AN ELDERLY woman was threatened with rape in a horrifying Robinvale home invasion organised by a jilted man who had become increasingly obsessive over the whereabouts of his former partner, a court has heard.
The County Court at Mildura yesterday heard former Laotian refugee Mac Sikoulabout, 55, of North Albury, had lived a productive and community-minded life in Australia for almost three decades until his involvement in the chilling attacks early last year.
Sikoulabout plotted the first of two home invasions, at Tol Tol on February 5, 2017, and was later involved in organising another armed raid on a rural Robinvale property two months later.
The boilermaker's otherwise unremarkable life took a turn for the worse in December 2015 when his then-partner left him without notice, allegedly taking cash, jewellery and Sikoulabout's car with her.
Sikoulabout asked friends if they knew where she had gone, coming to believe she was with another man in Robinvale.
Prosecutor David O'Doherty said it was after reporting his stolen car to Robinvale police that Sikoulabout began formulating a plan of revenge.
After one of Sikoulabout's workmates rejected his offer to take part in armed robbery of a Robinvale farm house, Sikoulabout made contact with Kia Toumngeun, whom he hadn't seen for about 20 years.
The two men, along with Toumngeun's neighbours, Stephen John White and Nigel Miller made the 480km drive to Robinvale in Sikoulabout's Hilux, armed with guns, a mallet, balaclavas and cable ties.
Sikoulabout waited in the vehicle once they arrived at the Stoll Road property at Tol Tol, while the other three men hog-tied a couple living in a caravan and bound another man in a house using telephone cable.
They ransacked the house, stealing a necklace, a novelty sword, three phones and cash, and struck the terrified occupants with weapons.
"They were angry they'd only found $20 so the victim was again hit hard in the backside and left knee with the gun," Mr O'Doherty said.
Sikoulabout let down the tyres on a vehicle parked at the property belonging to the landlord before the men made their getaway.
On February 20, Robinvale police found Sikoulabout's stolen car, which he collected about three weeks later.
Sikoulabout attended another meeting at Toumngeun's Wodonga home in April, where he showed his friend a map and a plan to raid another Robinvale property was hatched.
This time, Sikoulabout remained at home, while Toumngeun, White, a young Wodonga woman and another man drove to Robinvale, smoking the drug "ice" along the way.
Their arrival at Robinvale was delayed after they struck a kangaroo on the road and they spent the day shopping, fishing and relaxing around the town before raiding a Kenneth Road property on the night of April 17.
The three men entered the home armed with guns and a cattle prod, while the woman waited near the vehicle.
The court heard one of the men pulled down the pants of an elderly Asian couple, menaced them with a firearm, and threatened to rape the woman in front of her son if they did not co-operate.
Electronic devices and passports were among the items stolen after the house was ransacked, during which time the victims were again struck with weapons and shocked with the cattle prod.
Sikoulabout, who, yesterday pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated home invasion, two counts of armed robbery, theft and damaging property, collected the four co-offenders after their car broke down on the way back to Wodonga.
He, Toumngeun, White and Miller were all arrested on separate dates in May last year and have been held in custody since then.
Sikoulabout's barrister David Hallowes SC said his client had enjoyed a successful life in Australia after leaving Laos as a refugee in the mid-1980s.
Mr Hallowes said Sikoulabout's relationship with the woman was "turbulent" and began in 2014, a few years after he separated from his wife.
The court heard his interest in finding the woman became "almost an obsession" and Mr Hallowes said many in the Laotian community that knew Sikoulabout were shocked by what had happened.
"Astonished doesn't properly convey the attitude and understanding of how the person they knew did these things," Mr Hallowes said.
Co-accused Toumngeun, 43, and White, 44, will plead guilty to their involvement in the chilling invasions today.
Miller, 26, will plead guilty to involvement in the first home invasion in the County Koori Court, while a 20-year-old Wodonga woman is also facing charges and will front court next month.
Police are yet to apprehend the other man, who took part in the second home invasion.