Smokes spark home invasion


By Cam Lucadou-Wells

An apartment resident’s annoying wafting of cigarette smoke has escalated into her son being jailed for a violent, retaliatory home invasion.

Matilja Garic, 32, and two other males stormed into a Dandenong family’s flat and repeatedly punched, kicked and slammed a man into a wall on 8 November, 2020.

The victim’s wife screamed in terror and tried to intervene, while the couple’s two-year-old daughter slept in another room.

After the three-minute bashing, the man was taken to Dandenong Hospital with numerous bruises and cuts.

On 8 October, Garic was convicted in the County Court of Victoria and jailed for home invasion and recklessly causing injury.

It started with a neighbourly feud, the court heard. A couple complaining about Garic’s mother and friends smoking outside a downstairs apartment last year.

The smoke was being drawn into their daughter’s bedroom, the couple claimed.

Garic’s mum disregarded the complaints, as did the body corporate.

The day before the home invasion, the female neighbour tipped cigarette butts from Garic’s mother’s ashtray onto the nearby doormat.

In retaliation, Garic’s mother deposited the butts in the neighbours’ empty car spot.

And so then the male neighbour picked up the butts in a plastic bag and poured the contents onto Garic’s mother as she smoked with friends.

After words between the neighbours, the mother called her son Garic, claiming that the male neighbour had assaulted her or tried to assault her.

Garic drove across town and rounded up at least one of his accomplices to go to the neighbours’ flat that night.

About 9.20pm, they knocked at the door, barged in and beat up the husband, smashing his head against a wall.

“This will teach you,” one of the attackers said.

Judge Frances Dalziel noted Garic’s “self-congratulatory” texts with his accomplices the next day.

His mother sent him a text that 80 per cent of people in the building would consider him “a king in their eyes”.

After his arrest, Garic claimed he intended to “scare” the neighbours. He wanted to “rough up” but not kill the husband – just so he knew that someone would defend Garic’s mother.

As a result, the couple and daughter moved out of the flats.

The woman described the home invasion as the scariest experience of her life. She thought the intruders were going to kill her husband.

“Our entire lives have been turned upside-down because of one cruel and planned attack in the place where we should have felt safest.

“If my daughter was awake she would have witnessed her mother’s terrified screams and her father punched and shoved against a wall repeatedly and with no remorse.”

The male victim stated that it “frustrates me and distresses me that someone I’ve never met before can suddenly have such a terrifying impact on my life and my family”.

Judge Frances Dalziel noted Garic’s childhood trauma, including witnessing horrors in the Bosnian War and his mother being domestically abused.

At the time, Garic was stressed by Covid depleting his business and his ability to provide for his wife and newborn child.

He was then triggered into fear and anger by his mother’s distressed call.

“While it is understandable that you would take your mother’s side and protect her, the way you went about it was entirely inappropriate.

“People must be deterred from acting in this way when they have a grievance with another person.”

Garic had no prior convictions, was of previously good character and latterly showed remorse with a letter-of-apology to his victims.

Judge Dalziel said Garic would find his first prison stint “confronting and frightening”.

Home invasion carries mandatory jail without a community corrections order, with some exceptions.

Garic was jailed for up to three years. He will be eligible for parole in 18 months.