A woman has been jailed after helping a vigilante group abduct her husband amid speculation he’d sexually abused his stepdaughters.
Jana Hooper, 39, appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Thursday alongside co-conspirator Nick Stefani, 28, for sentencing over the kidnapping and assault of Bradley Lyons, 30.
Mr Lyons’ body was found buried in a shallow grave in southeastern Victoria in March, 2019.
He had vanished from the couple’s Lakes Entrance home about four months earlier.
The court was told that Hooper had confided in a circle of associates that she believed Mr Lyons had impregnated one of her daughters and was the father of another daughter’s child.
The judgment stated there was no evidence in the proceedings to support these claims.
The group began calling themselves the “Australian Freedom Fighters” – setting out a plan to target pedophiles in the community.
Stefani, who was living in a bungalow at the rear of the couple’s property, also detailed rumours against Mr Lyons.
On December 2, 2018, members of the group entered Mr Lyons’ home and, after receiving “the nod” from Hooper, ambushed him in the bedroom.
Lakes Entrance man Bradley Lyons was kidnapped and allegedly murdered by a vigilante group. Picture: Supplied
He was beaten, threatened by Stefani with a sawn-off shotgun and tied up before being loaded in the back of a car and driven to a remote shed in Nyerimilang.
“It’s all sorted. We’ve got BJ and we’re going to get a confession out of what BJ has done to the kids,” Stefani said at the time.
Sitting in the shed with his co-accused, Stefani said the group would “extract” a confession before dumping him at a local police station.
Five hours later, Hooper and Stefani left the Nyerimilang shed where Mr Lyons remained tied in the boot of the car.
They’re not accused of what allegedly happened next; however, the judgment reveals that it is claimed that Mr Lyons was allegedly strapped to a massage table and tortured before he was allegedly shot in the head and buried in a shallow grave.
Stefani would later swear during a police interview the plan was never to kill Mr Lyons.
“I hundred per cent solemnly swear that I didn’t take his life, I never wished his life to be taken … and yeah. I’m just sorry for the way it’s all gone out, I s’pose,” he said in the interview that went before the court.
Sentencing the pair, Justice Andrew Tinney found that although they were not involved in Mr Lyons’ alleged murder, each played an “important role” in the betrayal.
“At its heart was a decision each of you made to engage in totally unacceptable vigilante behaviour,” he said.
“Based on the suspicions you had about the conduct of Mr Lyons towards his stepchildren, each of you willingly became a party to the violent and heartless behaviour.”
Justice Tinney found that although Hooper had not played a direct role in the assault and kidnapping, she’d done “all that was required” for the group‘s plan to succeed.
Sephani, he said, played a leading role in recruiting, planning and marshalling the attack.
“No doubt he trusted you and looked at you as a friend. You betrayed him in this respect,” he said.
Hooper was jailed for 7½ years and will be eligible for parole after serving 4½, while Stefani was sentenced to a term of 10 years with a minimum of eight.
Three men – Albert Thorn, Jordan Bottom and Ricki Smith – have pleaded not guilty to the alleged murder of Mr Lyons and deny they were involved in the Australian Freedom Fighters.
They are expected to face trial next year.