Nightmare scenes as girl ‘hunted’

·8-min read
Teen girl ‘hunted’ with bow and arrow
Teen girl ‘hunted’ with bow and arrow

A man who tried to kill a random teenage girl with his compound bow and arrow had picked out his victim specifically to “cause alarm”, a court has heard.

The 15-year-old was parking her bike outside the supermarket in Booval, west of Brisbane, on September 20, 2020 when Benjamin Jeremy Bourke chose her to be his victim.

For nearly five minutes, he then proceeded to “hunt her like an animal” shooting arrows at her through an Aldi supermarket as she tried to run for her life.

Benjamin Bourke was sentenced to more than a decade in jail for the attempted murder of a 15-year-old girl in 2020.
Benjamin Bourke was sentenced to more than a decade in jail for the attempted murder of a 15-year-old girl in 2020.

The now 28-year-old man was sentenced in Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday to ten-and-a-half years in jail after pleading guilty to the attempted murder of the girl.

His meticulous thought process was detailed in court:

The decision to kill

Crown Prosecutor Matt Le Grand told the court Bourke had an argument with his housemate earlier in the day and decided to end his life.

In the space of 10 minutes from the argument to going upstairs to his room, Bourke had decided he would make the police shoot him.

Mr Le Grand said Bourke had figured the best way to achieve this was to kill someone.

Benjamin Bourke left his Bundamba home heavily armed.
Benjamin Bourke left his Bundamba home heavily armed.

“He decided to take a life, he just didn’t know which life he would take,” Mr Le Grand said.

Going upstairs to change, Bourke emerged from his bedroom clad in a full-face mask, hoodie and full length pants.

He handed over his keys to his housemate and left the Bundamba home, armed himself with his compound bow, five arrows, two knives and three small sledge hammers.

A mother’s life spared

The court heard Bourke had made his way on foot armed with his weapons to enact his plan.

CCTV footage played in court showed Bourke walking from Booval Railway Station along South Station Rd armed with a compound bow.

As he emerges from a tunnel and up the stairs, the footage shows a mother with a small child in her arms walking down the stairs.

Mr Le Grand said Bourke had considered “choosing” to shoot a mother “as his target” with his bow and arrow.

However, he ultimately decided to spare her life because he thought it wouldn’t be fair on the child to grow up knowing their mother died that way, the court heard.

A lucky escape

Bourke kept walking, with the local shops set to be his destination.

As Bourke continued on his journey, an indigenous woman jogged past him.

Benjamin Bourke told police he had planned to kill someone in a bid to draw officers out to kill him.
Benjamin Bourke told police he had planned to kill someone in a bid to draw officers out to kill him.

The CCTV footage captures Bourke stopping on the spot and turning around while preparing his compound bow pointed in her direction.

He shoots.

But the arrow missed her.

“His reason for (shooting at her) was that the woman was indigenous and he didn’t like indigenous (people),” Mr Le Grand said.

The court heard the arrow was not tipped and the woman was unharmed as she continued on her jog.

The hunt begins

Mr Le Grand said Bourke then decided he would continue onto the shopping precinct in Booval as “there would be more witnesses at the shops”.

“Causing an alarm was part of Mr Bourke’s plan,” he said.

“It’s when he reached the Aldi shop, he found his target.”

The court heard the teenage girl was locking her bike on the street when Bourke spotted her.

Bourke, still clad in a mask, walked up to the girl, his compound bow and arrow in hand.

The 15-year-old girl took refuge in an Aldi store before she was ‘hunted like an animal’. Picture: NCA NewsWire

Removing his mask, he told the girl “I’ll let you see who I am first” before he shot his compound bow, firing an arrow which narrowly missed her.

The court heard the girl got up and entered the Aldi store in an effort to escape.

That’s when Bourke “pursued” her as he shot another arrow in her direction, this time grazing her right arm.

CCTV footage shows Bourke spends the next four to five minutes stalking the girl around the store.

At one point she’s seen trying to hide behind a pallet before he spots her again.

As she tries to dodge his sight by moving between the supermarket aisles, he continues to move cautiously with his compound bow at the ready.

He spots her and shoots at her again, this time penetrating her left hand, phone and upper torso causing an injury to her fingers and chest.

The good Samaritans

The girl manages to escape his sight despite being struck with the bow.

She finds a customer by calling out for help and shows her injury to the shopper, with the arrow still lodged into her torso.

But while this is happening, she doesn’t see Bourke approaching her from behind.

He shoots at her again but misses.

The teenage girl who was ‘hunted like an animal’ by Benjamin Jeremy Bourke leaves Brisbane Supreme Court with her family. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sarah Marshall

The girl runs away again and manages to find another customer who shields her from Bourke as he continues to calmly stalk around the store.

Bourke fires one more arrow at the girl but misses.

He’s now all out of arrows.

Armed with a small sledge hammer, Bourke walked up to the girl asking for his arrow back, the court heard.

Mr Le Grand said the girl refused Bourke’s request and he put his weapons down in an effort to talk to her.

Mr Le Grand said the girl was still being shielded by the woman she’d approached for help, the woman then asked Bourke to put his weapons on the ground.

At this point, not all his weapons are on show, with some knives hidden away in his pockets, the court heard.

He tells the pair he feels safer carrying them.

It’s at this point two men approach Bourke and tackle him to the ground.

They detain him until police arrive.

Benjamin Bourke was sentenced to more than a decade in jail for the attempted murder of a 15-year-old girl in 2020.
Benjamin Bourke was sentenced to more than a decade in jail for the attempted murder of a 15-year-old girl in 2020.

A lack of remorse

Mr Le Grand said Bourke had shown a “selfish mindset” on that day and has no remorse for what he did to the girl.

“She was hunted like an animal around the store for about four minutes,” he said.

“The offence is protracted, it was persistent and could have easily had other consequences and indeed that was Mr Bourke’s intent.

“This was a premeditated and purposeful attack, the offending occurred in public.

“Therefore it’s not just an example of violence in public but violence deliberately in public.”

The court heard Bourke had been diagnosed with mixed personality disorder and was a regular cannabis user.

Mr Le Grand said while these health issues were a “contributing factor” to his offending, Bourke was still capable of making decisions that day and yet he still chose to violently attack the girl.

“He was able to express his thought process in deciding his ultimate target,” he said.

“The fact that he was able to decide not to target the woman with the child and proceed with the consequences of that course, if he’d embarked upon killing that woman who had the baby, demonstrates he was able to reason properly about difference”.

Mr Le Grand said Bourke has never inquired about the girl’s health following the attack despite “multiple opportunities to express remorse”.

Benjamin Bourke pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the Supreme Court in Brisbane. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

But Bourke’s defence barrister, Charlotte Smith, told court Bourke had read the victim impact statements last week.

“Upon reflection on those things he instructed me he is sorry,” Ms Smith said.

“That’s the first occasion that’s been expressed.”

Ms Smith told the court it was important to understand her client’s mental health had played a role in the attack in Aldi.

She said “it’s less likely the offending would have occurred in the first place” if he hadn’t been dealing with those issues.

What happens now

Justice Tom Sullivan sentenced Bourke to 10 years and six months in jail.

The 946 days he’s already served in custody will be taken into account in his service.

“This was not a crime of passion, or immediacy, it was a series of events over time,” Justice Sullivan said.

“The fact that the fourth arrow did not cause serious damage was luck rather than planning.

“The evidence suggests that the offence was intended to be conducted in public where it could be viewed by members of the public.

“This is consistent with what you said about why you didn’t attack any of the other persons on the way to the Aldi store.

“I do now see there’s been real evidence of real remorse.”

Justice Sullivan said while the girl’s physical injuries were ultimately minor, Bourke’s actions have caused psychological damage.

He said her lack of serious physical injury was “good fortune rather than design”.

He added that he took into account Bourke’s mental health condition when sentencing but ultimately found he was aware of his actions that day.

“There was a connection between those matters and the offending on this day however again consistent with the opinion expressed by (the psychiatrist’s report) it seems that you were cognitive of what was right and wrong and you had the ability in effect to control yourself and to know what you were doing,” he said.