NATHAN Paul, the man who detectives say was armed with a gun during hold ups at pubs in Stockton and Cardiff, has been released on bail after a judge said it was difficult to understand what evidence there was linking him to either robbery.
Mr Paul walked out of the maximum security wing of Parklea Correctional Centre on Thursday night after spending nearly 600 days in custody bail refused over armed robberies at The Boatrowers Hotel in Stockton on June 26, 2019 and the Iron Horse Inn in Cardiff on January 25 last year.
The 34-year-old has pleaded not guilty to two counts of armed robbery, possession of an unauthorised pistol, acquiring a firearm subject to a prohibition order and driving a stolen car and will face a trial in Newcastle District Court in March, 2024.
But with his trial still some six months away, Mr Paul launched a bail application in NSW Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing the strength of the prosecution case and the further delay meant he could be released on conditional bail.
Justice Natalie Adams said the case against Mr Paul in relation to the Stockton robbery relied on one witness, who may or may not give evidence during the trial.
"It's a serious armed robbery... and I have been provided with a very detailed Crown case statement and I have read that carefully," Justice Adams said. "Nowhere in that statement is there any evidence to implicate [Mr Paul]."
Justice Adams said the case against Mr Paul in relation to the Cardiff armed robbery was difficult to follow and seemed to involve coded text messages.
But, crucially, there was no identification of Mr Paul during the robbery and no DNA or fingerprints left at the scene, the court heard.
"I'm not in a position to say it's a weak Crown case in relation to either matter because there's simply insufficient evidence before the court to really understand what the case is," Justice Adams said. "But the fact that neither Crown case statement is able to describe the Crown case fully is a relevant factor such that when it's combined with the question of delay, I am satisfied cause has been shown in this matter."
Detectives say two masked men - one armed with a handgun and the other with a meat cleaver - walked into the Iron Horse Inn at Cardiff about 12.20am on January 25 last year and threatened two employees, aged 52 and 25, before taking the cash register and fleeing.
Police were told they left in a blue Ford Falcon sedan last seen heading east along Main Street.
The employees of the pub were shaken but not injured.
Mr Paul is accused of being armed with the gun, while Jade Allan Thompson in June admitted to being the man with the meat cleaver.
A third man, Benjamin Matheson, alleged to have been the getaway driver, has pleaded not guilty and will face a trial alongside Mr Paul in March, 2024.
About six months after his arrest over the Iron Horse Inn robbery, Robbery and Serious Crime Squad detectives charged Mr Paul with holding up the Boatrowers Hotel at Stockton on June 26, 2019.
It was about 11.30pm when two masked men armed with a firearm and a tomahawk walked into the pub on Fullerton Street and threatened and assaulted employees.
The men demanded money from the till and other items from staff, before fleeing the location in a stolen vehicle which was later found burnt out on Pitt Street.
Two employees suffered minor injuries during the incident but have since recovered.
Again Mr Paul is alleged to have been armed with a firearm during the Stockton pub robbery, while two other men have pleaded guilty to their roles.
One man, James Paul Hall, will be sentenced later this month, while a third man, who cannot be identified, was jailed last year for a maximum of five years and three months.
Justice Adams granted Mr Paul bail on a number of conditions, including reporting daily to police and a curfew.
He will next appear in Newcastle District Court in November during the court's super callover, a process where dozens of trials are funnelled into a list and negotiations take place in a bid to reduce the backlog.
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