‘Ringleader’ of group that stole 13 firearms, 1000 rounds of ammunition and bottles of scotch applies for bail | The Courier

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A man who was allegedly ‘the ringleader’ of a group who stole more than a dozen firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and more than a dozen bottles of scotch has been remanded in custody. Bradley Cassells, 28, appeared from custody via video link at the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on Thursday as his lawyer made an application for him to be bailed. Police informant, Detective Senior Constable Haydn Templeton, from the Western Region Crime Squad, told the court police feared Cassells would continue to reoffend if he was released from custody. He told the court police believed Cassells and three co-accused were responsible for a burglary at a Smythesdale property on April 8, 2021. He said the four accused allegedly arrived at the property in a silver Ford falcon sedan, which was towing a trailer, and allegedly entered the house by forcing open a rear sliding door. Once inside, the accused located two firearm safes in a spare bedroom and allegedly used a trolley to wheel them through the front door before loading them onto the trailer. Detective Senior Constable Templeton said one of the safes contained more than 1000 rounds of ammunition, while the other contained 13 firearms. The accused also stole a miniature wheelie bin and 15 bottles of scotch from a theatre room before returning to the car and leaving the property. A short distance down the road one of the safes fell from the trailer, with two of the accused exiting the car to place it back on before the car continued driving. Police attended the following day and ten days later were called to the Enfield State Forest where the two safes had been located. Police found a can of Canadian Club about 10-metres from the safes, with analysis later confirming DNA of one of the accused. The victim confirmed both the can and the safes to have been stolen from his address. One of the accused was arrested in Creswick in May, with one shotgun and some of the ammunition stolen in the burglary located nearby. During a search warrant executed at the man’s Soldier’s Hill home later that day, police found a blue ammunition box stolen in the burglary. Later that day a search warrant was executed at Cassell’s Sebastopol home, during which a mobile phone was seized that revealed texts, which the prosecution allege were sent by Cassells to a co-accused, about borrowing a trolley the day before the burglary. Another message said there were “two more hands, a car and a trailer” and all that was needed were “ropes and small tools”. Photographs of the stolen firearms and ammunition in the boot of the vehicle were also found on the phone, taken at 4pm on April 8. The court heard other photographs of the firearms all laid out on the floor, taken about 5.30pm, were also on the phone. Further photographs, taken on April 15, were taken of the Ford falcon and show significant damage to the rear driver’s side door. Another photo shows “an unknown male” pouring petrol into the car “in an industrial area”. Police were called to the Ballarat West Employment Zone at Mitchell Park on April 16 to respond to an abandoned car that had been burnt out. It was revealed to be registered to one of the accused. Detective Senior Constable Templeton told the court the victim had employed a cleaner in 2020 who was known to one of the accused. Cassells was interviewed in relation to the offending on June 4, when he denied all of the allegations. He faces five charges. Detective Senior Constable Templeton said police believed Cassells was an unacceptable risk of committing further offences and had “significant priors” for thefts, firearms and driving offences. The court heard he had served 610 days in custody when he was released in August 2020 and had been in the community for eight months when the Smythesdale burglary was carried out. “Police believe Cassells was the ring leader – he organised the co-accused to assist, organised the equipment needed after having been given the information about the safes by [the co-accused],” he said. The court heard the prosecution also relied upon evidence in phone calls from Cassells, including allegedly asking his girlfriend to delete text messages from the seized phone, while he was in prison. Prosecutor Wendy Duncan said the summary of offending, Cassells’ “consistent history of offending” and recordings of his calls from prison presented a “very strong” case. She said the fact 12 of the guns had not yet been found by police and that as the organiser Cassells would likely know where they were meant he was an “unacceptable risk of endangering the safety and welfare of others”. Defence lawyer, Chris Hooper, said his client denied owning the phone and said it was also used by others. He said his client denied the allegations put about the inferences about the prison calls and said no firearms had been found at his address. He said the risks alleged by the prosecution were “very narrow” pertaining to the idea he could reoffend or endanger the public and there was little to substantiate them, with the only indicator his priors. He said his client wanted to be in the community and it was a “powerful motivating factor for him” to receive bail to work and financially support his partner and five children. Magistrate Letizia Torres will review all of the material and will deliver her decision about Cassells’ application for bail next week. If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat’s story. 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