By Simone Fox Koob
Richard Pusey leaves jail on Wednesday. Credit:Joe Armao
It was a warm night and Joey Kellock was walking along Melbourne’s bustling Brunswick Street when he heard what sounded like the deafening “shhh” noise of a jet engine.
People were running and screaming, streaming out of a Fitzroy venue and out onto the street. In the midst of the pandemonium, a scuffle was taking place and a man was being apprehended by security guards.
The man being held to the ground was not publicly known then, but within several years he would be infamous.
Earlier that night, mortgage broker Richard Pusey had got into a heated argument with staff at the Rook’s Return pub after they refused to serve him. So, as he left, he quietly picked up a gas bottle, twisted it open, and left it just inside the door of the packed bar.
“The sound was like the air from a jet engine being forced through a hole the size of a 10¢ piece … a deafening ‘shhh’ sound that could be heard from 500 metres away,” Mr Kellock says.
“I thought I better go down and make sure everyone’s OK. It was a f—ing gas bottle that was completely let open. The valve was open, it was spewing out gas and people were freaking out. People were running and screaming. They didn’t really know what was going on.
“It was many minutes that people were exposed to the danger. And people were scared to go anywhere near the gas bottle. And I just walked over and turned it off.”
Pusey was taken into custody, charged with reckless conduct endangering serious injury, and in early 2018 sentenced to three months in prison.
It wasn’t the first time he had come to the attention of authorities, and it would be far from the last.
‘Angry and very arrogant’
Richard Paul Pusey was born in Melbourne in 1978 and grew up in the city’s bayside with his mother who was a nurse, father who was a tiler, and a younger and older brother. He worked as a paperboy when he was about 10, and attended six primary schools before going to Mount Eliza Secondary College.
A man who was in his year at school, who spoke to The Age on the condition of anonymity, said Pusey was known as “a bit of a bully”.
“I just remember him being a bit of a wild one in school … he was enough of a dick for quite a few people to start giving it back to him back in the day. He was kind of one of those characters.”
During a sentencing last year, judge Trevor Wraight said Pusey was asked to leave the school within the first two weeks of year 10 after he was accused of stealing computers.
Someone familiar with the theft of computers and musical instruments said the heist had been a “serious piece of engineering”, with the thieves entering a two-storey building through the ceiling.
Another former classmate said of Pusey: “He was an angry and very arrogant person even at school. Cocky too.”
At Pusey’s sentencing hearing, Judge Wraight told him: “You would react in relation to being teased about your name, you were consistently disruptive, and you frequently engaged in fights.
“You responded poorly to disciplinary measures. You state that you and your siblings developed a reputation amongst parents in the community as the children with whom to avoid social contact.”
Those who knew Pusey during this time say his family were good and kind people, but as the years went by they became estranged from him as his behaviour became more erratic.
They have not spoken publicly in recent times, except in a call to radio station 3AW in the aftermath of the Eastern Freeway crash, in which Pusey’s mother said they had been “shocked and deeply ashamed” by her son’s behaviour.
Last October, during a bail application, the court heard that there had been a reconciliation, and his parents were once again supporting him. It’s not known if that is still the case.
As a young man, Pusey worked in takeaway shops before he was employed as a train station assistant and then a tram driver for several years. He was fired following a traffic accident, and turned his hand to nursing, where he worked for two years, before completing a certificate in financial management. For 16 years he worked as a finance broker.
In 2012, he was named one of the country’s top 100 brokers in an industry magazine, but following a period of imprisonment in 2018 following the incident in the Fitzroy bar – over which he was charged with reckless conduct endangering serious injury – he lost his finance licence and started a property development business.
Richard Pusey in his days as a mortgage broker.
As the years went by, he developed expensive tastes, buying property across the city and luxury cars.
But as his career morphed over two decades, Pusey was also in and out of the justice system, constantly embroiled in disputes with everyone from his neighbours and tradesmen to local council staff and bank workers.
The rap sheet
His tangles with the law began at an early age, though for legal reasons, details of these issues cannot be published. Then, at the age of 30 in 2008, he was charged with intentionally causing injury after a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, during which police were called and Pusey was capsicum-sprayed. He was sentenced to a wholly suspended prison sentence.
Over the next 10 years, he was charged with a variety of other offences, including contravening a personal safety intervention order, intentionally damaging property and driving while suspended. Several times he was given fines without convictions.
There were also issues with tradies. Court documents show he was taken to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after he took issue with a kitchen installed in 2014 at a property he owned in Mitcham, refusing to pay the cabinet makers the remaining $6000 of the bill.
Despite Pusey’s attempts to appeal, a VCAT judge ordered him to pay the money and said his actions throughout the claim amounted to an “abuse of process”.
He also struggled to get along with neighbours. The Age has previously revealed that while living in an apartment block in Mitcham in 2015, Pusey allegedly waged a two-year campaign of harassment against his then neighbours
He allegedly sabotaged the sale campaign by playing loud music during open inspections and deterred potential buyers by tipping over rubbish bins and using a leaf-blower to push litter towards the entrance of the apartment.
He was also once charged after he had a dispute with a neighbour about a communal driveway, onto which he painted the words “Sharing is caring”.
There were run-ins with Frankston City Council and allegations of stalking in 2016 after disputes over a rates notice.
In the same year, he was caught on film verbally abusing a cancer patient after he had a dispute with her husband, a tradie who he had worked with. In a segment aired on Nine’s A Current Affair, he was captured shouting at the woman that she should “get some more f—ing cancer” and he hoped she died.
A sketch of Richard Pusey facing court.Credit:Nine News
A woman who worked with him in a real estate capacity told The Age she had never forgotten Pusey’s name after she’d had interactions with him.
“He was quite arrogant and demanded things that weren’t in the contract, made claims against staff members and was overall a bully,” she said.
“In the end, my director gave in to his demands just to get rid of him and refused to have dealings with him again as he had verbally abused us and called many of us names, not just the word bitch, but ‘Cs’.
“Richard Pusey was an extremely rude arrogant person, a name and face that I haven’t forgotten.”
On the roads, he also had a temper. In October, 2018, during an argument with a driver over a parking spot on Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD, Pusey reached in and took the man’s car keys from the ignition before driving away.
Five months later, after a man on a motorbike yelled at him in frustration after Pusey had cut him off, Pusey waited for the man to park his bike before he scratched paint off the man’s petrol and oil tank.
In August 2019, he sent menacing emails to a banking employee amid a dispute over a credit card bill. He called the worker a “f—wit c—“, made a crude reference to the man’s wife and mentioned their young daughter by name.
A month later, he was physically removed from a plane by police after he started filming the cabin crew on a Tiger flight from Brisbane to Melbourne, saying to one crew member “f— off, you fat cow”. He was convicted and fined for offensive and disorderly behaviour and being a public nuisance.
Six months later, he was pulled over by police on the Eastern Freeway. It was the end of four police officers’ lives, and of Pusey’s relative anonymity.
The Eastern Freeway crash
Driving back along the freeway from one of his property projects in Doncaster to his home in Fitzroy on April 22 last year, Pusey was pulled over for allegedly speeding.
While he was urinating on the side of the freeway, a semi-trailer veered into the emergency lane. Four police officers – Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor, Senior Constable Kevin King and constables Joshua Prestney and Glen Humphris – were killed.
Pusey, who had left the scene after asking a passing motorist for a lift, was arrested. Two days later he was before a packed Melbourne Magistrates Court, where Detective Senior Constable Aaron Price read to the stunned courtroom what had happened in the aftermath of the crash.
Pusey had filmed on his phone as the officers lay dying. He was recorded on their body-cam footage saying: “There you go, amazing, absolutely amazing. All I wanted to do was go home and have some sushi and now you f—ed my f—ing car.”
Condemnation of Pusey’s actions was swift. Police union boss Wayne Gatt said Pusey had no decency, and he should hang his head in shame. His actions were labelled “disgusting” by then chief commissioner Graham Ashton.
Pusey received death threats and his lavish home was damaged. His garage door was painted with the word “vermin” and ‘DIE’ and was kicked in, and eggs were thrown at his house.
Graffiti reading “DIE” at the home of Richard Pusey in the days after the Eastern Freeway crash.Credit:Nine News
But bizarrely, not everyone felt he deserved the public opprobrium. On Facebook, Richard Pusey “support groups” were created.
One, which contains almost 600 members, was full of anti-police sentiment. Several posts discussed whether Pusey would be eligible for a new car from police, given it was “destroyed while in their possession”.
Another encourages people to celebrate October 16 as “freedom day”, referring to the day Pusey was released on bail last year.
In contrast, a judge in March said the wider public had been outraged by Pusey’s actions, and have “demonised him to the point where he’s probably the most hated man in Australia”.
Pusey was let out on bail last October, despite police protestations, but within six weeks he was back in jail after a late night stand-off with police. He refused to come to the door, and texted a police officer saying, “I’ll kill everyone then” and “Say sorry and I’ll forgive you. If not I will hang person.”
He was charged with assault after he pulled his wife by her wrist to the top of the stairwell, where a noose was hanging from the beams. He was also charged with using a carriage service to menace after he sent abusive and derogatory text messages, including homophobic, racist and anti-police slurs, to police officers in the days before the incident.
Psychiatrist Dr Adam Deacon, who has treated Pusey for several months, said in a report from October that while he has had an enduring pattern of interpersonal problems, he has a “contrasting pattern of being able to function well in some workplace settings and environments he finds less challenging and overwhelming”.
He also said Pusey had a complex mixture of core antisocial, borderline, narcissistic and paranoid personality subtypes, as well as problems regulating his moods, with a history of being “hot-headed, impulsive and volatile”.
It’s a trait recognised by Pusey himself. During an interview with police after the Eastern Freeway crash, Pusey told them: “I say horrible things … that’s how shit comes out of my mouth. I’m highly offensive; I struggle every day to keep my mouth shut.”
During court hearings in the past 18 months, Pusey had several outbursts, at times forcing magistrates to mute his stream from jail. He told a court last week he felt he would get “better justice in Belarus”, before damaging a camera and storming out.
He has spent all but six weeks of the past 16 months in jail, much of it in a protection unit.
But on Wednesday, magistrate Hayley Bate ruled he had done enough jail time for crimes he had admitted to in Melbourne Magistrates Court two days before: assaulting a woman; two road-rage incidents; sending menacing emails to a bank worker; and smashing a slab of beer in a Fitzroy bottle shop.
Richard Pusey taking a taxi home after he was released from jail on Wednesday. Credit:Joe Armao
While saying he was free to leave, she said his interactions with police had been “repugnant”, noted that he lacked remorse and had little regard for court orders, and that his rehabilitative prospects were limited.
He has been handed every type of sentence available – bond, fines, community corrections orders and imprisonment – but there was no sense Pusey was deterred by any of his sentences, she said.
“He is a man who, in a range of settings, deliberately seeks to interfere with the sense of safety of those who encounter him,” Ms Bate said.
“Mr Pusey reacted to common interactions with members of the community with outrage, disdain, immaturity and no regard for the impact of his behaviour on other members of the community.”
‘Get me Oprah’
On Wednesday, Richard Pusey left Ravenhall jail and returned to a life very different to the one he had led 18 months ago.
He has been banned from working as a mortgage broker for a decade, after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission this week revoked his licence because he made false statements to authorities over a number of years.
While in jail, he gradually sold off what was once a multimillion-dollar property portfolio. He can’t drive, after his licence was suspended for two years.
And police will be watching him closely. One small step in the wrong direction will result in him going back to jail for contravening his good behaviour bond.
On Wednesday, his lawyer, Carmen Randazzo, told the court Pusey was concerned for his safety upon leaving jail.
“Mr Pusey has, of course, endured a degree of punishment at the hands of the media and press,” she said, “and it’s important now he be given the strongest opportunity to engage in rehabilitation and with his treatment, and permitted the opportunity to become a fully fledged community supporter.”
But despite pleas for privacy, Pusey left prison on Wednesday seemingly determined to make headlines. His wore a jumper that read “Get Me Oprah” and a face mask emblazoned with the words “FAKE NEWS”.
With Adam Cooper
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