MICHAEL Thomas Rae needed a plausible explanation as to why he would have inquired about storing firearms at Kennards Newcastle West on the same day the self-storage facility was targeted in the biggest firearm heist in the Hunter’s history.
“I was considering putting in an application for a firearm licence,” Rae, 32, said when questioned by trial advocate Geoff Kidd during a three-day trial in Newcastle District Court this week.
The problem with Rae’s rationale was that he knew any application he made was doomed to fail.
He had at least twice been convicted of firearm offences in the past. He had even pleaded guilty to shooting a Crown witness in 2010. And so Rae had walked himself into a trap.
Mr Kidd asked Judge Peter Berman if the jury wouldn’t mind stepping outside and the parties had a discussion about whether or not Rae’s criminal history could be raised.
Normally deemed too prejudicial to be included in any trial, Rae had opened the door with his evidence and, after a hearing to determine the admissibility of the evidence, Judge Berman allowed the question.
The issue at the trial was whether Rae, while walking down to the secure firearm storage area with the Kennards employee, had watched the man punch in his PIN number, memorised the code and then passed it onto the thieves who, later that night, used it to gain access and steal 39 firearms.
The jury took about 45 minutes on Wednesday to find Rae guilty of accessory before the fact to aggravated break and enter and commit serious indictable offence.
He remains behind bars and will be sentenced next year. He is the third Rae brother to be convicted over the massive firearm heist.
Last week, his younger brother, Joshua Rae, pleaded guilty to receiving six firearm bolts stolen in the break-in and in August older brother, Benjamin Rae, was jailed for at least three years after he pleaded guilty to renting the cheapest locker available and passing on his unique code to thieves, who used it to access the loading dock.