It was two days before Christmas and Travis Henson needed cash.
Not for gift giving or a turkey for Christmas dinner. No, they were the furthest things from his mind.
He owed money to his meth dealers – about $1000 in total – and they’d delivered their own form of season’s greetings: pay up now, or else.
Henson, an unemployed 28-year-old drug user, had no clue what he was going to do.
But his dealers had an idea: there’s a chemist nearby and it’s still open, he was told. You could get money AND methadone there. We’ll tell you what to do.
Henson already had a gun – he’d received it as payment from someone who owed him money a few months earlier.
A plan was formed and a getaway driver arranged. Henson chose a friend who was supposed to drop him off then pick him up when the deed was done.
As reward, he would split any cash, minus what he owed to his dealers, with his mate.
Henson, dressed in a blue jeans, a black shirt and wearing a balaclava and motorcycle helmet to conceal his identity, stood in the shadows and watched the cleaner as she finished her cigarette and went back inside the Dapto Medical Centre.
It was 10pm, time to roll.
He knocked on the back door and waited. The cleaner’s husband opened the door, thinking his wife had locked herself out.
Henson pounced, jabbing the man in the face with the butt of the gun before pointing it at him and demanding cash.
“There’s nothing here,” the man replied. His wife came out of the next room, saw the gun, Henson and her husband, and began screaming.
Still fixing the gun on the man, Henson directed the couple into the adjoining pharmacy. They approached the counter where Henson promptly turned his attention to the pharmacist.
“Give me the f–king money, I know it’s in there,” he said, pointing the firearm at the safe.
The pharmacist didn’t put up a fight, opening the safe and loading the money into a bag. Henson demanded a few doses of methadone be thrown in as well.
He then walked the group to the back of the store before taking the bag and jumping the gate. He departed with an apology to his captives, saying he needed to do it “for Christmas”.
He found himself out on Marshall Street, but there wasn’t a car in sight. His getaway plan had just fallen through.
He took off towards the Princes Highway but was spotted by police, who had been patrolling on Bong Bong Road at the time.
One officer leapt from the vehicle and chased after Henson, dodging projectiles as Henson threw away his gun, helmet, jeans and a glove in an attempt to lighten the load for a quicker getaway.
He was cornered near Dapto Mall and surrendered without further argument when the officer drew his police-issued revolver.
Officers retrieved $3710 from Henson’s bag and collected the objects he’d discarded during his flight, including the gun, ammunition, a knife and a bottle of methadone.
Henson was charged with armed robbery, assault with intent to rob and possessing a prohibited firearm.
During an interview with police in March this year, Henson disclosed the situation he’d found himself in that day and what had led him to commit the crime, saying he was concerned what might happen to him if he didn’t pay his debt.
Henson pleaded guilty to all three charges in Wollongong Local Court last week.
He remains in custody and will face Wollongong District Court this Friday for a sentencing date to be set.
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