As Queensland sits on the precipice of a Government foray into lockouts and trade restrictions, a series of cowardly assaults have caused untold pain for victims and industry.
In early December of last year, 40-year-old father and grandfather Trevor Duroux was punched to the head outside the Coolangatta Hotel, falling and his head striking the ground. Ten days later he passed away in Gold Coast University Hospital. The charge against 18-year-old Tristan Heather was upgraded to unlawful striking causing death.
Just a month later, early on the third day of the New Year, 18-year-old Cole Miller was punched in the head in Fortitude Valley. His family was advised to switch off life-support the following day, and he subsequently died.
The incident was the result of an unprovoked attack by 21-year-olds Armstrong Renata and Daniel Maxwell, who were both out celebrating Maxwell’s birthday when they initiated conflict with Miller and a friend. Renata is said to have delivered the coward blow to the back of Miller’s head that ultimately proved fatal.
The pair surrendered themselves to police in the evening after the assault, and their initial charges of also grievous bodily harm were upgraded on Monday to unlawful striking causing death following the teenager’s passing.
Days prior to Christmas, 25-year-old Carl Norris sustained serious head injuries during a fight outside a Gatton hotel. He was taken to Princess Alexandra Hospital and put in an induced coma, but has since improved and remains in a stable condition. 19-year-old John Deakin has been charged with grievous bodily harm.
And just last weekend, the duty manager at Mount Isa’s Buffs Club – 36-year-old mother of two Melissa Abdoo – was struck by a patron she had just denied entry, causing her to hit the ground and sustain serious head injuries.
CCTV footage showed the perpetrator swing and fail to make connection with a punch from outside Abdoo’s field of vision, but in the process connect with her face and chest with his arm and knock her backwards to the ground.
Abdoo had been talking with another patron, apparently the man’s partner, and bounced back up after the cowardly attack, but was taken to Mount Isa hospital in a serious condition with bleeding on the brain. She has since been moved to Townsville hospital, and is now considered stable.
The spate of incidents couldn’t come at a worse time for Queensland operators, as the Palazczuk Government gets set to introduce its tough new lockout and last drinks legislation before Parliament.
The proposed legislation would see a blanket 2am last drinks regulation across the State, with variations possible for venues in areas declared ‘nightclub precincts’; a 3am closing time is possible, but only with the implementation of 1am last drinks and drink restrictions from midnight.
But as with most one-size-fits-all solutions, the sweeping moves would not necessarily have helped anyone involved with recent attacks. Renata is reported to have delivered the fatal blow to Cole Miller at 3:50 am. Similarly, Norris was hit by Deakin outside of the lockout hours, and also on the street.
Some independent MPs, including Billy Gordon and some members of the Katter party, have previously declared serious opposition to the legislation, citing its adverse effect on tourism-dependent regions and economies. It remains to be seen how strong their resolve is in coming weeks, in the face of mounting public outrage.
While no-one is denying the validity of any attempts to reduce violent crime, even a short look at history shows that assaults causing serious injury or death – whether involving alcohol or not – are certainly nothing new in the Sunshine State.
Blaming hospitality operations is not only a moot argument, but suggestions that the legislation arises from a modern phenomenon are simply naive.
Former Brisbane Bronco Todd Parnell felled at a party on Bribie Island. Wally Hung ultimately convicted of manslaughter.
Jai Morcom (15 years) died from head injuries following a fight at Mullumbimby High School.
Malcolm Butterworth died from skull fractures sustained outside a Toogoolawah pub. A 25-year-old was later found not guilty of manslaughter by plea of self-defence.
September 2009, Andrew Houlihan was knocked unconscious and further beaten to the head during a brawl at Coolangatta.
Homeless man James Grace suffered a traumatic brain injury after being punched to the back of the head by William Kiss.
Australian Rules coach Wayne Dover died after being attacked by three men outside a Maroochydore nightclub. The men were initially charged with murder, but a magistrate determined there was insufficient evidence and the charges were downgraded to manslaughter.
Bruce Steensen died in Nambour General Hospital after an unprovoked punch to the head early on a Saturday morning in Mooloolaba. A 21-year-old man was later charged with his murder.
An argument over loud music resulted in 28-year-old Phillip Pama striking his neighbour, 55-year-old Leon Yeaman. Yeaman never regained consciousness, and Pama was charged with manslaughter.
55-year-old father of four Lindsay Ede died weeks after he was bashed in a residential street in Goodna. 19-year-old Ariik Mayot saw his charge upgraded from grievous bodily harm to unlawful striking causing death.