Susan Lynette Cross stopped her vehicle next to the two 14-year-old girls “with whom she had no relationship” outside a high school in Queanbeyan in June 2017, according to the facts presented at her sentence appeal yesterday.
She was 46 at the time.
What followed was a terrifying ordeal that ended when the girls ran screaming from the car into the school and “lay on the floor outside the principal’s office, traumatised and scared”.
“The applicant (Cross) accused one of the victims of having sexual relations with the applicant’s partner,” Justice Richard Cavanagh said yesterday in his summary of the facts.
“One of the victims was the stepdaughter of someone with whom the applicant was previously in a relationship.
“The victim denied the conduct, but the applicant refused to accept her denials.”
Alongside two other judges in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal on Monday, Justice Cavanagh dismissed Cross’ sentence appeal. She’ll remain locked up for another five months.
WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY
The girls were planning to have a cigarette outside the school gates when they were approached shortly before noon on June 14, 2017.
Cross stopped her vehicle next to them, firing accusations of the sexual relations at one girl and pulled out four or five pocket knives and multi-tools from her glove box.
She got out of her car and approached the teenagers while continuing to hurl abuse at them.
“At this time, she made the threat, ‘Tell me the truth otherwise you’re going to be dead’,” the agreed facts state.
“She was very close to the victims and claimed to recognise the scent of one of them on the bed she shared with her partner.”
Judge Robyn Tupman, when sentencing Cross’ co-offender last year, said: “This behaviour is all, on its face, quite bizarre.”
When the girls tried to walk away, Cross got back in her car and followed them before aggressively demanding they both get inside.
The facts state the 46-year-old used the central locking system “to stop the girls getting out”.
One of the victims tried to unlock the doors but Cross said: “Don’t even think. It’s locked.”
Cross then drove “fast and erratically” and continued to abuse and threaten the girls.
“By that stage, the victims were scared and crying,” court documents state.
One of the girls called her grandfather, whose phone was answered by her sister, but Cross forced the victim to give up the device. The sister was also abused, and the teenage victim was made to tell her she was at school and would call her back later.
Cross then stopped her car for 10 minutes and continued to hold the girls against their will, telling them “they would be killed if they attempted to run away” and threatening violence towards their families.
“(Cross) produced a multi-tool and took hold of a knife which she placed on the dash of the vehicle,” the facts state.
“She produced a pole and said, ‘This is what happens to little girls that be silly’.
“The victims thought they were going to be hit with the pole.”
Cross’ male passenger, Mitchell Cody Peck, “was hoping to act as some sort of peacemaker” and took each of the girls away from the car to see whether or not they were telling the truth.
Peck later pleaded guilty to two counts of detaining a person without their consent with the intention of obtaining an advantage, namely psychological gratification.
He has since served his time.
The facts state after speaking to Peck the girls were “compelled to get back in the car”.
“(Cross) then drove, again in an erratic manner, causing the victims to have fear for their safety,” the document states.
“When the applicant got back to the school, the victims were detained for a further five minutes and told, ‘You have two days to get out of town’.
“The applicant threatened the victims that she would kill them if they told the police what had happened.”
At 2.20pm that day, police stopped the vehicle and arrested both Cross and Peck.
She was later interviewed by officers, giving them a false account of the events that day and “stating that a harmonious conversation only had taken place at the roadside” with the girls.
WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY
Cross pleaded guilty on the first day of her trial in mid 2018 to two counts of aggravated kidnapping in company.
She was sentenced in the NSW District Court in February this year to two-and-a-half years in jail for each offence with a non-parole period of 15 months, to be served at the same time and expiring in April 2020.
Cross was granted leave to appeal her sentences, arguing they should be served in the community.
“The substance of her appeal is that the sentencing judge erred in her consideration as to whether the sentences could be served by way of an intensive correction order,” Justice Cavanagh said in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday.
But Cross failed on all four appeal grounds, including that the sentencing judge – Judge Tupman – had failed to properly account for the offender’s mental health.
“This is not so,” the three appeal court judges agreed in their judgment, published on Monday.
“The sentencing judge specifically concluded that the commission of the offence was necessarily connected with the psychiatric illness and … the applicant presented as a person who continued to suffer from a form of psychiatric illness albeit at that time she was not being treated with medication.”
Judge Tupman found Cross’ prospects of rehabilitation would be “greatly enhanced” if she was offered psychiatric treatment in custody and released into a community treatment program on parole to ensure she was properly supervised with necessary medication and any counselling.