Ice user jailed over crime spree

A heavy-ice user, who threatened a Melton liquor store employee with a machete before demanding cash, has been sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

Thomas Bufete, 23, was involved in a crime spree last year, targeting four liquor stores and stealing about $7500 in a few days, to sustain his drug habits, the County Court heard.

About 10pm on April 22, 2014, Bufete and his co-offender parked a Ford Territory, with stolen number plates, at the Melton Thirsty Camel liquor store drive-through and threatened two employees with a machete, before asking for the safe.

When the employees said there was no safe, the co-offender went to the counter and used the machete to cut the cord of the computer and stole from the till, which had about $1000.

In a victim impact statement tendered to the court, one of the employees said he hasn’t worked in a liquor store since the incident, is still fearful, and has broken up with his girlfriend following the incident.

A few days later, police spotted Bufete driving the Ford Territory to the Junction Hotel in Preston. When police attempted to intercept Bufete, he “rammed the side of the police car with some force and continued to do so … The police car was substantially damaged”.

A few hours later, police pursued Bufete, who was driving towards the city, reaching speeds of more than 140km/h in 100 km/h zones. The pursuit ended when Bufete’s car tyre blew shortly after.

“… You are an immature man and … the physical and emotional abuse you suffered within the family led to anger and rebelliousness in your adolescence,” Judge Wendy Wilmoth said of Bufete.

“I can infer from the report that you lack self-esteem and are easily overwhelmed by difficulties, but to your credit you can easily express sympathy with those you have hurt by your crimes and are sorry for what you have done.”

Judge Wilmoth said Bufete was drug-affected at the time of the crimes, using half a gram of ‘ice’ a day and not sleeping for “extended periods”.

“During the offending, you exhibited extreme aggression and violence with potential for real physical harm being done,” she said.

“The victims would have been terrified.”

Bufete will be eligible for parole in two years.