Long terms for home invaders

FOUR children were left terrified by a home invasion in which a woman had a rifle pointed at her head.

The offenders pulled the trigger, the gun clicked, but it wasn’t loaded, Newcastle District Court was told yesterday.

As a result of the ordeal in a Woodberry home in the early hours of July 5, 2011, four men were yesterday sentenced to jail terms ranging from 12 years to 13 years and six months.

The earliest any of the quartet will be eligible for parole is April 2020.

Judge Peter Berman said while it wasn’t in the worst category of home invasion ‘‘it’s getting close’’.

‘‘[The offenders] deserve to go to jail … for a long time simply to reflect the objective gravity of their criminal conduct,’’ he said.

Tahi Puru, 25, Billy Pusa Tuimaualuga, 39, Daniel Dejong, 26, and William Zechel, 40, stormed the Woodberry home at 3am and demanded cash, drugs and property from the three adults inside who had been asleep, Judge Berman said.

One of the offenders had a rifle while another had a knife in one hand and a stun gun in the other.

The offender with the rifle pointed it at one of the male victims before aiming at the head of the woman and pulling the trigger.

The gun clicked, but was not loaded.

The gang ransacked the house, but could only find a money tin, three laptop computers, mobile phones and meat from a freezer.

Although the offenders’ lawyers said their clients were drug-affected at the time, Judge Berman said the fact that they forced one of the victims to turn the computers on to prove that they weren’t password protected showed the offenders were thinking rationally.

The gang fled with the words, ‘‘If we find out you’ve got more money we’ll be back’’, but was stopped for a random breathtest in Mayfield minutes later.

Three of the offenders were in the car when police decided to search it and found two guns and the stun gun.

All four were charged with special aggravated break, enter and steal – an offence carrying a maximum penalty of 25 years’ jail.

Puru, formerly of Newcastle, had stolen the guns from a Tanilba Bay home several weeks before the home invasion.

He and Zechel, of Windale, Tuimaualuga, of Bolton Point, and Dejong, of Windale, all had criminal records for various offences including robberies, burglaries and violence.

SENTENCED: Four men were yesterday sentenced to jail terms ranging from 12 years to 13 years and six months for a Woodberry home invasion.

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