Former kindergarten teacher jailed for violent robbery of Australian

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 4:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 5:07am

A former kindergarten teacher from South Africa and his Russian friend, who attacked and robbed an Australian man of HK$70,000 in cash after forcing their way into his flat to recover a HK$10,000 debt, have been sentenced to 26 months and 24 months in jail, respectively, by the District Court.

Jesse Leigh James and Sasha Palatnikov, both 24, admitted entering the 19-year-old victim James Dawson's flat in Causeway Bay on January 9 last year, beating him up and leaving with the cash, Dawson's birth certificate, his passport, a mobile phone and a laptop computer.

The court heard the pair put on Halloween masks after entering the building to conceal their identities from the victim, but their faces were captured by surveillance cameras and Palatnikov's gorilla mask was left at the scene.

James worked as a kindergarten teacher and has lived in Hong Kong since 1995. He told police he plotted to recover the money he said Dawson owed him after Palatnikov, whom he met in December 2012, said he knew Dawson and had seen HK$100,000 in cash at his home.

The pair denied any intention to hurt Dawson, but the Australian was kicked and punched by James while being held by Palatnikov, the court heard.

Palatnikov, a Hong Kong-born computer programmer who was described as "a straight-A student" and excellent rugby player, claimed he had agreed to help his friend in what he thought would be a purely verbal confrontation with Dawson.

Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong rejected his claims and said the fact that the pair both wore masks to disguise themselves and used gloves to avoid leaving finger prints showed the offence was premeditated. He described Palatnikov as "an extraordinary young man in a single fall from grace" but said he was not any less guilty.

Dawson was left tied up by adhesive tape and zip ties, his head covered with a pillowcase. He eventually managed to free himself and a florist downstairs called the police. Dawson later received hospital treatment for swelling to his face and other injuries.

The pair, who had no prior convictions, received sentences which took into account their guilty pleas and willingness to compensate the victim.