Bomb fear: Big W manager's shocking bid for time off
WANTING a bit of time off, a man phoned his colleague claiming a bomb was about to go off in the Big W store where they worked.
Steven Norman John Walsh on Friday faced Brisbane District Court, pleading guilty to one charge of falsely stating a bomb was present.
He will spend no time in jail for the costly farce that set the retailers and shopping centre management back more than $33,000.
Walsh's plea came 10 years and 10 months after the now 28-year-old used his mobile to make the threat that resulted in the total shut down of Toowoomba's major shopping centre.
The court heard Walsh was 18 and a trainee manager with the city's Big W outlet.
Around 6.20pm on October 6, 2008, he left the store mid-shift and without reason.
A few minutes later the shop's phone rang, a female staffer answered to hear a muffled voice say there was a bomb in the store and it would go off in 15 minutes.
She contacted store management and police.
The shopping centre was evacuated and all stores closed as cops tried to locate the device, costing businesses more than $33,000 in in lost income and wages.
A police search of store phone records found Walsh's mobile had made a brief call to Big W at the time the hoax happened.
He was interviewed, denied any knowledge of the crime and was subsequently charged and ordered to face a committal hearing in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court.
However, he failed to turn up to court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The court heard Walsh was on the run from cops for around 10 years, having skipped to Melbourne where he notched up a criminal history of dishonesty offences.
On his return to Queensland he handed himself in to police.
Defence barrister Rob Glenday told the court on Friday that the bomb hoax was "out of character" for his client.
"It was an impulsive act, a foolish act by a man who was struggling with drug use," Mr Glenday said, pointing out Walsh was now a youth worker at the Brook RED Centre and a barman at The Sportsman Hotel in Brisbane.
"He does regret his actions and is truly remorseful for what he did back then."
Judge Brad Farr said Walsh's only reason for the hoax seemed to be: "You wanted time off".
"Your phone call had a financial impact on others - this type of offending is one of great seriousness," Judge Farr said.
Walsh was sentenced to six months in jail but was released on immediate parole. - NewsRegional