Fri, Aug 04, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Killer farmer will be released soon

AP , SYDNEY

For two days, a notorious gang enforcer known as "No Thumbs" and five cohorts threatened Tim Nam and his family, making death threats while trying to force them off the farm that they had rented for eight years.

Then, in a hail of gunfire, "No Thumbs" was dead, two of his companions wounded. Nam, transformed from victim to defendant, was arrested and charged with murder.

Two years later, Nam agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. The judge in his case, nearly incredulous that Nam was charged at all, sentenced him yesterday to time served. The 29-year-old farmer will be a free man soon.

But Nam's life will never be the same. The farm west of Sydney has been sold. His girlfriend moved on to another relationship while he was in jail. He has lost two years with his son, now three.

At least one legislator has called for an investigation into how things got so out of hand.

The New South Wales state Supreme Court was told that Michael Pestano, a debt collector known to the Sydney underworld as "No Thumbs" and "The Gnome," and five cohorts went to the property in rural New South Wales state ready to wreak terror to earn A$9,000 for chasing off Nam and his family.

What had been a partnership with the land's owner, Colleen Taylor, to raise olive trees had gone bad.

Her efforts to evict Nam, his girlfriend, their 15-month-old son and Nam's parents had failed.

Armed with a gun, chainsaws and tool handles, Pestano and his men threatened Nam and his family. They smashed windows, cut the power and drained the water supply.

Police, called to the scene four times, said they would not intervene in a legal dispute and refused to tell Pestano and his men to leave.

"These people were hired to come and get us off the farm, obviously by any means they could," Nam's mother, Margaret, told Southern Cross Broadcasting last Friday.

"We were threatened ... with rape. They threatened to kill all of us -- including the baby," she said.

"They threatened to set fire to the house. It was a very, very frightening time," Margaret Nam said.

Nam's father, Laurie, said the situation took a sudden turn for the worst.

"They shot at us... bang, bang, bang," he recalled. "Tim was so traumatized he just sprayed back at them. It all happened in three seconds."

Nam had fired a burst of 10 to 14 rounds from his .22-calibre semi-automatic rifle, killing Pestano. Two of companions lay wounded.

Nam was arrested several days later.

"This has been one of the most troubling cases that I have ever heard," Justice Michael Adams said yesterday during Nam's sentencing.

He said that he was "astonished" that police had taken no action.

"This was a terrifying experience, the Nams were under siege," Adams said.

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