A Melbourne man who stormed a farm with a crossbow early in the morning and blackmailed his aunt over a contentious family “thought he was acting in the best interests of everyone,” a court said.
Most important points:
- Zach de Visser broke into his aunt and uncle’s house, dressed in black and armed with a crossbow
- He forced his aunt to sign documents related to his late father’s will before he fled
- De Visser will be convicted next week for the violent incident
Zach De Visser appeared in Victoria County Court today, where he pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and blackmail during last year’s violent ordeal sparked after his father’s death.
When John De Visser died in 2015, he appointed his brother, Harry De Visser and his sister-in-law, Tristesse De Visser, as executors of his will.
But that infuriated his 32-year-old son, Zach, who would benefit from the will but was unhappy with the way his late father’s estate was being managed.
Aunt recognized cousin’s voice
In July last year, De Visser broke into his aunt and uncle’s house in Swan Reach, near Lakes Entrance, in the Gippsland region.
His aunt, Tristesse De Visser, described in court today the fear of seeing a man dressed in black and armed with a crossbow emerge from behind a curtain.
The court was told that Zach De Visser told his aunt to sit down and put a pillowcase over her head, but when she didn’t respond, he shot an arrow into a photo.
“Not only did that leave a hole in the wall, it also got on my nerves,” she said in a victim statement.
De Visser then took a pen from the kitchen and put documents in front of his aunt and told her to sign them, next to where he already had.
“When he spoke, Tristesse recognized her cousin’s voice,” prosecutor Madeleine Sargent said.
“He said if Tristesse didn’t sign the document, bigger people would come and get her to sign it.”
De Visser then fled, leaving behind a number of objects, including a coat.
Man went ‘completely off the rails’
Tristesse De Visser told the court that her husband had always treated his cousin as “one of his own”.
“What makes you believe? [you’re] so special, that the law is for everyone, not for you?”
“Nothing more than greed.”
The couple has since sold their farm.
The day after the burglary, the police questioned De Visser, but he refused to answer questions and told the detectives: “I could sit here all day”.
Investigators searched his phone and found photos of the documents he had his aunt sign, which had been sent to a contact named “Allen Advocate,” as well as photos of De Visser wearing the jacket he’d left behind.
Police later raided a room at the Bay Motel in Dromana, where De Visser lived, and found the documents.
De Visser’s lawyer, William Barker, admitted today that his client was “completely derailed”.
“Mr De Visser somehow thought this would be a legally binding document and it was okay, and he was acting in the best interests of everyone,” Barker said.
The court was told that after his father’s death, De Visser had used drugs to cope with his loss and had previously received several community corrections for minor crimes.
“Has he ever successfully completed a community correction order?” Judge Angela Ellis asked.
“I believe he has completed one,” said Mr. Barker.
Judge Ellis today described the crime as serious.
“He has entered his aunt and uncle’s house … he has a crossbow with him to carry out the blackmail,” she said.
“His conduct, regarding this offense, is truly appalling.”
She turned the spotlight on the number of opportunities that justice had given De Visser to change his life.
“Despite the courts giving him opportunities time and again, he continues to reoffend,” the judge said.
“He continues to violate those community correction orders and it is clear that the therapeutic nature of those orders has little effect on him.”
According to De Visser’s lawyer, however, it was not a complete waste.
“While I agree that the treatment has not worked in the strict sense, it has not completely failed and could be the reason why there is no more serious wrongdoing,” Mr Barker said.
De Visser will be sentenced next week.