SENTENCED: (L-R) Matthew Douglas, Kenneth Douglas and Jesse Douglas enter Gladstone Court House before being sentenced.
SENTENCED: (L-R) Matthew Douglas, Kenneth Douglas and Jesse Douglas enter Gladstone Court House before being sentenced. Andrew Thorpe

Father, son to serve time behind bars over Diglum incident

ALMOST two years after Amanda Loader and Zachary Moore experienced a terrifying night-time ordeal on a Diglum cattle property, the three men responsible have been held accountable.

Kenneth Robert Douglas, 40, and his stepsons Jesse Ronald Douglas, 27, and Matthew Thomas Douglas, 24, received prison sentences yesterday at Gladstone District Court for their roles in the armed burglary and arson of the Loader family's farmhouse in 2016.

The sentences were delivered after Wednesday's conclusion of a five-day trial for Kenneth Douglas, who denied firing two rifle shots during the incident, which was sparked by a dispute over wages and a fridge.

A jury acquitted him of firing a bullet through the window of a caravan in which Ms Loader was getting ready, but found he had later used a rifle stolen from the property to threaten her.

In his sentencing submission, crown prosecutor Matt Le Grand said it must have been a "terrifying experience" for Ms Loader and Mr Moore, who found themselves "outnumbered, out-gunned and trapped" during the incident.

He said the pair had felt they couldn't take shelter in the caravan as a bullet had already been fired through it, and they knew the only weapons on the property were in the hands of the intruders.

They were "powerless to do anything but watch" as the farmhouse was destroyed, Mr Le Grand told the court.

Speaking for Kenneth and Matthew Douglas, barrister Scott Moon said the defendants were remorseful for their roles in the incident, which he called "drunken stupidity".

He said it was clear the incident was not premeditated because the three men had not brought any weapons of their own to the property or made any attempt to conceal their identity.

Mr Moon also pointed to the references provided by members of the community for the three men as evidence the incident was somewhat out of character.

 

ON THE DEFENCE: Barristers Jordan Ahlstrand (left) and Scott Moon enter Gladstone Court House.
ON THE DEFENCE: Barristers Jordan Ahlstrand (left) and Scott Moon enter Gladstone Court House. Andrew Thorpe

Nevertheless, Judge Craig Chowdhury said it was "extraordinary" the defendants had embarked on the "episode of revenge" over such a minor matter, and now they were paying the price.

"There is no question it was a frightening incident... and Ms Loader and Mr Moore showed remarkable bravery in the face of shots fired," Judge Chowdhury told the defendants.

"Not between the three of you did anyone think 'this is a really bad idea, we should just go home and sleep it off'."

He sentenced Kenneth Douglas to four years in prison for the crime of burglary at night while armed and in company, to be suspended after a year for a period of five years.

He will also be serving concurrent sentences of six months for stealing and 18 months for dangerous conduct with a weapon.

Jesse Douglas will spend 15 months behind bars after receiving a five-year head sentence for the crime of arson.

He will also be serving concurrent sentences of six months for stealing and four years for burglary.

Matthew Douglas received a two-year sentence for his role in the burglary, with the sentence suspended immediately taking into account his time in the Gladstone watch house.

To read The Observer's full coverage of the trial, click here and follow the links at the bottom of each day's coverage.