The driver of a car chased by a group of men on a remote Top End highway has said he feared his family would be killed in the pursuit, and that a gunshot was fired at their car.
- Benjamin Wright, 31, and Jayden Harmes, 19, both pleaded not guilty to recklessly endangering serious harm and discharging a firearm
- The men were charged over the pursuit of an Aboriginal family’s car on the remote Carpentaria Highway last August
- Alleged victim Sean Fitzpatrick told a Darwin court he heard a gunshot and saw a firearm during the chase
Two men charged over the chase on the Carpentaria Highway near Borroloola last August on Thursday faced the Darwin Local Court and denied any shots were fired during the incident.
Benjamin Wright, 31, and 19-year-old Jayden Harmes both pleaded not guilty to recklessly endangering serious harm and discharging a firearm.
A third man in the car at the time was not charged.
Lawyers for the men did not deny a chase had occurred but told the court their clients were concerned a female passenger in the car was in distress and a potential victim of domestic violence.
One of the alleged victims, Sean Fitzpatrick, told the court his family had stopped to get dinner at the Heartbreak Hotel roadhouse after a fishing trip.
He said he and his partner had an argument and yelled at each other before getting in the car with three others, including his sister and two young children.
Mr Fitzpatrick told the court he was driving towards the Aboriginal community of Borroloola when he saw a LandCruiser four-wheel drive travelling behind him with high beam lights on.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he pulled over to let the car pass because it was driving erratically and accelerating to within a metre of his vehicle.
But he said the second car stopped and three men got out, with one attempting to open one of his car’s doors, at which point Mr Fitzpatrick said he drove away.
He said the LandCruiser continued chasing the family’s car on what was a single lane stretch of road, with both vehicles driving at up to 160 kilometres per hour.
“I was in fear of my life, my family’s [lives],” he said .
He said the LandCruiser pulled up parallel to his car when a second lane emerged, which was when he heard a gunshot.
Mr Fitzpatrick told the court he glimpsed what he described as a rifle or shotgun pointing out of the other car’s window as he hit his brakes.
He said he drove back towards the nearby MacArthur River Mine to seek help, and that the family hid in the scrub there and called police.
“I felt like we were back in the 1800s — [it] felt like an Indigenous person being chased by station people,” he said.
Defence lawyer Peter Maley said the majority of facts in the case were agreed, bar the firing of a gun.
“[It’s] an interesting case regarding domestic violence — do people intervene or do they not, and what is reasonable?” he said.
Mr Wright is also facing firearms offences, including possessing ammunition and knuckledusters, which are a prohibited weapon, to which he has pleaded guilty.
The court also heard that a police interview with Mr Harmes had been corrupted and no longer existed, although the police officer at the time had taken notes.
Judge Therese Austen noted that the prosecution and defence would have to agree on what was said during that interview so as not to rely on the memory of the police officer.
The hearing continues on Friday.