Three Australians behind the vicious attack on Indian origin doctor Mukesh Haikerwal, in September last year were sentenced on Wednesday to a combined term of 44 years in prison.
Dr Haikerwal, a former president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), was walking through a park in the bayside suburb of Williamstown on September 27, last year, when he was set upon and bashed up by the men.
AdvertisementThe trio ran amok for over seven weeks, bashing and robbing 33 victims apart from Dr Haikerwal himself.
One of their victims was told: "If you scream or cry, I will kill you".
Many of the targets were of Indian or Asian origin.
Alfer Azzopardi, 20, of Coolaroo, who delivered the most serious blow to the doctor with a baseball bat, got 18-and-a-half years with a minimum of 13-and-a-half years.
Co-accused Michael Baltatzis, 20, of Glenroy, who together with Azzopardi took part in 23-armed robberies over a two-month period, was jailed for 16-and-a-half years and must serve 10-and-a-half years before being eligible for parole.
Azzopardi, Baltatzis and Gabriel drove to various Melbourne locations in search of their next target to rob or attempt to rob, the County Court heard yesterday, which usually including, inflicting ''serious acts of gratuitous violence''.
Gabriel's offences were limited to five attacks on the night Dr Haikerwal was assaulted, but Azzopardi and Baltatzis carried out 21 attacks on 11 nights over seven weeks, against 34 people.
A 16-year-old boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has already been sentenced to two years in a youth training centre for his role in the attacks.
''The majority of victims were alone in parklands late in the evening when confronted and attacked, when they were vulnerable,'' Judge Joe Gullaci said. ''You looked for victims who were most vulnerable and least likely to put up any kind of resistance.''
Every time except one, the three were armed with a knife, a baseball bat and a metal pole.
Judge Gullaci said he accepted that Azzopardi hit Dr Haikerwal with a metal pole, while the 16-year-old hit him with the baseball bat and Gabriel held him down. After the doctor handed over his wallet, the attack continued.
During the attack, Azzopardi the ringleader of the group, demanded of the 16-year-old: ''Give me the bat, you're not doing it right,'' before taking a big swing at the doctor's head.
Judge Gullaci said, Azzopardi who has 23 prior convictions and was on a community-based order for another armed robbery at the time of the attack, was an unreliable witness, evasive and deceitful when giving evidence. He pleaded guilty, but would have been jailed for 23 years if found guilty by a jury, the judge said.
''This is a case where your youth and the court's interest in your rehabilitation does not override denunciation, just punishment, specific and general deterrence and protection of the community from you.''
The judge said he did not accept Azzopardi's explanations that he was motivated by a gambling habit, only that gambling was part of his lifestyle.
Of Baltatzis, the judge said it was obvious he remained loyal to Azzopardi and did not want to ''take Alfer down''. He said that while Baltatzis told lies under oath, his police statement was accurate and truthful.
Dr Haikerwal required emergency surgery and was placed in an induced coma for 24 hours. He remained in hospital for many weeks.
Doctor Mukesh Haikerwal, who was not in court for the sentences, later said he felt nothing towards his attackers. He had lost a piece of his brain and had to relearn how to walk and talk after the bashing.
"I take no comfort that (the men) have been sentenced to jail terms," he said.
"The community has to be protected, feel safe and secure to go about their daily lives in safety and security, not fearing for their lives, their friends' lives or their neighbours'.
"Violence is something we cannot tolerate in our community. I think (this sentence) shows police have investigated and police work is seen to have some value."
He said today he was grateful for the support of the medical profession and said his experience had given him a unique insight into the other side of the hospital bed.
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