06:16 pm, Wednesday 29 November, 2006
Article from: AAP
A CROSS-dressing armed robber embarked on his life of crime to pay for heroin to dull the pain of a workplace accident, a court heard today.
Former Country Road fabric cutter, Olavo Puc, 44, had a successful career and a stable marriage before a 100 kilogram roll of paper fell on him at work in 1997,
The accident injured his spine, left him in chronic pain and depressed, today’s Victorian County Court pre-sentencing hearing was told.
The father-of-two, originally from East Timor, pleaded guilty today to two charges of armed robbery.
He was recently found guilty of six other armed robberies and one robbery.
The court heard Puc dressed as a woman on two occasions in November last year and robbed the Hoppers Crossing Club near his home in Melbourne’s west, using a tree branch in a sock to give the impression he had a gun.
He stole several thousand dollars at a time, using notes to tell attendants he would kill them.
Puc’s lawyer, Nola Karapanagiotidis, said her client had been smoking $50 worth of heroin a day, after other pain treatments failed.
“Up until 1997 he had everything, he was working, he was providing, he certainly had meaning, he’d not touched drugs or alcohol,” Ms Karapanagiotidis said.
She said Puc had won an award for his work at Country Road, where he began his apprenticeship in women’s apparel.
Judge Anthony Duckett said Puc’s drug habit did not excuse his offending and people were often injured at work.
“It’s very unusual to find such serious injuries cause someone to become a heroin addict,” Judge Duckett said.
“The great majority of the community doesn’t resort to heroin, they take whatever legal options are available and put up with the pain,” he said.
Prosecutor Robert Barry said Puc’s robberies were premeditated and at the serious end of the scale.
He also questioned the significance of Puc’s injury by the time his crimes started in November 2004.
Ms Karapanagiotidis said her client, who is in custody, suffered fluctuating bouts of pain and depression.
Puc left East Timor aged 12 when war broke out in 1975, she said.
He had travelled from his village to school in Dili but his bus never returned to take him home.
Soldiers in Dili put Puc in a sack and threw him on to a small boat and he ended up in Darwin, Ms Karapanagiotidis said.
Ms Karapanagiotidis told the court she did not know whether the soldiers were Australian but the government helped Puc establish himself in Melbourne.
Judge Duckett reserved his sentence.
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