Westpac Stockland Rockhampton  CCTV from robbery on January 8, 2015.
Westpac Stockland Rockhampton CCTV from robbery on January 8, 2015.

Serial armed robber's life of crime began at 12

A MAN who stole $42,000 from a Capricorn Coast motel in 2015 has only spent 70 days out of prison in the past seven years.

John Robert Cole, 37, pleaded guilty in Rockhampton District Court yesterday to one count of armed robbery and one of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Cole was on parole for an armed robbery at a Gold Coast surf club and had carried out another armed robbery at the Westpac Bank at Stockland Rockhampton on January 8, 2015, before heading to the Capricorn Tavern on January 11 where he carried out yet another armed robbery.

Defence barrister Ross Lo Monaco said Cole was apprehended for the Westpac Bank robbery when he returned to Stockland days after the Capricorn Tavern armed robbery and the bank manager recognised Cole by his 'very specific shoes'.

Cole had attempted to disguise himself during the Westpac Bank robbery.

Mr Lo Monaco said Cole's more than 40-page criminal history started when he was eight or nine years old as he ran away from home and stole as away to deal with family violence and child sexual abuse going on in the family home.

He said by the time Cole was 10 he'd left home and lived on the streets or in the homes of 10 different families before he was an adult.

Mr Lo Monaco said Cole started smoking marijuana when he was 15 and moved on to amphetamines when he was 18.

Judge Michael Burnett said most of Cole's criminal history was linked to his drug addiction.

"No doubt that featured here," he said.

The court heard Cole waited for patrons to leave the Capricorn Tavern and as staff were preparing to close, he "screwed his way in through the back door".

A male worker heard Cole calling out expecting a female co-worker to respond.

But when Cole responded, the staff member realised the tavern was being robbed and approached Cole who was armed with a knife.

The court heard there was a scuffle between the two men before Cole took off with $42,000, which he had removed from the safe before being interrupted.

Cole claimed his sister had taken the money he stole from the tavern.

It was during calls between the siblings while Cole was in prison that he threatened violence against her in relation to this armed robbery and was then charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

During sentencing, Judge Burnett outlined that Cole had been sentenced in August 2012 in Ipswich District Court for armed robbery causing wounding to four years and six months in prison.

He had been on parole for that robbery for two months and nine days when he carried out the Westpac Bank robbery, for which he received a four years and six months prison term after a trial in Rockhampton in 2016.

That sentence was cumulative with the Ipswich sentence.

Judge Burnett said apart from 70 days where Cole was released on parole, he had spent the past seven years in prison.

He ordered a further two-years on Cole's armed robbery sentences with immediate parole eligibility.