.

“I think this was meant to kick me in the stomach, but instead I’m tickled pink,” Mr Cummins said. “I knew that the majority of people quite liked the sculptures, but you’ll always have naysayers.

“A lot of people with children seem to stop and take a look at them and I think if you can get a child’s imagination going you open their minds and that’s something very powerful that will stay with them throughout their lives.”

This month’s edition of the newsletter published six letters in relation to the sculptures, including this from an author signed Freedom of expression.

“Throughout history artists have been ridiculed for breaking with tradition and using alternative mediums for expression including the likes of Picasso and Warhol,” the letter read.

“We challenge the Dungog Shire to purchase some of these works to be displayed in our parks and public spaces for the enjoyment of all.”

But another anonymous scribe wrote ‘the junk in the land adjacent to John Tucker Park is an eyesore as stated by the Pato Crew’.

“I have always thought of our community as one of time-stopped, in a sense of beauty,” the second letter read.

“How can one person be allowed to put such a horrible picture on our title page, the entrance to our town? Leave the artsy stuff in the cities.”

In her newsletter, editor Alison Pitkin wrote that the letters were indicative of the discussion taking place in the community.

“Letters this month suggest strong feelings for and against the artwork,” she wrote.

“As the responses are fairly balanced and nothing more can be gained from continuing this debate via this medium, there will be no further publications of letters regarding this matter.”

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Facebook threat: touch another man and I’ll kill you

Text messages sent by a jaded teenager who said he would kill his ex-girlfriend if she so much as touched another man were empty threats, a court heard.
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The 19-year-old Maitland man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to assaulting the teenage girl and using a mobile phone to menace.

Court documents said the man asked a friend to bring the girl to his house about 1am on February 12 after the break-up of their relationship.

The girl said she didn’t want to go but complied and was taken to the house, where she made attempts to leave.

The man told the girl she could not leave and took her mobile phone to “see what boys she had been talking to”, the court was told.

When she tried to get the phone back the man pushed the girl to the floor and during repeated attempts to get the phone he punched her in the arm and pushed her again causing her to fall to the floor.

The girl stayed the night and left the next morning when a friend told her to report the incident to police.

The court heard the man had called the girl begging her not to go to police and sent a text message threatening to assault her friend if she went to police.

On Facebook he made threats to kill the girl and called her and said: “If you touch another boy I will make your life hell. I will kill you. I will slit the boy’s throat.”

In Maitland Local Court on Thursday the man’s solicitor said his client’s threats were empty and he was reacting to teasing from the girl that she was dating other people.

“The problem your honour is that they’re both very young and immature; he was a young man in love and his response was unacceptable,” the solicitor said.

Magistrate Darryl Pearce fined the man $800.

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Woman dragged by car during robbery

ATM ATTACK: A woman was run over by a car during a brazen attack in Newcastle.A 25-year-old woman was dragged by a car during a daylight robbery in Newcastle on Friday.
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Police said a man and a woman accosted the victim after she withdrew a large sum of money from an ATM on Hunter Street just before 4pm.

It is alleged the duo repeatedly punched the woman before stealing her handbag and fleeing to a nearby car driven by a second man.

Police say the victim, and several witnesses, chased the man and woman who dropped the handbag into the car.

The woman then reached into the car to retrieve her handbag from the passenger seat, but the vehicle accelerated and she fell to the ground.

She was dragged a short distance before being run over.

The man and woman left the scene before police arrived, but the 48-year-old driver was arrested and charged with being an accessory to robbery in company and negligent driving.

He was refused bail and will appear before Newcastle Local Court on Saturday.

The victim is being treated for non-life threatening injuries in John Hunter Hospital.

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Developers find loophole in law to boost profits

Developers are exploiting Section 96 laws to squeeze every last dollar out of Maitland housing developments at the cost of existing residents, a
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councillor said.

Additional lots are being shoehorned onto land already subdivided for sale using the Section 96 powers of amendment to avoid the scrutiny of a development application.

The Section 96 application is rubber stamped if no one objects.

“They [developers] just squeeze and squeeze and squeeze as much as they can out of these developments,” Cr Henry Meskauskas said.

“By coming back all the time they are disrupting peoples’ lifestyles and why they built there.”

On average, 11 Section 96 applications were lodged each month in 2010 for numerous property amendments, including the creation of new lots.

A handful of Maitland councillors made a stand this week against the practice and sought to make an example of a proposal at Largs.

But Cr Steve Procter changed his vote to avoid a challenge in the Land and Environment Court.

“We can’t win this,” he said.

“I am prepared to change my vote to save council the legal fees.”

Councillors Ray Fairweather, Paul Casey, Arch Humphery and Stephen Mudd remained unmoved by pleas from Cr Procter and Cr Philip Penfold to vote in favour of the application and avoid potential legal action.

“We only have two meetings to go and after four good years I think to deny this application would be crazy,” Cr Penfold said.

“We’re talking about spending thousands of dollars to defend this, so I urge you to please reconsider,” he said.

Cr Mudd said it was a matter of principle and protecting landowners. “[Cr Penfold] has been sitting here five seconds and to call someone loopy is insulting,” he said. “This is all about people buying property based on a piece of paper and having that changed on them.”

The changes would mean four additional lots on Paterson Road, Largs, by reducing the frontages from an average 18.6 metres to 12.75m.

The proposal came before council because of the objection from a neighbour who felt the smaller block sizes were at odds with the reason many people had bought there.

Cr Bob Geoghegan, who voted for the additional lots, said the stalemate was an issue of timing.

“I’m almost certain that if these lots had have been part of the original development it would not have been a problem,” he said.

“The trend is toward smaller lots as a matter of demand for affordable housing.”

General manager David Evans said it would have been dangerous to reject the application and make a stand on this particular case based on the opposition of one resident. “If you’re not happy with the policy then we need to revisit that,” he said.

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