There was a large police presence at the shopping centre after the brawl. Picture: Nigel Hallett
There was a large police presence at the shopping centre after the brawl. Picture: Nigel Hallett

What sparked man’s shopping centre rampage

A MILD-mannered cafe owner and outstanding community citizen "lost it" when he went on a violent rampage through one of the Gold Coast's busiest shopping centres, a court has been told.

Charles Hili, the 65-year-old owner of the Blarney Stone Cafe at Australia Fair, faced Southport Magistrates Court on Tuesday, pleading guilty to two charges stemming from an ugly incident in the shopping centre last August.

Man charged after wild shopping centre brawl

Hili originally faced six charges, but four were dismissed after he pleaded guilty to one count of public nuisance and one count of assault of a person aged over 60.

The court was told Hili was closing his cafe for the day on August 23 and had shuttered most of the roller doors when he was confronted by an angry Ju Hyung Lee, the owner of a nearby Asian grocery store.

The two shop owners had been involved in a bitter feud for months.

Charles Hili leaves Southport Magistrates Court today. Picture: Jeremy Pierce
Charles Hili leaves Southport Magistrates Court today. Picture: Jeremy Pierce

As the argument turned physical, Mr Lee was taken to hospital in an ambulance while a 61-year-old bystander was also injured.

Hili pushed Helga Haefele, who fell to the ground, as he followed Mr Lee out of the cafe and in to the main thoroughfare of the shopping centre.

Ms Haefele did not suffered serious physical injuries, but the court was told she now experiences anxiety and nervous tension when visiting the shops.

Police and paramedics on the scene at Australia Fair. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Police and paramedics on the scene at Australia Fair. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Hili was eventually cornered by shopping centre security guards holding a fishing knife, while a wooden club was also used in the incident.

Representing Hili in court, barrister Sarah Thompson said her client had an impressive work history and actively helped homeless and unemployed people in the area and had no criminal history whatsoever.

A policeman carries a wooden club used during the dispute. Picture: Nigel Hallett
A policeman carries a wooden club used during the dispute. Picture: Nigel Hallett

"My client did not seek to have an argument with Mr Lee," she said.

She said Hili had since suffered the shame of media coverage and a night in custody in the Southport Watchhouse as well as depression and was now planning to sell the cafe.

Magistrate Andrew Sinclair agreed Hili was "a mature gentleman" who "had lived the kind of life most people would aspire to".

"You did not go seeking conflict," he said.

"The fight came to you as it were. (But momentarily) You allowed your good sense to leave you."

He placed Hili on a good behaviour bond and did not record a conviction.

Outside court, Hili declined to comment on the case or why he had finally snapped.

An allegation Hili assaulted Mr Lee was among four charges dropped by

prosecutors.



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