Theft in broad daylight – gunman threatens store worker before fleeing with cash

Shocking: A man allegedly threatened a saleswoman with a knife before fleeing with a quantity of cash. Photo by Simon Ruppert

A man who allegedly brandished a knife at a Good Vibes Wholefoods Benalla and demanded money from a single member of staff has been released on bail.

Ethan Jones, 27, from Katandra, was charged with committing an armed robbery in Benalla on January 28.

He successfully applied for bail at Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Monday, with Magistrate Anne Goldsbrough accepting there were compelling reasons.

Detective Constable Luke Baker told the court that Jones had traveled to Benalla to provide a quote to a potential client, as a sole trader for roof and gutter maintenance.

He said that when the car’s fuel light came on, Jones became distressed because he had been worse off financially by the pandemic.

After parking near the council chamber, Jones drove to the Good Vibes Wholefoods store on Bridge St with CCTV showing he was inside for a few minutes.

The store was empty except for a member of staff, who approached Jones before he presented her with a knife and asked for some money.

The court heard he explained to the staff member that COVID-19 had been hard on him and that he would refund the money when he could.

Constable Baker said the staff member initially refused until he told her: ‘I don’t want to hurt you, just give me the money’ – when she handed over the money, he left the store and returned to his car. .

Court heard Jones had “a moment of clarity” when he returned to his car and drove back to his mother’s home in Katandra, stopping on Midland Hwy to buy fuel, food and cigarettes, before going to Shepparton police station.

Detective Constable Baker told the court the offense was believed to be an “error in judgement”.

Jones’ lawyer said he considered him “the most remorseful man” he had ever dealt with.

He told the court that Jones had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and suffered from depression.

Magistrate Anne Goldsbrough said she considered there was no risk of re-offending and had taken into account her age, family support, Victoria’s lack of a relevant criminal history and her remorse.

She released him on bail and the case will return to court in the coming months.

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