Five Illawarra mates have confessed to launching a planned axe attack on two unsuspecting men at Dapto, one of whom they believed was responsible for a violent robbery involving one of the friends a month earlier.
The group – consisting of Shannon Crawford, Shane Dingle, Bush Goldman, Stephen Leplaw and Jade Morgan – organised for their victim to be lured to the address of a mutual friend on the evening of December 20, 2014 before the five men pounced.
Dressed in white forensic suits, balaclavas and gloves to hide their identities, the group confronted the suspected robber, plus a friend who had accompanied him, in the driveway of the Princes Highway house just before 11pm.
Brandishing a tomahawk and a pole between them, they dragged the victims out of their vehicle, hitting one in the head and leg with the axe and pole and punching and kicking the other.
The attack was cut short when police happened upon the scene, leaving the victims with relatively minor injuries.
Meantime, the group dispersed, with Dingle and Morgan arrested a short time later after running from police.
Leplaw, who had remained in his vehicle during the attack and drove others from the scene when police arrived, was arrested on December 30.
He and Morgan gave up Goldman and Crawford six months later.
The five men pleaded guilty to reckless wounding and faced a sentencing hearing in Wollongong District Court on Friday.
Attack labelled ‘error’, ‘stupid’
A woman has described as “a bad judgement error” her friend’s decision to become involved in the violent group attack of two men at Dapto in which one of the victims was hit in the head with an axe.
The woman was giving a verbal character reference for former neighbour Shane Dingle in Wollongong court on Friday when asked whether Dingle had expressed regret for his actions.
He and four others – Shannon Crawford, Bush Goldman, Stephen Leplaw and Jade Morgan – lured their victims to a mutual friend’s home on December 20, 2014 before confronting the two men in the driveway while dressed in white coveralls, gloves and balaclavas.
One man was punched and kicked, while the other was hit with an axe and pole.
The assault was cut short when police happened upon the scene while on patrol.
“Has Shane acknowledged to you not only was it wrong, but it involved serious criminality?” Dingle’s lawyer asked the woman on Friday.
“Yes,” she replied.
The court heard the men had been drinking together at a birthday celebration at the Dandaloo Pub prior to the incident. While their individual levels of sobriety at the time was not revealed in court, the woman indicated she thought alcohol was partly to blame for Dingle’s actions.
“I’ve never known him as a drinker,” she said.
“I think he just made a bad judgement error.”
The court heard the so-called “error” had been born out of a belief that one of the victims had broken into Crawford’s home and robbed him a month earlier.
The five men had planned the assault in a bid to seek revenge for the apparent crime.
Crown prosecutor Kristy Speirs told the court the victims were left with relatively minor injuries, the most serious of which was a cut to the head that required stitches.
She said the consequences could have been “much more dire” if police had not come across the scene.
Judge Andrew Haesler accepted there had been prior planning but said the defendants were “hardly Ocean’s 11”, referencing George Clooney’s 2001 film depicting the simultaneous robbery of three Las Vegas casinos by a sophisticated group of criminals.
”They are mates at the pub who have decided to do something incredibly stupid and have ruined lives in the process,” he said.
Dingle, Crawford and Goldman will be sentenced on Thursday.
Morgan and Leplaw will be sentenced in October.