‘COVID’s been really ****’: Man fined for armed robbery of Benalla store

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Faced court: A 28-year-old man pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery after an incident at Good Vibes Wholefoods Store in Benalla. Photo by Simon Ruppert

A Katandra man who robbed a Benalla store armed with a knife admitted the incident would have “been horrible” for the victim, when he handed himself in to police a few hours later.

Ethan Jones, 28, faced Shepparton County Court on June 28 and pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery.

The victim, a young woman who works at Good Vibes Wholefoods Store on Bridge St, tearfully told the court how the incident had affected her.

“For the first two nights after it happened I couldn’t sleep; I felt unsafe in my own home,” she said.

“I get quite stressed when someone walks into the store that I don’t recognise ... my whole body fills with anxiety.

“I feel I need to grab something to protect myself ... I’m constantly assessing for a threat.”

The court heard Jones, a roof painter, had driven to Benalla on January 28 to provide a quote for a job.

He was captured on CCTV entering the store about noon, spending two to three minutes browsing before he approached the victim, who was standing on a stepladder and writing on a chalkboard with her back to the store.

She stepped down to greet Jones when he leant over the service counter with his arms folded and she saw a knife in his hand.

Jones demanded she give him cash from the register and she initially refused before placing about $150-$160 cash on the counter.

He told her, “COVID’s been really s***. If things turn around I’ll bring (the cash) back I promise”.

Jones used the money to buy fuel and cigarettes before turning himself in to Shepparton Police Station nearly three hours after the incident.

In an interview with police, Jones said his car’s fuel light had turned on when he arrived in Benalla and he realised he wouldn’t be able to get home.

He spent three days in custody before he was released on bail.

In sentencing Jones, Judge John Smallwood noted he had no criminal history, was unemployed and had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and depression.

He said the offending was “a pretty unusual set of circumstances” and considered Jones’s prospects of rehabilitation to be good.

“I hope as you sat in the dock and heard (the victim impact statement) that you fully understood what you have done,” Judge Smallwood told Jones.

Jones was convicted and fined $5000 and ordered to repay the money he stole.