Shot mother: Who's going to protect us when he gets out?

Rockpool owner John Stephens in 2012. This week he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for the attempted murder of his ex-wife.
Rockpool owner John Stephens in 2012. This week he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for the attempted murder of his ex-wife. Allan Reinikka ROK080812apool3

A WOMAN whose ex-husband shot her in the face in front of their three children says she will move her family overseas before he is released from prison.

Former Rockhampton businessman John Jesse Stephens, was last week convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison for the August 16, 2014 shooting in the car park of Westfield Helensvale.

The ex-Rockpool owner and failed Pizza Hut franchisee was disarmed by bystanders when his sawn-off .22 calibre rifle jammed.


The injury caused by John Jesse Stephens.
The injury caused by John Jesse Stephens.

The Queensland Supreme Court was told the 46-year-old stalked and threatened to kill his ex wife leading up to the attack despite being the subject of a domestic violence order.

The mother, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said the fact her ex-husband would spend at least the next 10 years behind bars gave her some peace of mind.

But she says the family has already obtained immigration documents in preparation for his release.

"To be honest I think we'd have to (move overseas) because, what's going to protect us?" she told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

"Fifteen years is the most he's ever going to do.

"After he's done his 15 years if he doesn't get his parole, we can't make him stay in there for any longer.

"What stops him not coming out and doing something again?"


FLASHBACK: Former Rockpool owner John Stephens with one of the rusty outlets in 2012. Now he's in prison for the attempted murder of his ex-wife.
FLASHBACK: Former Rockpool owner John Stephens with one of the rusty outlets in 2012. Now he's in prison for the attempted murder of his ex-wife. Allan Reinikka ROK080812apool1

During sentencing last week the court was told the woman's traumatised children barricade their bedroom doors with chairs and bags at night while their mother struggles to go outside in the dark.

The 38-year-old former schoolteacher aide said the system does not properly safeguard victims.

She said too many people abused the system by taking out unwarranted domestic violence protection orders against their partners.

"We have friends where the ex-wife has put a DVO on the husband purely (because) she wants it to look bad when she goes to the family law court," she said.

"There are two different types of people out there - the ones that really need it and the ones that take advantage of it."

The woman said violent domestic violence offenders should be hit with harsher penalties and there should be a national register of domestic violence offenders to inform prospective spouses about potential dangers before entering into a relationship.

"I want (my daughter) to be able to check, if she starts dating a guy she meets at the pub, I want her to be able to check that person out before she gets into a more serious relationship with them," she said.

"It's giving you an option to get away before anything starts.

"Everyone knows with domestic violence the hardest part is leaving.

"People should have the right to know.

"I was 19 when I met (him). I was from Tasmania.

"I was very naive. There was domestic violence very early on and now I look back and I can see the signs."

The woman's new partner, whose son was in the car at the time of the shooting, cried in relief when the guilty verdict was read out in court.

Outside court, he said: "This person, he's been like this a long time and he will always be like this.

"I believe murderers and attempted murders should be put away for the rest of their lives.

"We can never ever live in peace while he's out of jail and still breathing."



JOHN Stephens was a familiar face in the Rockhampton business community for almost a decade.

In 2006 he bought the Rockhampton Rockpool Water Park, now known as the 42nd Battalion Memorial Pool.

At the time the asking price for the park sat around $3 million.

Just 15 months later the park was put on the market with a rumoured asking price of $4 million, with Stephens and his family planning to move to Tasmania to take on Eagle Boys franchises.

The sale decision came almost a year after the tragic drowning death of a nine-year-old boy at the facility.

But come August 2012, they were still calling Rockhampton home, and Stephens featured in a story by The Morning Bulletin calling out Rockhampton Regional Council on the state of the water park's 50m pool.

By November that year, the council had bought back the park's lease for $1.5 million.

While Stephens appeared to fall out of the public sphere the next two years, he became the centre of controversy and outrage in early 2014 when around 50 Pizza Hut workers were left out-of-pocket and out of work after he "cleared out" of the two Rockhampton stores.

A Pizza Hut Australia spokesperson said Stephens was in breach of their franchise agreement and it had been terminated, but would not discuss the breaches.

A former employee said Stephens lived on the Gold Coast at the time and had "gone into hiding".

The Stephens were also the franchisees of the Pizza Hut in Toowoomba, which was also closed.

Topics:  attempted murder crime editors picks

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