The man once dubbed the “Surfers Paradise sniper” sobbed in relief and held his pregnant girlfriend close as a Gold Coast jury found him not guilty of firing a gunshot from a high-rise.
Gasps were heard in the Southport District Court as the jury acquitted Rick El Masri in just four hours, after a two-week trial.
The former Pacific Pines car salesman had pleaded not guilty to firing two gunshots from a friend’s Circle on Cavill apartment on December 4, 2010, and causing grievous bodily harm to pedestrian Hylton Miller.
The jury heard that a detailed police investigation traced the trajectory of the gunshot to an apartment in a nearby high-rise.
Mr El Masri had been attending a boozy dinner party hosted by fellow car salesman Hakan “Harry” Altinoglu with their girlfriends that night.
Both men testified that the other had pulled the trigger to let off steam about past grudges.
Both girlfriends said they did not see who shot the gun, and the weapon has never been found.
Yesterday morning Judge Anthony Rafter SC urged the jury to weigh the evidence carefully.
Mid-afternoon the jury indicated it had a verdict, although it was then retracted after internal dispute. An hour later the verdict was unanimous.
The jury’s decision indicated jurors were not convinced beyond reasonable doubt that El Masri was responsible for firing the gun.
Mr Altinoglu was not granted indemnity for his co-operation with police but it is understood it is unlikely he will face any subsequent charges.
After the verdict was given, a tearful Mr El Masri was enveloped with hugs from his crying stepmother, and his pregnant girlfriend Kylie Cunnington. He walked free from court last night and was understood to be spending the night with family.
Solicitor Mark Williams said the four-year ordeal had crippled Mr El Masri financially and emotionally and he had spent eight months behind bars before being granted bail.
“He’s lost his home, his business and it’s going to be difficult for him to get past the label of ‘Surfers sniper’,” he said.
“But he is ecstatic about this outcome and now he can put this all behind him and rebuild a life with his family.”
- THE COURIER-MAIL
- MAY 13, 2014