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Shepparton fruit pickers jailed following the death of Umit Bolat

By Shepparton News

Two Shepparton fruit pickers have been sentenced to jail following the death of Tatura man Umit Bolat in 2018.

Boon Ping Lee, 26, and Lee Chen Kong, 46, faced Melbourne’s Supreme Court on Friday for sentencing over their involvement in the incident which saw Mr Bolat restrained and beaten with gym weights, before his body was wrapped in a doona and thrown in the Murray River near Cobram East.

“You both assaulted Mr Bolat when he was already badly beaten up and defenceless,” Justice Christopher Beale said when handing down his sentence.

“It is unclear when he died but both of you were present when he was repeatedly and seriously assaulted over an extended period of time.”

Mr Bolat died on August 13, 2018, aged 45, after being physically assaulted following a fight that broke out at a property in Hill Rd, Lemnos, about a car he had given to a co-accused to pay off a drug debt.

The court had previously heard Mr Bolat was struck in the leg with a wooden stick and metal pole, hit over the head with a dining chair and stabbed in the leg with a pocket knife.

He was then assaulted over a number of hours with metal gym weights thrown at him and a plastic bag placed over his head.

Following Mr Bolat's death his body was wrapped in a doona and thrown in the Murray River where it was recovered by police on October 11, nearly two months after his death.

Both Lee and Kong were originally charged with murder, however their charges were later downgraded to common assault and assisting an offender, which they both pleaded guilty to.

The court was told the accused are both Malaysian citizens who were in Australia unlawfully when the offending occurred.

When sentencing, Justice Beale acknowledged two victim impact statements written by Mr Bolat's daughters, which said they felt "empty" following their father's death, describing him as their "hero" and "best friend".

“The assaults perpetrated by each of you, considered objectively, are upper range examples of that offence because Mr Bolat was already in such a bad way when you each struck him,” Justice Beale said.

“You were witnesses to and indeed participants in his horrific ordeal which culminated in his death."

Justice Beale said he took into account Lee and Kong's lack of criminal history, their remorse, pleas of guilty and the fact they had been incarcerated during the COVID-19 jail restrictions.

Lee was sentenced to two years and six months in jail with a non-parole period of 18 months.

Kong was sentenced to two years in jail with a non-parole period of 12 months.

Both the accused have already served 625 days in pre-sentence detention.