By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
There’s no denying that we’ve all either seen or been involved in some sort of road rage incident over the years.
Perhaps the most common aspect to all is that drivers, in their anger, tend to have a minor verbal or physical outburst of some sort.
And why not, you could argue?
We’ve all had our moments – a car pushes in front of you without waving in acknowledgement and then slows down. Someone pulls out before you when there were absolutely no cars behind you. A car holds up traffic at the lights because the driver was too busy looking down at their mobile phone.
Without a doubt, driving can get pretty frustrating – especially when you’re dealing with drivers doing stupid things behind the wheel.
But then there’s taking your road rage a little too far.
Like, next-level too far.
Like, when you place an explosive device on a car because of your road rage, too far.
Yes, your eyes are reading that correctly.
In February 2019, a man from NSW was accused of placing an explosive device on a car after an alleged road rage incident with a couple at the McDonald’s drive-through at Warrawong, south of Wollongong.
Ryan Sharp, 33, found himself charged with blowing up a car after a couple beeped their horn at his partner as she waited in the drive-through line to get her McDonald’s order.
From the Toot of a Car Horn: How the Road Rage Incident at McDonald’s Started
In the evening of 22 February, Deanne Struber, partner of Mr Sharp, placed an order using the drive-through at Warrawong McDonald’s.
She then moved her Nissan X-Trail, in which her two young sons were sitting inside, forward to the serving window to pay for her food.
However, Ms Struber happened to forget something so began to reverse her car.
Behind her, a Ford ute with a couple and their six-week-old baby inside, waited, also wanting to order food.
As the pair watched Ms Struber’s vehicle reverse towards them, they tooted the horn, fearing their car was on the verge of getting hit.
Ms Struber then stuck her head out of the window and hurled verbal abuse at the couple, before driving away.
The couple followed Ms Struber until both vehicles eventually drove away.
Ute Fixed with Bomb and Explodes: How the Road Rage Incident Ended
Shortly after the McDonald’s incident, the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit (FPIU) was called to undertake investigations after the alleged victims began receiving a barrage of online abuse.
On 23 February, the windows of the couple’s ute were smashed while it was parked outside their home.
Then, in the early hours of 5 March, the Ford Ranger was blown up.
The car, which was unoccupied at the time, sat in the driveway of the couple’s Koonawarra home as the explosion went off.
According to Superintendent McLean, the explosion “could have killed” a person.
“This was an act of grievance-fuelled violence… The victim of this matter was an unintended victim, was not known to the offenders,” Detective McLean said.
“And what we will allege followed was a barrage of online threats, harassment and intimidation, which ultimately led to the placement of this … improvised explosive device.”
The FPIU was set up by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller in 2017 to undertake investigations into those who are seemingly fixated on individuals, institutions or issues, but are not deemed a risk for terrorism.
The Unit comprises 17 detectives along with mental health workers.
Mr Sharp Arrested for Placing Explosive Near a Vehicle
On 2 April, Mr Sharp was arrested at Warrawong BP where he was getting fuel on his way to work.
He was charged with placing an explosive in/near a vehicle, along with two counts of using a carriage service to threaten serious harm, two counts of stalk/intimidate, using a carriage service to threaten to kill, destroying or damaging property, threatening a witness and two counts of possessing or using a prohibited weapon.
Ms Struber was charged with accessory after the fact to destroying or damaging property and stalk/intimidate.
Mr Sharp was denied his bid for bail even after hearing of his need to be free to continue caring for his elderly grandmother, who has mobility issues.
Both Mr Sharp and Ms Struber are due to face court at the end of May.
What are the Penalties for Causing an Explosive to be Placed in or Near a Building or Public Place in NSW?
In NSW, the offence of causing explosives to be placed in or near a building, conveyance or public place is taken seriously by the courts.
Anyone guilty of causing an explosive to be put near or in a vehicle, train, conveyance, building or any public place will face a penalty of up to 14-years jail if he/she does so with the intention of causing bodily harm to any other person under section 48(1) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
A person will be guilty of this offence even if it results in no explosion or where there is no bodily harm caused.
This offence is considered a ‘strictly indictable offence’ which means that although it will commence in the Local Court, a Local Court Magistrate cannot deal with it by way of a hearing unless it gets withdrawn early. It will eventually move its way up to the District Court where the District Court will deal with it by way of a sentence or trial.
Have a question? Contact our leading Sydney criminal defence lawyers on out 24/7 hotline on (02) 8606 2218.