24/01/2004.  This person was not the victim of an assault, it is a generic pic of someone being rushed into the hospital. Emergency.
24/01/2004. This person was not the victim of an assault, it is a generic pic of someone being rushed into the hospital. Emergency.

Mate’s assault ‘cowardly’ with metal bar to back of head

A YOUNG man leads an isolated life, nervous about his own decision making and has issues with other neurological processes, after his mate hit him in the back of the head with a metal bar.

The victim's mother says "he's not the same free-spirited happy go lucky young man that he once was".

Vaughan John Howlett, 19, pleaded guilty in Rockhampton District Court on November 29 to one count of grievous bodily harm and one of disqualified driving.

Crown prosecutor Alexandra Baker said a few weeks before the metal bar assault, the victim - Alex Zuiderbaan - and Howlett were at drag races when Howlett took off with Mr Zuiderbaan's car and crashed it.

She said the vehicle was written off.

The court heard on November 10 last year, they were at a party where Howlett was revving his own vehicle's engine before becoming volatile and smashed the windows and tail lights of his own car with a shovel.

Ms Baker said he left with a woman to get more marijuana and while he was gone, Mr Zuiderbaan, along with his brother, moved Howlett's car 50 metres and it rolled down an embankment.

She said Mr Zuiderbaan, 22, went to his Lakes Creek residence and Howlett attended at 1.45am on November 11, after finding his car.

Howlett exited the car outside Mr Zuiderbaan's residence, armed with a metal pole, which he used to strike his victim in the back of the head - in front of witnesses.

Howlett left Mr Zuiderbaan lying on the ground unconscious and ran off.

Mr Zuiderbaan was flown to an intensive care unit in Brisbane and was in hospital for more than a month. He still has further surgeries to undergo as a result of the injury from the assault.

Ms Baker said as of January this year, Mr Zuiderbaan was still having mild-high level language difficulties, used a notebook and called family multiple times a day to check facts and doubted his decision making.

Judge Vicki Loury said Howlett "really needs to do something about his volatile personality".

"There is no evidence of remorse," she said.

"This young man was his friend … where's the apology? There has been none.

"He caused life-threatening injuries to his friend."

Judge Loury said Mr Zuiderbaan suffered fractures to the back and bottom of his skull and his brain swelled.

She said he had amnesia for eight days.

Police were unable to find Howlett after the incident, but he called police to check on Mr Zuiderbaan's condition.

The court heard Howlett claimed Mr Zuiderbaan and his brother were both armed and there were punches thrown before he hit his victim with the metal bar.

"That was all untrue," Judge Loury said.

"You abandoned him, very seriously injured, on the roadway; refused to hand yourself into police and you lied to police. Your assault on him was vicious and cowardly and continues to impact him."

Judge Loury ordered Howlett to a four-year prison term, declared 305 days presentence custody and set parole eligibility at May 28 next year.

Defence barrister Jordan Ahlstrand said Howlett's drug addicted mother introduced him to methamphetamines when he was 18.