IN THEIR WORDS: Alleged border dodgers’ journey to Qld

A PERTH couple accused of brazenly breaching Queensland's tough border restrictions chronicled their elaborate plans to get into the state from Victoria in a series of online posts.

Pet sitters Lawrence Gordon Petersen, 63, and Edith van Dommelen, 68, were slapped with criminal charges for allegedly falsely declaring they had not travelled to a COVID-19 hotspot when they crossed the border at Goondiwindi on July 27.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the pair had been pet and house sitting about 70km outside of Melbourne before they travelled through NSW into Queensland where they went to a hospital, visited an elderly relative in her home, ate in several cafes and stayed in a Toowoomba motel.

The pair, who are now house sitting in Mt Gravatt, faced the Richlands Magistrates Court yesterday charged with fraud and failing to comply with border directions but had their matter adjourned to next month to give them time to seek legal advice.

When asked outside court if they lied on their border pass, Petersen responded "no we did not". He gave the same answer when asked if they were aware they could not enter Queensland after being in a COVID-19 hotspot.

The duo posted regular updates to Facebook about their travels and plans to get into Queensland after their stint of pet sitting in Woodend, about 70km from Melbourne.

Picture: Facebook
Picture: Facebook

On July 26, the day they left Victoria, the state was in the grips of its deadly second wave of the coronavirus with more than 4200 active cases while Queensland had just five active cases.

On July 27, van Dommelen told her Facebook friends that the pair had made it to Queensland and detailed their elaborate "A, B and C" plans to reach the sunshine state, discussing the permits and requirements needed for each.

"I did say watch this space.......well confirmation that Plan C to exit Victoria, has been successfully executed and completed," she wrote.

"Now relaxing in our Toowoomba accommodation for two night until the start of the first of two house pet sits that replaced SA Crystal Brook house pet sit that we should have started today."


Picture: Facebook
Picture: Facebook

Friends of the pair commented on the journey and one warned they should be tested for the coronavirus. Van Dommelen replied they intended to be tested but also joked in other replies that her "second names include resilience and persistence" and that she did not believe in "can't be done or no".

On August 4, nine days after arriving in Queensland, the pair were detained by police in Nanango and placed into mandatory quarantine in the South Burnett area.

In the July 27 post, van Dommelen said "Plan A" had been to exit Victoria with a permit to enter South Australia but that was not approved.

She said their second plan was to exit Victoria with a NSW permit as seasonal workers but the permits were "voided" and they would have needed to reapply.

Picture: Facebook
Picture: Facebook

She said "Plan C" had been successful and they were given a NSW permit to transit through the state, claiming a permit to enter Queensland had been approved.

She said "Plan D" would have been to do a 41-day house sit at a vacant motel in Victoria.

In the days after entering Queensland, the pair visited a number of places including a hospital, a cafe, a motel and even an elderly relative in her home.

On July 30, van Dommelen posted they had taken the Nanango woman whose home and pets they had been booked to look after to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital ahead of a "major" surgery.

Edith van Dommelen and Lawrence Gordon Petersen have been charged with fraud and failing to comply with border directions. Picture: Tara Croser
Edith van Dommelen and Lawrence Gordon Petersen have been charged with fraud and failing to comply with border directions. Picture: Tara Croser

She said after crossing the border, they stayed several nights in a hotel in the main street of Toowoomba and had eaten at a nearby cafe.

On July 29 the pair had also visited an elderly relative in her home near Toowoomba before travelling to meet other house sit clients at Forest Ridge.

During a brief appearance in court yesterday, Petersen and van Dommelen asked for their case to be adjourned to allow them time to seek legal advice.

The pair, who are currently house and pet sitting at an Upper Mt Gravatt address, said they had upcoming bookings to house sit in other Queensland homes including one at Toowoomba.

Lawrence Gordon Petersen and Edith van Dommelen have been pet sitting in different states.
Lawrence Gordon Petersen and Edith van Dommelen have been pet sitting in different states.

Magistrate Aaron Simpson told the pair they would need to seek permission from the office of police prosecutions each time they changed their address in Queensland, otherwise they could be arrested for breaching their bail conditions.

"I don't know anything about you but looking at you I get the impression you won't run away but the court needs to know where you are," Mr Simpson said.

Their case was adjourned to September 15.

Originally published as In their words: Alleged border dodgers' journey to Queensland