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“They were saying, ‘Keep it up, keep taking photos, we're going to beat the sh*t out of you'"

February 25, 2022

Broken glass. Copyright: Rodrigo Paredes / Wiki Commons.

By Peter Holmes

It was about 6:30pm on a Wednesday in mid-February when Gemma - not her real name - received the call.

A CBD shop owner, whose premises was across the road from the shop Gemma shared with her sister-in-law, had just watched what they thought was a teenage girl kick in the double-glazed front window of Gemma’s shop.

Glass had sprayed around the immediate vicinity, and the person responsible had made off.

“I got down there and rang my sister-in-law and I said, ‘Are you on your way?’ and then I called the police.”

Gemma - who spoke to The Orange News Examiner at a community meeting with chief inspector Peter Atkins in Glenroi on Tuesday - says the police told her the job had already been phoned in by somebody else.

“They said ‘We’re not sure how long they’ll be but the police are on their way’. I said ‘OK, no worries’.

“Just as I got off the phone from the police I saw an ambulance come up the laneway … I thought that could be related because whoever had done it, their shoes were still at the shop - there was one shoe inside the shop and one outside, covered in glass.”

As she walked up the laneway to speak to the ambulance officers Gemma saw that they were carrying out a girl who looked about 15 or 16 years old.

“Her leg was bandaged up and bleeding everywhere. I told them that I thought this was the person who just kicked in my window, I need her information, or her information needs to be passed on to the police.

“They said no worries, that they’d hold her [in hospital] and let her know the police will be coming to see her. They drove out the laneway and took a photo of the shop.”

Community meeting in Glenroi. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

About 20 minutes later, as Gemma waited for the police, people she described as friends of the girl “decided to come past”.

“They said ‘We’re coming to get her stuff’ and I said ‘No, that is evidence for the police’. There were three of them, maybe 17 to 20 years old, male and female.

“They said, ‘We’re taking the shoes’ and I said ‘No, you’re not touching anything’. They had a few choice words for us, told us to fu*k off and the rest of it, and I just told them to bugger off, that the police were on their way.”

About half an hour later, as Gemma and her sister-in-law guarded the shop, a group returned. They were aged from about 10 to 20.

“This time there were about eight of them, swearing, threatening. We were taking photos and video to show the police.

“They were saying, ‘Keep it up, keep taking photos, we're going to beat the sh*t out of you, we’ll come back and do the rest of the shop if you don’t fu*k off’. For what? ‘Cos you've got nothing better to do.

“I called the police again and said, ‘They are harassing us, they’re threatening to smash in the rest of the shop, threatening to beat us up, and vandalise our cars’. They were also threatening people who were just trying to walk back to their cars after dinner.”

Gemma said she was told by police that there had been a serious incident elsewhere in the area and that police would attend as soon as possible.

“That was about 8:30pm,” she said.

She then called a relative to see if they could board up the shop. The relative was quite “muscly” and Gemma thought his presence might stop the youth from returning.

“They came back a few more times before he got there - it was constant abuse.”

Asked if she felt scared, Gemma said: “I was too pissed off to be scared, to be honest.

“If they had acted - not that I would’ve been able to do much - but I would’ve given it a hell of a shot. I was angry that they just kept pushing and making threats, and no-one came.

“I said to them, ‘If you don’t need to be here, go; it’s over’, but then they kept hanging around, then some younger ones came down the laneway on bikes, ranging in age from about eight to 12, there were five of them. Taking off through the intersection, they almost got hit by cars.”

After the shop was boarded up and the glass cleaned up, Gemma said the ambulance came to check in to see if they were OK and whether the police had been able to attend.

“They said, ‘Don’t wait, just go home’. I rang the police at about 9:30[pm] and I said the shop is boarded up, we’ve got all the photos, the girl is at the hospital.

“They said they would try and come to my house later to get a statement, but then called at 12:15[am] and asked if I could do it over the phone. I passed on the details of the ambulance."

The shop front glass was replaced the following morning.

“We have to pay [an] excess, and it’s just more money out of pocket for people who haven’t been able to work for the last few years because of Covid,” Gemma said as tears welled in her eyes.

She said she didn’t believe the vandalism was part of a robbery.

“There was a laptop sitting two feet from the door, they didn’t touch it.

“They were just hanging around, they’d been up and down the street through the afternoon and they were just bored.

“They’re not being taught any moral compass. When we were kids if we messed up we paid the price for it. The police do what they can.”

Gemma said she was contacted by police on February 24 and asked to come to Orange police station to give another statement.


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