TRC Hotel staff recall robbery

TWO TRC Hotel employees have recalled the moment they were allegedly confronted by a knife-wielding man in May.

Michael John Cowie is on trial in the Launceston Supreme Court this week, charged with aggravated armed robbery, stemming from the incident in the early hours of May 1.

It is alleged Mr Cowie broke into the hotel on Paterson Street, before striking a female employee in the head, threatening another female employee with a knife, and taking off with cash in a container.

Mr Cowie has pleaded not guilty, with the defence taking the “unusual” step of admitting to the robbery, but denying the use of a knife.

Giving evidence on Tuesday morning, one of the victims Anita Perrott said she clearly remembered seeing a knife with a silver blade and silver handle.

When it was suggested by defence lawyer Alan Hensley that no knife was used, Ms Perrott confidently replied: “It was a knife”.

Ms Perrott alleged the knife was about 20 centimetres in length with no serration.

She said it was not rusted, but admitted to only seeing the object twice throughout the ordeal – and on the first occasion at a distance of roughly four metres.

Ms Perrott’s colleague Vivienne Evans told the jury she remembered being hit in the right side of the head from behind by a man, but recalled thinking the man was carrying a “black box”.

The incident was captured on CCTV.

In his opening address, defence lawyer Alan Hensley said Mr Cowie “freely” confessed to the robbery, but because no weapon was used the jury could not find Mr Cowie guilty of the charge.

“This is an unusual trial,” Mr Hensley said.

“It is agreed that the footage shows Mr Cowie. It is agreed it shows a robbery. It is agreed it shows an assault in the lead up to the robbery. It is agreed that someone was injured.

“Can the state prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Cowie was armed with a knife or any other weapon?”

If the jury finds that Mr Cowie was not armed during the incident, it can still convict him of the lesser crime of aggravated robbery.

The trial also heard evidence from a forensic expert and was expected to be shown Mr Cowie’s recorded police interview where he confesses to the incident and apologises to Ms Evans and Ms Perrott.

The trial continues.