Teenage brothers bashed by men

A FAMILY'S quiet evening at the beach turned into a nightmare after what appears to be a racially motivated attack saw two teenage brothers assaulted and robbed by three men in their 20s.

Bundaberg Magistrates Court was told the family of four had visited Elliott Heads on February 14 last year so the mother and father could go for a walk.

Their 15-year-old son went to play on the beach and their older 17-year-old son took a nap in the family car.

But the 17-year-old woke up to being bashed with torches by Matthew Jon Connell, 24, of Gin Gin, Jamie Luke Owens, 24, of Bundaberg North, and a third offender.

The teen was dragged from the vehicle and punched in the face and body several times before one of his attackers said, “foreigners shouldn't be in this country”, and demanded the boy hand over his wallet and phone.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Barry Stevens said the boy told his attackers he and his family were Australians, at which point his younger brother returned. The older men stopped their attack but surrounded the car, which the teen was “too scared to drive away”.

One of the offenders then jumped on the bonnet of the car and demanded the boys open the boot, where they found their father's laptop.

Sgt Stevens said one of the offenders told the boys he would get a gun out of their car and would kill them if they did not leave, which caused the boys to flee.

Owens and Connell pleaded guilty yesterday to assault causing bodily harm in company and stealing.

“There is a belief from some people in Bundaberg that backpackers are easy picking,” Sgt Stevens said.

“I don't have the benefit of knowing the motivation, but perhaps it was a racially motivated mistake.”

Solicitor Mary Buchanan represented Owens and said there “may have been some exaggeration of the assaults on these two young complainants”.

Ms Buchanan said Owens' recollection of the attack was poor but he “does not consider himself a racist man”.

Solicitor Thomas Bray represented Connell and said it was “simply a case of heavy intoxication” and he “harbours no dislike of tourists”.

Both men were sentenced to 18 months' probation. No conviction was recorded against Connell because of his lack of history.

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