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“Secret agent” postal worker wins appeal

Tuesday, 2nd December, 2014

The odd case of the White Cliffs opal miner who allegedly pretended to be an undercover cop to impress the manager of the town’s post office and was then convicted of stealing from her took another turn yesterday.

Michael Kooyman was sentenced to 15 months’ jail this year after being convicted of stealing $18,000 from the woman.

But he lodged an appeal against his conviction and yesterday the District Court granted it and sentenced him instead to a nine-month good behaviour bond.

Judge Robison described the case as one the “strangest” he had dealt with in his 20 years on the bench.

He said the victim, Gaye Nicholls, a retired ear, nose and throat specialist, had moved from Sydney to take over the lease of the post office in 2007, invited Kooyman into her home and employed him as a clerk.

This developed into a de facto relationship and Ms Nicholls (65) allowed him to use her bank cards on his mail runs to pay for fuel and repairs to the post office truck.

She said it was from these accounts that he had siphoning money over a period of six years.

Ms Nicholls also said she had confidence in him because he told her that he was involved in secret operations for the Australian Federal Police and that he was reporting on drug-running bikie gangs and criminals in White Cliffs and Wilcannia.     

Kooyman (55) was charged with larceny, stealing property as a clerk, impersonating a Commonwealth public official for gain and giving misleading information in order to obtain clearance to work as postal clerk.

He pleaded guilty to the latter charge but not guilty to the rest.

At the outset of yesterday’s hearing, the Crown prosecutor, Mark Davies, told the judge that Kooyman’s appeal would not be opposed.

Mr Davies said that he should not have been charged with larceny in the first place because the proper charge for the offence was misappropriation of funds.

Kooyman’s conviction for impersonating a public official for gain was also unsound, the prosecutor said, because it could not be proved that his pretending to be a policeman had made Ms Nicholls trust him with her PIN numbers.

“The victim could have given him access to her accounts for many other reasons,” Mr Davies said.

Kooyman’s barrister, Ramesh Rajalingam, told the court that his client had not been paid for any work he had done for Ms Nicholls, which included a mail run that extended to Ivanhoe.

He did have a criminal history in South Australia, Mr Rajalingam said, but that involved driving offences and one charge of resisting arrest. His last conviction was in 1998, he said, and he had no criminal record in NSW.

Judge Robison, in granting the appeal, said: “The Crown has conceded that there is insufficient evidence to justify the finding of guilty, particularly in relation to the charge of larceny.

“I find him not guilty and set aside his convictions.” 

Kooyman also appealed against the severity of the three-month jail sentence for giving a false surname and date of birth on his application to work as a post office clerk.

Mr Rajalingam said Kooyman had falsified the document because he liked working at the post office after years of living alone as a miner and was afraid that his SA criminal record would debar him from the job.

But Judge Robison told Kooyman that lying to a prospective employer was a serious matter.

“Employers should be able to trust and rely on the information supplied... it must be truthful and accurate. Yours was certainly untruthful and entirely inaccurate.”

The judge dismissed the appeal but reduced the penalty to a nine-month $200 good behaviour bond.

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