Four witnesses have given evidence in the alleged menacing driving hearing involving a Byron Bay developer and an incident with his his ex-wife in February.
Bart Elias is charged with knowingly driving a vehicle in a manner to menace another and negligent driving over the alleged incident on Friday Hut Road on February 24.
From the moment the hearing started at Ballina Local Court on Friday, August 18, the first indications came that it would be part-heard.
Prosecutor Sergeant Alissia Kennedy told Magistrate R Denes one witness, a Sergeant, was not available to give evidence as he was injured and not at work.
‘His evidence is very important,’ Sgt Kennedy said.
‘I guess we could be part-heard,’ Ms Denes said.
‘That was going to be my application,’ Sgt Kennedy said.
In court Mr Elias was supported by his partner, and represented by Sydney-based barrister Murugan Thangaraj SC, an advising solicitor and a para-legal.
Under examination by Sgt Kennedy, Ballina police senior constable Anthony Brown, the officer in charge of the case, told the court he prepared the brief of evidence against Mr Elias.
Snr Cnst Brown said part of the brief of evidence, which was tendered to the court, was an interview with Mr Elias.
Three photos of the scene, which Snr Cnst Brown confirmed he took and Telstra phone records were also tendered as evidence by Sgt Kennedy.
When Mr Thangaraj’s turn came to cross-examine Snr Cnst Brown, he asked for it to be stood aside until after the other witnesses had given evidence.
Magistrate Denes then called for Anna Karina Elias to give evidence.
On the stand, Mr Elias said she had been in a new relationship since September 2016 and lived in house down the road from her ex-husband on Friday Hut Road.
On February 24, she said her boyfriend Anton Thiessen picked her up from Ballia airport in her Mercedes station wagon about 11.30 am.
Mr Thiessen was driving along Brooklet Road when Mrs Elias’ ex-husband drove past in his Toyota Landcruiser and both men stuck their fingers up at each other, she said in evidence.
A short time later, they turned into Friday Hut Road and Mr Elias cut the corner on the wrong side of the road and was alongside her car, Mrs Elias said.
‘He was driving very, very fast and driving so close, millimetres apart from my car to try to get us off the side of the road,’ Mrs Elias said.
‘Bart was on the wrong side of the road and he was trying to push us off the other side.
She decided to try to film the incident.
‘Once he realised I took out my phone he moved back a bit but was still chasing us,’ Mrs Elias said.
‘He moved from the right hand side and swerved around and tried to stop us getting in the driveway.’
Once Mr Thiessen pulled up outside her house, Mrs Elias told the court she went inside to call her Barrister John Weller and she noticed her ex-husband had stopped at the top of her driveway and was screaming and yelling.
Within 30 minutes, Mrs Elias said she was at Ballina police station reporting the incident.
When Sgt Kennedy showed Mrs Elias photos of the scene of the alleged incident she said they tried to keep straight in the left lane but ‘Bart kept pushing us’.
‘He’s turning the wheel to the left to try to push us off the road,’ Mrs Elias said.
‘How many times did he turn toward you,’ Ms Denes said.
‘Quite a few,’ Mrs Elias said.
Mrs Elias gave evidence that there was a deep ditch with stones which turned into a ditch with shrubby trees along the left hand side of Friday Hut Road where the alleged incident occurred.
It was revealed under cross-examination by Mr Thangaraj that Mr Elias first took out an Apprehended Personal Violence Order APVO against his ex-wife after an incident she had pleaded guilty to involving throwing a computer and was ordered to pay $4500 compensation.
But when Mr Thangaraj suggested she was lying, by claiming Mr Elias cut the corner from Brooklet Road into Friday Hut Road and was beside her car, she replied ‘No. Not at all.’
Mr Thangaraj then questioned why Mrs Elias didn’t tell police Mr Elias had gotten out of his car at the top of hr driveway.
‘Did you tell the police,’ he asked.
‘No I didn’t,’ she said.
‘No because I was running into my house fearful for my life.
‘I just left things out.
‘I didn’t not tell police, it was just the sequence of how I told it.’
‘Your partner was the one that was blocking and swerving in front of Mr Elias,’ Mr Thangaraj said.
‘No,’ Mrs Elias said.
The next witness, Mr Thiessen said they first encountered Mr Elias when coming home from Ballina airport on Brooklet Road when he stuck his finger up, then he noticed him coming behind them as they turned into Friday Hut Road.
‘He was flashing his lights at me as he has done in the past when he has tried to run me off the road,’ Mr Thiessen said.
‘He had the steering wheel in his hand and he attempted to pull the steering wheel numerous times toward our vehicle.
‘I asked Karina to take out her phone to film him when we were about 50 to 60 metres from her property
‘He pulled up as we got into the driveway and got out of his car and started shouting.’
Mr Thiessen told Sgt Kennedy he estimated both vehicles were travelling at between 80 km/h and 100km/h for about 800 metres while the alleged incident took place.
But when he was cross-examined by Mr Thangaraj, Mr Thiessen admitted not failing to tell police three things.
That he stuck his finger up at Mr Elias.
Mr Elias was flashing his lights at him on Friday Hut Road.
He told Mrs Elias to get her mobile phone out and start filming.
The court heard the phone recorded only audio of about 30 seconds and no video of the alleged incident.
‘I suggest he never swerved toward you and never blocked you,’ Mr Thangaraj said.
‘That would be a lie,’ Mr Thiessen said.
Owner of Fernleigh Spring Water Deliveries, Phillip Clarke, who knew both Mr and Mrs Elias, gave evidence of passing her Mercedes station wagon on Brooklet Road, Newrybar, about 11.45 am.
A few seconds later, Mr Clarke said a car came sharply around the corner and it was Mr Elias, who was half way across his side of the road.
Realising it was Mr Elias in his Landcruiser, Mr Clarke said he corrected the vehicle when there was about 30 to 40 metres between their cars, when he was travelling at 70 km/h in a 50 km/h zone.
Under cross-examination by Mr Thangaraj, Snr Cnst Brown said he forgot to include in a fact sheet about the incident that Mr Elias told him he had been phoned by the police to give evidence but said he would get legal advice first.
Snr Cnst Brown also agreed he didn’t include evidence that Sgt Wolfe was told on the day of the incident that Mr Elias claimed his ex-wife and Mr Thiessen had tried to run him off Friday Hut Road.
He also agreed that he only put Mr Thiessen’s version of the incident to Mr Elias, not his ex-wife’s that describes him cutting the corner of Brooklet Road and Friday Hut Road.
‘Well I couldn’t put two versions to him,’ Snr Cnst Brown told the court.
‘Yep that was the version I put to him.’
Magistrate Denes stood over the hearing until October 27, part-heard.
An interim APVO between Mr and Mrs Elias remains until that date.