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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Three 20-year-old men were convicted last Wednesday and sentenced to a combined total of 44 years after a seven-week crime spree Melbourne’s West

Three 20-year-old men were convicted last Wednesday and sentenced to a combined total of 44 years after a seven-week crime spree through Melbourne’s West, including the brutal bashing of former Australian Medical Association head Dr Haikerwal.
Ringleader, Alfer Azzopardi, 20, of Coolaroo, received a cumulative sentence of 18 years and six months for a total of 46 offences.Michael Baltatzis, of Glenroy, 20, received a cumulative sentence of 16 years and six months.Sean Gabriel, 20, of Hoppers Crossing, was sentenced to a cumulative maximum of nine years and nine months.Azzopardi will be eligible for parole in 2022, Baltatzis in 2019 and Gabriel in 2014.Dr Haikerwal said that he didn’t take great comfort that people would be locked up.“None of us will be happy about people being behind bars, but we’re comfortable that justice has been done, and that there is a strong message that violence won’t be tolerated,” he said.On AFL Grand Final night last year, Dr Haikerwal was brutally beaten with a baseball bat in Williamstown.
The affects of the attack meant Dr Haikerwal needed neurosurgery to remove blood clots on his brain, and suffered severe physical and emotional trauma.
“I was one of seven victims, and there were 34 individuals who had significant trauma in this spate of attacks,” he said.
“I’m very trepidatious when I do go out, but I haven’t let it change my lifestyle,” he said.
“I always have a phone with me, I try and avoid unlit areas and if possible have a person with me.”
Dr Haikerwal said he had to have significant time off work, time to rehabilitate and was still recovering his strength.
“I have to be very careful of what I do and how I do it. I try and live my life to the full, but it’s hard because I get very, very tired due to my injuries,” he said.
There were 34 victims from the attacks which occurred between August and September 2008. Some 24 were males and 10 females. Two bear permanent reminders of the attacks in the form of scars on their faces.
Judge Gullaci identified a commonality between the victims, with the majority being vulnerable, alone and generally in a dark public place. The judge said the offending was “pre-meditated, planned and executed” and that each offender “had their role”, with many attacks involving a knife, baseball bat or metal pole.
The judge had also said the offenders had cruised around Melbourne searching for victims. Judge Gullaci said that, in the brutal beating of Dr Haikerwal, Azzopardi had taken the baseball bat from another co-accused saying, “you’re not doing it right, give it to me”, with which he took a giant swing at Dr Haikerwal’s head.
The judge concluded that the three were not beyond redemption as young, remorseful and with “limited intelligence” and were identified as being “part of a gang”.
Judge Gullaci said the sentences served not only as punishment but as a statement that society would not tolerate these offences. “The courts have a duty, that if you offend in this cowardly and despicable manner, then a lengthy period of imprisonment awaits,” he said.
Dr Haikerwal thanked the police and community for their support.
“I can’t thank enough all the people around me in our local community, in Victoria and across Australia and indeed the world. They have been real pillar of strength for my family and myself in a situation that no-one should find themselves in – half an hour away from death.”


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