English teacher and friend robbed man over HK$10,000 debt

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 5:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 6:52am

An English teacher from South Africa and his Russian friend struck and tied up an Australian man before stealing HK$70,000 in cash after breaking into his flat to recover a HK$10,000 debt, a court heard yesterday.

Jesse Leigh James and Sasha Palatnikov, both 24, entered James Dawson's flat in Causeway Bay wearing fancy dress masks on January 9. They took the cash, a laptop computer and Dawson's passport and birth certificate.

The pair pleaded guilty to one count of robbery at the District Court yesterday.

James, a kindergarten teacher who has lived in Hong Kong since 1995, told police Dawson owed him between HK$7,000 and HK$10,000 from a party they had organised together. Dawson had said he had no money, so James did not ask him for it back.

He met Palatnikov, a Hong Kong-born computer programmer, in December last year. Palatnikov said he knew Dawson and had seen HK$100,000 in cash at his home. The pair plotted to recover the money.

They told the court their original plan was not to hurt anyone. But when they entered Dawson's flat at midday, Dawson sustained a blow, which affected his vision. He was tied up with adhesive tape and later received hospital treatment for swelling on his face.

Palatnikov's gorilla mask was left at the scene and the pair's faces were caught on the building's CCTV system.

Palatnikov denied hurting Dawson and claimed he had only helped to restrain him.

James told police he was the "mastermind" of the plan, with Palatnikov providing "muscle in case something happened".

Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong remanded them in custody and adjourned sentencing to January 3, pending background reports.