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Australian man who ran down and assaulted Finnish hitchhikers in Perth jailed

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A truck driver who attacked two Finnish nationals as they hiked the popular Bibbulmun Track in Perth has been sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison.

Matt Lewis Whittaker, 37, ran down Queralt Tobarra and Tuomas Tani, both 33, as they walked along the track at Paulls Valley on 28 July last year. He struck them at a speed of up to 70km/h, the West Australian district court heard.


Whittaker then got out of the vehicle and said: “I’m going to fucking kill you.”

He hit Tani with a shovel then began choking him and they continued to struggle until Tobarra picked up the shovel and repeatedly struck Whittaker.

A passer-by helped them restrain Whittaker until police arrived.

The victims, who were visiting and working in Australia, did not know their attacker. They watched the court proceedings on Tuesday via video link from Finland.

Judge Belinda Lonsdale said Whittaker had methamphetamine in his system, showed no remorse for his actions and blamed the victims.

“Both of the victims were terrified and believed you were going to kill them,” she said.

Tobarra has a permanent bump on her leg due to tissue damage, visits a physiotherapist for severe cervical whiplash and still suffers headaches and pain.

Tani’s two fractured vertebrae have healed but the soft tissue damage remains and he has an inflamed bursa in his right hip.

“He has a scar on his forehead, which no doubt will be a constant reminder of the frightening events of that day,” Lonsdale said.

Whittaker was originally charged with attempted murder but pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of the downgraded offence of doing an act likely to endanger the life or safety of a person. He was also sentenced for drug and weapon offences and ordered to serve an earlier suspended term for indecent assault.

Whittaker must spend at least six years and nine months behind bars before he can be eligible for parole.

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