Pursuit crash after rampage

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A youth-justice parolee has been jailed for a “drug-fueled criminal rampage” ending in a high-speed police pursuit in Noble Park.

Matthew McLeod, then 19, and a 17-year-old accomplice forced their way into three family homes in Keysborough and tried to break into others in the early hours of 11 December 2019.

McLeod had shown a “complete disregard” for the victims’ safety, welfare and property, Victorian County Court judge Mark Dean said in sentencing on 30 September.

“Offending of this nature strikes at the foundation of a secure society and the wellbeing of its citizens.”

During the spree, McLeod forced his way into the home of a sleeping family of four in Annabelle Boulevard about 1.30am.

He was seen running from the premises. A set of car keys had gone missing from the premises, Judge Dean said.

The co-offender, armed with a metal pole, smashed into another home in Keylana Drive and screamed at an occupant to hand over their BMW car keys.

McLeod had been trying to break into the same vehicle. The accomplice left empty handed and smashed the BMW’s window on the way out.

One of the pair smashed a panel window to try to open a front door of another house in Keylana Drive, occupied by a family of four including a mother in late-term pregnancy. An occupant called triple-0.

Soon after, two police officers stopped McLeod and his co-offender in a stolen car in Keylana Drive.

The 17-year-old threatened the officers with a tyre lever, while McLeod got in a “struggle” with a police officer.

McLeod then drove away in a “highly dangerous and criminal manner” at up to 143 km/h on Princes Highway and Corrigan Road as he was pursued by police for about seven kilometres.

He was arrested soon after losing control and crashing the stolen vehicle.

The traumatised officers were put at “risk of serious harm”, the victim residents’ sense of security were “profoundly disrupted”, Judge Dean said.

McLeod claimed he was under the influence of Xanax, and had no memory of what he’d done.

Now 20, McLeod pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary and three charges of attempted aggravated burglary.

He also admitted to charges of theft, criminal damage, dangerous driving while pursued by police, assaulting a police officer and disqualified driving.

Judge Dean noted McLeod’s youthfulness as well as a “significant” history of similar offences including aggravated burglary, assault and dangerous driving.

At the time, McLeod was on a youth parole order for similar offending. He’d just been released from six months of youth detention.

He’d grown up in “deprivation and disadvantage”, among drugs, criminal behaviour and abuse, Judge Dean noted. He was diagnosed with bipolar, anxiety and symptoms of psychosis.

Judge Dean rejected a defence sentencing submission for a youth justice order.

McLeod was jailed in adult prison for up to five years, including a two-and-a-half-year non-parole period. He had served 294 days in pre-sentence remand.

He was disqualified from driving for five years.