Mackay police and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews responded to an incident on College Court on April 8.
Mackay police and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews responded to an incident on College Court on April 8.

PARENT HORROR: Iced-up stranger stole car with child in back

IT IS any parent's worst nightmare - a stranger, caught in the grips of an ice-induced psychosis, steals your car while your child is sleeping in the back.

This terrifying scenario played out for one North Mackay father earlier this year.

Bucasia man Andrew Robert Watson had walked out of a house on College Court and approached his first victim in the morning on April 8.

"He threatened him with a knife and the (victim) managed to escape … in his car," Crown Prosecutor Samantha O'Rourke said.

Mackay District Court heard the unsuspecting father lived nearby with his two children.

Ms O'Rourke said as he carried one sleeping child into the home, the other remained in the car and the keys were in the ignition.

Police and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews responded to an incident in North Mackay after a 40 year old man stole a car containing a sleeping child.
Police and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews responded to an incident in North Mackay after a 40 year old man stole a car containing a sleeping child.

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"(Watson) who was walking past got in the car and he drove off as the father was yelling out that his child was still in there," she told the court.

"It's not suggested he took the car because the child was in it."

The five year old was missing for about 45 minutes during the inadvertent abduction, sparking a major police response.

Watson actually returned to the street before he was captured, but drove off running a red light as police crews gave chase.

He eventually pulled over and police found a small amount of ice when they arrested him.

The 40 year old, who has spent about eight months in custody, pleaded guilty to multiple charges including child abduction, common assault, dangerous driving.

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Defence barrister Matt Heelan sought immediate release, arguing his client had pushed for the case to be resolved as quickly as possible.

The court heard Watson grew up in an abusive household and began using heroin from age 13.

"To get money to buy heroin as a 13 year old boy he was committing property crimes … he's spent more than half of his life in jail," Mr Heelan said.

Judge Julie Dick, who labelled the offending "bizarre behaviour" said on her initial reading of the facts she "thought this man is now a danger to the public".

But she conceded after Mr Heelan pointed out his client held a job and did not offend for a number of years from 2015 while off the drugs.

"He can't explain the reason he decided to use meth after not using it before," Mr Heelan said

"He was a heroin user.

Police were called after a 40 year old man opportunistically stole a car unaware there was a sleep child in the back.
Police were called after a 40 year old man opportunistically stole a car unaware there was a sleep child in the back.

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"When he started using meth, it leads up to the drug-induced psychosis he's in when he commits this offence."

Mr Heelan emphasised Watson "never intended to harm the child".

"He had no motivation to abduct the child. He saw the child in the car several minutes later. He pulled over to consider his options," Mr Heelan said.

"He said he was panicking … he did consider whether he should just walk away from the car, but he thought leaving the car unattended in the car was worse so he drove back to the crime scene."

When Watson drove back to the street he saw "a whole army of police officer" and panicked, driving away.

In a letter to the child's parents, read by Mr Heelan, Watson wrote:

"I want the parents to know from the bottom of my heart that I am sorry. I know what it is like to have a child.

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"I shouldn't have been stealing their property to begin with let alone how they must have felt when their child was in the car.

"It's changed me, this has. There's no way I can repay them or take it back.

"I find it difficult to put it into words. I just want them to know that I am sorry for what I have done."

Watson was jailed for two and a half years with immediate parole. He was disqualified from driving for two and a half years.


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