A teenager who wielded a shotgun while demanding cash and cigarettes from a Benalla petrol station employee swam across the Murray River days later to escape police.

Tyson Michael Smith-Anderson, 19, of Howlong, NSW, pleaded guilty in Wangaratta County Court on August 9 to armed robbery, possessing an unregistered category A longarm, six counts of theft and two counts of possessing a drug of dependence.

During a plea hearing on August 9, Judge Greg Lyon told Smith-Anderson he was facing further time in custody and called his actions “absolutely inexcusable”.

The female employee was working alone during the armed robbery.

In a victim impact statement, the woman described how she didn’t leave her house for a month afterwards and hadn’t been to Benalla since.

“It still affects my life in some way every day,” she said.

Smith-Anderson was 18 when he drove to the Woolworths Caltex service station on Bridge St East with three others in his car, just before 7am on January 10, 2022.

He held a shotgun with two hands as he entered the store with one of the others, telling the employee to give them cigarettes and money from the register — making off with $950 worth.

He didn’t point the shotgun at the employee but admitted to police it was loaded, with the safety catch on.

Over five occasions Smith-Anderson also stole $540 worth of fuel from petrol stations in Wangaratta and Wodonga during December 2021 and January 2022.

The court heard Smith-Anderson, a learner driver, was seen by police driving at 148km/h and overtaking two trucks in the emergency lane on the Hume Hwy on January 15.

Later that day he was seen travelling at 168km/h near Violet Town.

On January 18, he was seen near an Albury boat ramp by NSW police and swam across the Murray River before stealing a car in Wodonga, using it to ram a gate to break it out of a secured compound.

When he was arrested in Wangaratta on February 1 he had a glass ice pipe down the front of his pants, and two small zip-lock bags containing methamphetamine and cannabis.

Barrister Charles Morgan told the court Smith-Anderson was a young offender with no criminal history who made full admissions in his police interview.

He said his client had significant family support and an “admirable” work ethic, employed as a farmhand and shearer.

The court heard Smith-Anderson developed a significant drug problem after experiencing personal trauma, leading to “out of character” offending.

“It’s clearly a bizarre and stratospheric start to a criminal career,” Mr Morgan said.

Smith-Anderson also pleaded guilty to summary charges of driving without a supervising driver as a learner, driving in a dangerous manner and three counts of not stopping a vehicle on police direction.

Judge Lyon ordered a pre-sentence report to determine Smith-Anderson’s suitability for a youth justice order.

He is due to be sentenced in September.

Extracted in full form: https://www.sheppnews.com.au/police-court/teenager-held-up-benalla-servo-with-shotgun/

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