Shopping centre stabbing in court

A jury has been unable to decide if a Townsville shopping centre stabbing was a matter of self-defence. Read what was heard in court.

Brandon Jordan Storm Stephen has pleaded not guilty to grievous bodily harm after he stabbed a 20-year-old man four times inside a busy family shopping centre.

The incident occured on July 7, 2020, when Gabriel Smallwood walked into Vincent Village after just receiving his work pay.

Mr Smallwood said he entered the shopping centre to “buy my son some nappies and my dog biscuits” – but in the foyer outside Woolworths he recognised the nineteen-year-old Stephen.

The jury heard that just a few days prior, both men had been involved in an altercation outside Mr Smallwood’s home where Stephen had “pegged” a branch as Mr Smallwood’s back.

“I said to him ‘where is the stick now?’” Mr Smallwood said while on the witness stand.

“He ran and I pursued him, because I was looking for a fight.”

The foyer of Vincent Village. Picture: Leighton Smith

This fight he described as a “fair-fight, one-on-one, no weapons”.

Stephen ran across the shopping centre foyer to avoid Mr Smallwood, but before he could reach the sliding doors his shirt was grabbed from behind.

Mr Smallwood told the court he was holding the man’s shirt and thought Stephen was “turning around to give me body shots” (punches) when the teenager struck him four times in the stomach.

“It turns out he was stabbing me,” Mr Smallwood said.

“I started to feel a hot sensation in my body. I looked down and saw three blood trails. I thought no way, no way.”

Mr Smallwood immediately went to a security guard who’d been watching the entire fight and asked him to call an ambulance, then sat down on a bench where Woolworths staff tried to halt the flow of blood.

The bench were Mr Smallwood sat down. His workshirt lays under the seat with bloody patches. Picture: Leighton Smith

CCTV footage played for the jury showed the whole altercation lasted just seconds, and Stephen’s four stab strikes were delivered in rapid succession.

At the time of the stabbing, the knife-carrying Stephen was completely uninjured and had only been hit with a “bundle of keys on a lanyard” that Mr Smallwood had swung at him.

Mr Smallwood was admitted to hospital with three 5.5cm deep cuts and a 4.5cm deep wound, all piecing his abdominal wall.

The crime scene in Vincent Shopping Centre after a stabbing took place on Thursday night. Picture: Leighton Smith

Crown prosecutor Patrick Newman said this court case was about whether Stephen was reasonably acting in self-defence when he stabbed Mr Smallwood.

The surrounding details about why these two men hated each other were significant – the jury heard Stephen told police during his interview that it “all started when his older brother and my older brother had a fight”.

This fight escalated into Mr Smallwood entering a family home with an entourage, pulling out a knife, and making a threat to stab an occupant, according to Stephen.

“Since then our families have been beefing,” Stephen said.

Police vehicles parked in front of Vincent Shopping Centre after stabbing. Picture: Leighton Smith

Stephen admitted to “cruising past” Mr Smallwood’s home multiple times, including while drunk, and getting into fights with the man.

Mr Smallwood was subjected to an extensive cross-examination by defence barrister Michael Hibble who tried to crack the stabbing victim by accusing him of being a brawler, implying he armed himself with a weapon (the lanyard) and questioning him when Mr Smallwood said the ‘stick incident’ had happened two days prior, rather than three days prior.

“Can you do basic maths?” Mr Hibble asked Mr Smallwood.

“No. I can build you a house with a hammer and nails but I cannot do basic maths,” Smallwood said.

Mr Smallwood told the court the previous ‘stick incident’ began when Stephen and a group of people gathered outside his home.

“They went past and were accusing me of being a snitch because my brother went the white way about it and called the police,” Mr Smallwood said.

“I defended my property, is what I did.”

Mr Smallwood said he’d come straight from work and was in his work uniform when the shopping centre stabbing occurred.

Stephen was in the shops to buy cigarettes and had been carrying the knife around in his pocket due to the tensions between the families.

After an entire day of deliberation the jury was unable to reach a verdict and was declared a hung jury and dismissed.

The matter will be mentioned on May 31 to decide if a retrial will be sought, or the matter discontinued.

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