Barrister sacked, then taken back

A MAN who pointed a single-barrel shotgun at a terrified Wodonga bottle shop worker dramatically sacked his barrister yesterday but minutes later had a change of heart.

Brendan Coleman was fronting a plea hearing in the County Court on charges related to the BWS liquor store robbery in Wodonga on July 7 last year.

Defence barrister Charles Morgan broke the news to Justice Roy Punshon after a brief adjournment of proceedings in Wodonga late in the afternoon.

“In the break my client informs me that my instructions have been withdrawn,” he said.

Mr Morgan said it was the first time something such as this had happened to him.

The court was told Coleman, 28, was stressed about his case having been quickly put on the list.

Justice Punshon urged Coleman to reconsider his decision, shortly before Mr Morgan told the court he would seek instructions from his instructing solicitor, Mario Vaccaro, over the development.

“You’ve got a very competent barrister,” he told Coleman.

After a 20-minute adjournment, Mr Morgan told Justice Punshon that both he and Mr Vaccaro would continue to represent Coleman.

Mr Morgan asked for the case to be adjourned to 10.30am today, arguing the extra time could ease Coleman’s distress.

In reply, Justice Punshon said: “I wouldn’t require you to present the plea until you are ready to.”

Earlier, Coleman pleaded guilty to armed robbery, using a firearm when prohibited and handling stolen goods.

Crown prosecutor Tom Lynch told the court Coleman rode his motorcycle from a West Albury address where he was staying with friends to Wodonga that July night.

Coleman parked his motorcycle, then disguised himself with a balaclava before walking into the store.

Security footage of the incident played in court appeared to show Coleman walking to the counter, pointing the unloaded single-barrel shotgun first at the head and then body of the shop assistant.

Coleman is alleged to have demanded money, prompting the victim to immediately open the till.

The till was empty, so the shop assistant moved to the next one along — followed around the counter by Coleman.

“Be quick. In the bag, in the bag,” Coleman demanded of the assistant.

The footage showed Coleman — who was dressed in a blue coat, black tracksuit pants and runners — pulling a bag from his shoulder to take away the cash.

He then quickly walked from the store, though with a haul of only $300 to $310.

The court was told police arrested him at his home four days later.

They recovered the shotgun, 14 shotgun cartridges and the clothes he was wearing during the robbery.

Police also established that an air-compressor recovered at the address had been stolen from a Myrtleford address on June 19.

Coleman — who has been in custody on remand for 218 days — denied involvement in the Myrtleford burglary.