Gateway Island cafe owner nabbed speeding while business is robbed

Wassim Saliba outside his Gateway Island cafe, La Maison, after the 24th time it was broken into. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL
Wassim Saliba outside his Gateway Island cafe, La Maison, after the 24th time it was broken into. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

THE owner of a Gateway Island restaurant was nabbed driving 31km/h over the speed limit as he rushed to his business after an alarm indicated it was being broken into for the 25th time.

In the previous seven years, Wassim Antoine Saliba’s La Maison Cafe had been the target of criminal damage, attempted burglaries and break-ins.

It had been less than 24 hours since the 24th criminal incident at the premises when two burly men had forced their way in, fleeing with cash and causing $1000 damage.

Early on June 28 he had made a speedy dash to the cafe after a security company alerted him to an alarm.

He was nabbed by a Holbrook highway patrol officer travelling at 111km/h in an 80km/h zone along the Riverina Highway near Thurgoona.

Making matters worse for Mr Saliba was the fact he was driving while suspended, with a licence ban due to expire little more than two weeks later.

Mr Saliba, 32, of Peninsula Court, Thurgoona, pleaded guilty in Albury Local Court yesterday to charges of driving when his licence was suspended and exceeding the speed limit by more than 20km/h.

Solicitor Mark Cronin said it was a spontaneous reaction to having his business targeted.

Mr Cronin tendered articles from The Border Mail outlining the difficulties Mr Saliba had experienced over a long time.

“He works very hard, six days a week,” Mr Cronin told the court.

He said Mr Saliba was married with three young children aged under six and suggested a bond without conviction.

Magistrate Tony Murray told Mr Saliba: “One can easily understand your frustration.”

“I note the somewhat unusual set of circumstances that bring you before the court.”

Mr Murray imposed a six-month bond without conviction on both charges.

Mr Saliba was detected speeding about 12.43am on June 28, was stopped and told the officer about the alarm.

He produced a NSW driver’s licence and was asked by the officer whether he had contacted police, but said he had not.

The officer advised Mr Saliba the security company would check the situation and if police were required, they would attend promptly.

Mr Saliba was told speeding to his cafe was not an option.

His licence was suspended from April 16 to July 15 after the loss of demerit points.

Mr Saliba was told he would have to make alternative arrangements to attend his business.