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Teen haunted by terrifying random attack

Sirena Cook with partner Cheviot Kane.
Sirena Cook with partner Cheviot Kane. Lucy

SIRENA Cook was walking home alone to her Byron St unit in broad daylight when she got the feeling she was being followed.

The then 16-year-old turned around to see a stranger who, earlier that day, had appeared drunk and called out abusive words to her and her partner.

Miss Cook called her mother and ran to the unit. Once inside, she locked her front door.

She went to lock the back door, but her cat ran outside.

She took a few steps out to her patio and, with the cat in her arms, saw the stranger standing in the corner of her yard.

Miss Cook ran inside but struggled with the latch. The man took hold of the door.

Recounting her experience in court this week, Miss Cook said the stranger then punched her in the face, momentarily losing his grip on the door.

The attack happened just before 3.30pm on July 15, 2015, but she is still haunted by the memory.

"I'm glad he hit me, because if he didn't hit me I probably couldn't have gotten that door closed," Miss Cook told the Daily Mercury.

"I didn't know what was going to happen. All that kept going through my head was, 'What would happen if he knocked me out and he got inside my house?'" she said.

Miss Cook struggled to leave the house for two or three months afterwards.

"I'd always leave my partner and my place to go stay with my mum. I'd beg my mum not to let me go to sleep because I didn't want to fall asleep and dream about it," she said.

Miss Cook, a full-time business student, had to go to court to break the lease for the unit to escape the memories of her assault.

'Very poorly investigated' case falls down at trial

GORDON Lesley Sinnott, 52, faced trial in the District Court in Mackay charged with assaulting Sirena Cook and causing her bodily harm.

After all the prosecution's evidence had been heard, on the afternoon that the trial began, he was discharged due to a lack of evidence.

Judge Paul Smith said the matter had been "very poorly investigated". He said scenes of crime officers should have been called to the scene.

He said police photographs of Mr Sinnott showed him wearing a blue t-shirt that was "entirely inconsistent" with what Miss Cook and her partner had described.

During the trial, the judge questioned an investigating constable.

The constable testified that Miss Cook's door had not been checked for fingerprints and that Mr Sinnott's clothing had not been tested for blood.

The judge asked the constable who had been responsible for the investigation. It had been his police partner, who had since left the Queensland Police Service.

Crown prosecutor Alexandra Baker accepted that the case was wholly circumstantial, based on Miss Cook's and her partner Cheviot Kane's descriptions of a man they had seen sitting on the balcony at Central Lodge in Alfred St.

Central Lodge owner Christine Hall testified in the trial that Mr Sinnott had checked into the boarding house the day prior, on July 14.

On the morning of the assault, she said she had seen Mr Sinnott "staggering" to the boarding house "intoxicated". She saw him sitting out on the balcony.

Ms Hall said she had asked Mr Sinnott to move from the street-facing balcony, and he had, but not immediately. She told the court she didn't know what time he had left or where he had gone.

Ms Hall said there were 26 rooms in the boarding house and the balcony where the alleged attacker had been sitting was accessible to any of its residents.

Judge Smith told the jury there was "insufficient evidence" to proceed and discharged Mr Sinnott.

A Queensland Police Service spokesman told the Daily Mercury that QPS "is aware of and notes the outcome of this court matter".

He said the investigating officer was no longer a member of QPS.

No conclusion for victim of assault

Miss Cook was the first witness to give evidence at the trial. She teared up as she told her story to the jury.

"Actually having to think about the pain I felt, what I saw, where I was, I don't even have words for it... (I felt like) I was going to throw up, I felt so sick to my stomach," she said outside court.

Photos of Miss Cook's face, bruised and cut, were shown to the jury.

When the trial was terminated due to a lack of evidence, Miss Cook felt her testimony had all been for nothing.

"I feel it's been thrown back in my face," she told the Daily Mercury.

"I've had to re-live it every single day, I've got a scar under my eye.

"Every morning I look in the mirror and see it. I remember what the pain was like when he hit my face.

"(Then there was) the waiting game and waiting game of what's next."

The matter took 18 months to come to trial.

Topics:  assault crime district court editors picks mackay



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