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How one flood photo led police to $18,000 of stolen goods

A Bundaberg man has faced court after he was photographed using a stolen boat to rescue people during the floods.
A Bundaberg man has faced court after he was photographed using a stolen boat to rescue people during the floods. Mike Knott

THE click of a camera during the 2013 floods was all it took to turn one Bundaberg man from hero to villain to prisoner.

Darren Leslie Mulvena, 28, appeared as a heroic figure in the pages of the NewsMail last year when a photo of him using his boat to rescue stranded North Bundaberg flood victims was published.

But the situation took a sinister turn when a 73-year-old reader realised he was in fact looking at his own boat which had been stolen in April 2012.

This led police to Mulvena who they discovered was in possession of an $18,000 haul worth of stolen goods including the boat, a motorbike and weapons.

Mulvena yesterday pleaded guilty in Bundaberg Magistrates Court to a series of charges including receiving the tainted property which was purchased from a man named Darryl.

"He stated that at the time of buying the boat, he knew the boat was stolen, firstly due to previous items he had purchased from Darryl and secondly he knew that the deal was too good to be true," Police Prosecutor Sergeant Barry Stevens said.

"Despite this belief, he purchased the boat because he got greedy." 

Barrister Nick Larter said there was no allegation his client had been involved in stealing any property. 

He said Mulvena had spent from one evening through to sunset the next day saving people from the floodwaters. 

"He doesn't know how many people he saved but thinks it might be in the order of about 100," he said. 

"When the chips were down and people needed help, he showed he was prepared to act selflessly and bravely. 

"He was detected in the course of some pretty heroic actions." 

Magistrate Deb Vasta said Mulvena's actions during the floods did not make up for his crimes. 

"It's been submitted that your punishment should be lessened because of these heroic actions you're said to have done during the height of the floods," Mrs Vasta said.

"Unfortunately however your actions on that day aren't a magic wand that can somehow absolve you of this persistent and ongoing behaviour," Mrs Vasta said.

"It seems to me that jumping in a boat was more about you chasing an adventure and less about you showing genuine care about people and property.

"If you had a genuine care for other people and their property then you wouldn't have spent months accumulating $18,000 of stolen property."

Mulvena was sentenced to three and 12 month jail terms to be served concurrently. 

He will spend two months behind bars before he is released onto 10 months parole on April 12 this year. 

He was also ordered to pay $469 restitution and lost his licence for two years for a charge of driving without a licence.

Topics:  court editors picks flood theft


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