A MAN who stashed the bullets used in the murder of a police officer has escaped jail after the judge found he didn’t know what he was hiding.
James William Strudwick, 24, walked hand-in-hand with his girlfriend and other supporters from Tamworth District Court yesterday after he was handed a nine-month suspended sentence.
Strudwick pleaded guilty to acting with intent to pervert the course of justice in the murder investigation of Senior
Constable David Rixon but Judge Colin Charteris found the 24-year-old didn’t know there were bullets inside a black box he was told to shove down a toilet S-bend.
The court heard on March 27 last year, Strudwick, after being allegedly directed by his mother and convicted co-accused Monica Sampson, took a black box contained 27 bullets out of a cream handbag and put them down the toilet.
Police later excavated the sewer pipe where the black box was recovered in a plastic bag.
“I find on the balance of probabilities he was hiding syringes,” Judge Charteris said in sentencing.
“I am not satisfied he knew that he was hiding bullets.
“The circumstance were unique ... there was no planning.
“The offender was placed in a difficult situation by his mother.”
Throughout the judgment, Strudwick, dressed in a white, collared shirt with a black tie, sat with his hands clasped together.
The court heard Strudwick’s father remains in jail, serving an eight-year sentence for drug importation.
“He is not a drug user, somewhat remarkably,” Judge Charteris said, given his parents' abuse of illegal drugs.
The court was told the unemployed 24-year-old had assumed the box was containing syringes, like he had seen as a child.
“He knew his mother was a heavy drug user,” Judge Charteris said.
“He did not want his mother to get into trouble or go to prison.
“He blames his mother for involving him in the events that bring him before this court.”
While the Crown argued it was unusual that there had never been a conversation between his mother and him about stashing the bullets, Judge Charteris said Strudwick’s “upbringing was very much unusual”.
“I accept the offender is of a personality that can be easily led and not assertive,” he said.
“I am comfortably satisfied that the accused did not know he was hiding bullets.”
The black box sealed with electrical tape contained 27 unfired bullets, 20 of those which matched the revolver used to murder Senior Constable Rixon in Lorraine St on March 2 last year.
Judge Charteris said on the intercepted conversation between the accused, his mother and Sampson, “one can clearly hear the word bullets.”
But he acknowledged because the recording came from Sharon Strudwick's mobile, it might not have been as clear at the other end of the line.
“Sometimes there is indecipherable communication from Mrs Strudwick,” he said.
Senior Constable Rixon's mother and others did not comment on the sentence and Strudwick refused to answer any questions when approached outside court.
Monica Sampson has lodged an appeal after she was sentenced to three years in prison for her role in the murder aftermath.
Sharon Strudwick has pleaded guilty to disposing of 0.38 calibre ammunition with intent to pervert the course of justice and will be sentenced in April next year.