‘Misguided’ intruder jailed after flats feud


By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A 32-year-old man has been jailed after taking part in a violent, retaliatory home invasion against a Dandenong family.

Jake Hepponstall and two other males stormed the Hutton Street flat on 8 November 2020 over a dispute that escalated over an apartment resident’s annoying wafting of cigarette smoke.

The intruders repeatedly punched and kicked the man in the flat, with his head slammed into a wall, County Court sentencing judge Gavan Meredith said on 7 April.

After the bashing, the man was taken to hospital with numerous bruises and cuts.

The home invaders were led by Matilja Garic, whose mother had been embroiled in the neighbourly feud.

The family had complained about Garic’s mother and friends smoking outside a downstairs apartment.

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

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

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

The man – who was later bashed by the home invaders – picked up the butts in a plastic bag and poured the contents onto Garic’s mother as she smoked with friends.

Five hours later, Garic – trailed by Hepponstall and the other male – barged into the neighbours’ flat and started the assault.

Hepponstall – who managed a Telstra outlet in Hastings – didn’t go into the flat with the intention to assault, Judge Meredith noted.

But his offending “evolved” while following Garic’s lead

The former Eumemmerring Secondary College student acted out of “misguided loyalty” to a friend who believed his mother had been assaulted.

After leaving the flat, there was an “unedifying” exchange between Garic and Hepponstall by phone.

“Love you too. My bro for life,” Hepponstall told Garic.

The victims suffered “significant and ongoing” impact. They since moved out of the flat due to feeling unsafe.

Aggravated home invasion carries mandatory jail, with rare exceptions.

The judge could give little to no weight to Hepponstall’s lack of prior convictions, his close family support, strong work history and “excellent” rehabilitation prospects.

However, Hepponstall deserved a “significantly lesser” jail term than Garic, who was recently imprisoned for up to three years.

Hepponstall was jailed for up to 16 months. He will be eligible for parole in eight months.