A FORMER police detective who won a bravery award for saving two women from a raging house fire drove around for hours before he worked up the nerve to rob a petrol station.
An apologetic Michael Gordon Gilmont hit Woolworths Caltex at Ooralea on April 8 last year and stole $250 from the tills, which he used to buy food for his family.
"I'm not going to hurt you, I just want the money," Gilmont told the woman manning the servo, thanking her as he dashed out the door.
On July 14, 2017, the former co-lessee of Eton Hotel's financially-driven desperation hit new heights.
He robbed Sarina Hotel of about $32,000 while armed with a switchblade, in the middle of what his lawyer later described as a "dire financial situation".
Gilmont and his wife had declared bankruptcy after their hotel business failed, due to a downturn in the mining industry, and family mental health issues.
The 58-year-old man - who achieved a rank of Detective Sergeant and worked for a time in the Queensland Police Criminal Investigation Branch - faced the District Court in Mackay yesterday.
Gilmont pleaded guilty to armed robbery and deprivation of liberty in relation to the pre-planned hotel robbery, in which he bound a man's hands with a cable-tie and raided a safe.
He had disguised himself in a cap, a motorbike mask and spectacles, and slipped on latex gloves after sneaking through the hotel's back door about 10am.
The manager was frogmarched to the office of the hotel and warned no one would be injured if he complied.
Gilmont was arrested within minutes, after a staff member escaped and contacted police.
He had no chance to make it to a getaway car he had earlier parked in a lane a short distance from the hotel.
Sarina police station is located within metres of the hotel - almost directly across the road.
Gilmont, who had no prior criminal record, also pleaded guilty to robbery in relation to the petrol station hold-up, in which he wore a similar disguise.
A row of seats in the District Court's public gallery was filled by Gilmont's family, including his wife and children.
The man who had been tied up sat in the back row, flanked by two police officers.
Prosecutor Melissa Wilson told Judge Paul Smith that Gilmont had spent 223 days in prison before sentencing.
The hotel robbery had had a "significant impact" on the staff member who had been tied up, the prosecutor added.
"He wakes up at night seeing images of robbers. He's cautious of new faces in the hotel, where he still works," Ms Wilson said.
"He says he's always looking over his shoulder and crazy about locking doors and the safety of staff."
Gilmont "accepted full responsibility" when he was caught red-handed during the Sarina robbery, which was motivated by "financial stress", Ms Wilson said.
The switchblade Gilmont carried remained retracted and while the incident "must have been frightening", Judge Smith said, Gilmont used "the bare minimum of violence" to get his hands on the cash.
Barrister Bronwyn Hartigan, instructed by Fisher Dore Lawyers, spoke on behalf of Gilmont, who spent a portion of the hearing interacting with his family from behind the glass of the custodial dock
Gilmont "cannot believe that this is him" and his own behaviour sickened him, Ms Hartigan told the court.
She said Gilmont had been a well-respected police officer, who worked in a wide variety of roles before he left Queensland Police in 1994.
Ms Hartigan told the court Gilmont received a bravery award during his two decades as an officer.
"He received a Royal Humane Society Bravery Award (as a young officer in 1979)," she said.
"He was out on patrol at that time in Woolloongabba when he saw a house on fire and he saved two ladies from that fire."
The Greenmount man had worked as a private investigator, as a tow truck driver and in various other roles over the years, including in the mining industry.
In 2014, Gilmont and his wife "decided to have a go at running a hotel", which is when their troubles began.
" ... there is some background to these offences, as your honour would appreciate," Ms Hartigan said.
"The couple bought the lease on the Eton Hotel ... The couple paid $100,000 upfront for the lease, which comprised all of their savings," she said. "And then they had to pay $1500 per week for the lease ... there was a downturn in the mining industry, such that the clientele decreased."
Ms Hartigan said at the time of the robberies Gilmont was "at the end of his tether", struggling to pay the rent on his family home.
Judge Smith, summing up, said Gilmont told police "it wasn't my intention to rob some poor bastard, though maybe subconsciously it was".
"You said you drove around for hours. You were about to head home, but you couldn't face returning without money to your wife and children," Judge Smith said. "You chose that service station because it was open..."
Judge Smith said he would take into account Gilmont would have a tougher time in jail than the average offender because of his police background.
He also considered Gilmont's early pleas, and other factors.
Gilmont was sentenced to serve four and a half years jail, suspended after 13 months for five years. He's already served just over seven months.
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