A prominent restaurateur and his wife have relived the terrifying night they and family members were held hostage at gunpoint and robbed in their palatial Ballarat home by four masked invaders.
James and Dianne Frangos, a daughter and her husband were confronted by the gang brandishing a sawnoff air rifle, a pistol and two pipes while another daughter and three grandchildren aged under three were upstairs.
Melbourne Magistrates Court heard that the robbers expected to find about $400,000 in a safe, threatened to cut off Mr Frangos’ fingers and ‘’crush’’ his skull in before ransacking the house.
Ms Frangos said in a statement an intruder told the couple one would get a “bullet to the head’’ if they did not hand over the money.
Ms Frangos told a contested committal hearing this week she was ‘’terrified’’ as the gang stole jewellery worth about $100,000.
The couple, who owns Frangos & Frangos restaurant in Daylesford and another at Lorne, their daughter Melia and her husband Timothy Scanlon gave evidence before magistrate Angela Bolger.
Kerry Francine Murrell, 45, of Footscray, her nephew Anoir Kamal Murrell, 24, of Sebastopol, and a man who cannot be named, are charged with offences that include armed robbery, aggravated burglary and false imprisonment.
Ms Bolger heard the accused were told by a witness the Frangos family was rich and “quite high and mighty’’.
Stacey Watson, who once worked for Mr Frangos and whose mother was formerly in a relationship with Kerry Murrell, said in evidence it was “just word of mouth’’ but the Frangoses were “loaded’’.
Ms Watson told police she informed the accused of this and days later felt guilty when she read in The Courier that the family had been ‘’terrorised’’.
Mr Frangos, 67, said he heard screaming about 10pm on December 4, 2010, and came downstairs to see two men in balaclavas standing over Melia.
Mr Frangos, in a statement to police, said after being struck with a pipe and being threatened, he told his wife to open the safe.
He stated that “if they didn’t get what they wanted he would cut my fingers off and put holes in my legs’’ as they demanded cash and diamonds before finding five watches and his wife’s gold jewellery.
Questioned by Anthony Lewis, for Kerry Murrell, about telling one offender who expected to find about $400,000 in safe to “look around you, we can’t even afford to have curtains’’, Mr Frangos described the “rather foolish’’ remark as a “cheap shot’’.
Dianne Frangos, 65, said in a statement she was watching TV with Melia and her husband when “these people just burst into the loungeroom’’ with guns and ordered them to sit down and not move.
“The big guy said ‘one of you will get a bullet to the head if you don’t hand it (money) over’,” Ms Frangos said. She had then opened the safe that was empty.
She told police she then handed a man her gold Christian Dior watch, engagement ring and eternity ring but he declined her wedding ring and grandmother’s ring.
Ms Frangos said everyone was “frightened for our lives’’ as her daughter became hysterical – as she did while giving evidence yesterday – “because of her babies”.
The hearing continues.