21 March 2023

Disgruntled ex-manager fails in appeal over $30,000 robbery at Thredbo hotel

| Albert McKnight
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Thredbo Village, Aug 9 2019. Photo: Thredbo Media

Daniel O’Brien and Lawrence Pashley robbed a hotel in Thredbo in 2014. Photo: Thredbo Media.

A robber who was part of a duo that stole over $30,000 from a Thredbo hotel and kidnapped an employee via an “inside job” has failed in his attempt to appeal his 14-year jail sentence.

Daniel O’Brien became resentful when he was sacked from his job at the Kosciuszko Thredbo Hotel, where he had filled roles such as restaurant and duty manager, in January 2014.

Due to his work experience, he knew only one staff member would be in the manager’s office in the early hours of the morning as well as how the hotel’s float money of $30,000 would be in an unlocked safe in the office, a NSW Court of Appeal judgement says.

That year he was living in Canberra, as did the then 33-year-old Lawrence Pashley. In the early hours of 12 March 2014, the pair drove a Ford Falcon to Thredbo, taking with them masks, a knife, a clawhammer and duct tape.

It was around 4 am when they arrived at the hotel, went into a manager’s office and cornered a night auditor. O’Brien held a knife to his face while Pashley duct taped his hands.

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O’Brien opened safes and the pair put $30,205 into bags. The robbers then forced the night auditor into a van leased by the hotel and drove off with him, the money and both vehicles.

The night auditor pleaded to be released, but O’Brien threatened to kill his family.

During the drive the night auditor managed to remove the tape from his hands and legs, then jumped out of the van as it neared Jindabyne, travelling about 70 km/h.

He wandered in a daze to a nearby house then was taken to hospital to be treated for serious injuries and didn’t leave for over a week.

O’Brien was convicted on charges of robbery in company, specially aggravated kidnapping and taking and driving a conveyance without consent after a district court jury trial in 2021.

Judge Andrew Colefax sentenced the then 41-year-old to a total of 14 years’ jail with a non-parole period of nine years that same year.

But O’Brien launched an appeal against his sentence on four grounds, arguing Judge Colefax made several errors in his sentencing and had imposed a sentence that was “manifestly excessive”.

For instance, he argued the judge had taken into account the substantial emotional harm the night auditor suffered without any supporting evidence other than a victim impact statement.

But the Court of Appeal’s Justice Richard Button said when taking into account everything that happened to the auditor, “Significant psychological injury arising from that course of events can be safely inferred after a moment’s reflection.”

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O’Brien also argued Judge Colefax erred by finding the offence had been part of a planned criminal activity.

As part of this claim, he said the kidnapping had been “spontaneous” and done with the intention of delaying notification of the robbery to authorities, however Justice Button found it had been an “inside job” and featured a degree of preparation.

When it came to the argument that the sentence had been manifestly excessive, Justice Button said the offending had been “grave indeed” and was committed by a man who was not remorseful, did not have a challenging childhood, had committed a violent offence in the past and “who could point to nothing other than greed and resentment as motives for the offence”.

While Justice Button granted leave to appeal earlier this month, he ultimately dismissed the appeal. Two other justices agreed with his decision.

Pashley was also found guilty of the same charges as his co-offender and in 2017 he was sentenced to 13 years’ jail with a non-parole period of eight years.

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