NRL star Sam Burgess has had a conviction for intimidating his ex-wife Phoebe’s father overturned by a judge in the latest chapter of a bitter family saga.
Burgess had been found guilty of intimidating Mitchell Hooke during a heated clash in the aftermath of his messy break-up with Phoebe about 18 months ago.
Judge Mark Williams overturned that decision in the New South Wales District Court, sitting in Goulburn on the state’s Southern Tablelands, on Friday.
Judge Williams preferred the evidence of Burgess over that of retired businessman Mr Hooke, who he found could have fabricated some of his testimony.
‘My firm view upon reading the evidence is that the Crown case was not established beyond reasonable doubt,’ Judge Williams ruled.
Judge Williams found that inconsistencies in Mr Hooke’s version of events ‘leaves open the real and substantial possibility he was fabricating his evidence’.
NRL star Sam Burgess has been cleared of intimidating his former father-in-law Mitchell Hooke at the Hooke family home outside Bowral. Burgess had been accused of threatening Mr Hooked during a heated clash in the aftermath of his messy break-up with wife Phoebe
Burgess, pictured with ex-wife Phoebe in happier times, was sentenced to a two-year community corrections order and made the subject of a two-year apprehended violence order. A District Court judge overturned those decisions and set them aside on Friday
Burgess’s ex-wife Phoebe and his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke gave statements about Burgess to a journalist they both knew which were used to publish stories accusing him of domestic abuse and wild partying. The three are pictured together
‘This was a case of the word of Burgess against the word of Hooke,’ Judge Williams said.
He noted the onus was always on the Crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an offence had occurred and Burgess’s version of events ‘was, at least, reasonably possible’.
He also set aside a two-year apprehended violence order which had been granted to protect Mr Hooke from Burgess, who has had no contact with his former father-in-law since their confrontation.
Judge Williams said the magistrate who originally heard the case spoke ‘in glowing terms’ of the Hooke family as ‘fine people’ and seemed to give no weight to ‘the undoubted good character’ of Burgess.
Burgess was not present in court but watched the proceedings via audio-visual link, as did Mr Hooke who was at home in his office.
Burgess’s barrister Phillip Boulten, SC, described the case as ‘he said, he said’, and said the Hooke family’s evidence had been wrongly preferred over that of his client.
‘Basically it was “these are good and decent people and my client’s a rugby league player who could be ferocious”,’ Mr Boulten told the court.
‘The learned magistrate put little or no store in the fact that the allegation was put in the context of an unhappy afternoon with fraught emotions on both sides.’
The decision came as Phoebe threatened to spill more details about her relationship with he retired footballer.
Phoebe, 31, touched on the break-up of her marriage in a recent interview with Marie Claire, and hinted on Friday she was ready to speak more about its demise.
‘You can be sure I have a lot more to say,’ she wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of her photo for the magazine.
Phoebe’s Marie Claire interview saw her divulge details on how 2020 was a difficult year after her split from Sam, 32.
Judge Mark Williams preferred the evidence of Burgess over that of retired businessman Mr Hooke, who he found could have fabricated some of his testimony. Mr Hooke is pictured at the earlier local court hearing
‘[Self-doubt] is such a hard thing to go through,’ she said. ‘I would say marriage is a place I doubted myself and sacrificed a lot of myself.’
Burgess launched an appeal immediately after being found guilty of intimidating Mr Hooke at Moss Vale Local Court on February 5.
The onetime South Sydney captain had slumped in his chair while magistrate Robert Rabbidge delivered his original verdict and said he was confused by the decision outside court.
Mr Rabbidge accepted the evidence of Mr Hooke that Burgess had threatened him by saying, ‘I’m going to get you’, in a confrontation at the Hooke family home in the NSW Southern Highlands.
‘An enraged, angry Sam Burgess would indeed be a frightening figure to most Australians,’ Mr Rabbidge said.
He sentenced Burgess to a two-year community correction order and imposed a two-year apprehended violence order to protect Mr Hooke. Both were set aside by Judge Williams.
Judge Williams said the magistrate who originally heard the intimidation case spoke ‘in glowing terms’ of the Hooke family as ‘fine people’ and seemed to give no weight to ‘the undoubted good character’ of Burgess. Burgess and Phoebe are pictured
Mr Rabbidge had described Mr Hooke, a former CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, as an ‘impressive’ and ‘believable’ witness, while rejecting much of Burgess’s testimony.
Mr Rabbidge said Mr Hooke had clearly been ‘terrified’ and was pale, shaken and unsteady on his feet after the incident.
‘What is incontrovertible is the shock and distress Mr Hook displayed to his daughters and police,’ Mr Rabbidge said.
All the evidence supported Mr Hooke having suffered ‘severe trauma’ rather than just being involved in an argument as Burgess had alleged.
Mr Rabbidge also rejected the suggestion Mr Hooke had made a false complaint to police as part of an orchestrated campaign to destroy Burgess and his career.
Mr Hooke and Phoebe admitted co-operating with a reporter they both knew who in October last year wrote stories accusing Burgess of domestic abuse and wild partying.
Judge Williams noted those stories appeared when the intimidation charge had already been listed for hearing and said Mr Hooke and his daughter could have avoided helping to craft them.
‘Surely a more prudent course would have been… to say no, we don’t want to participate in any media articles now because there’s a hearing coming up next months and we shouldn’t be thrashing this out in the media.’
While Burgess was accused of intimidating Mr Hooke, there was never any allegation of actual physical violence.
Judge Williams said: ‘One would have thought if he was going to hit him he wouldn’t have given him any warning. He’d have just hit him.’
Burgess’s ex-wife Phoebe leaves court after admitting to giving damaging documents about her ex-husband to The Australian newspaper. She denied she did so to destroy his reputation
Burgess always denied threatening Mr Hooke at the Hooke family estate (pictured) where he married Phoebe in 2015. Burgess was at the house on October 19, 2019, to visit his two young children who had been living with their mother since their parents split two weeks earlier
Officers were called to the Hooke family’s multi-million dollar Glenquarry estate outside Bowral, known as Daffodil Downs, on October 19, 2019.
Burgess had been at the house for an arranged visit with his two young children who had been living with their mother since their parents split two weeks earlier.
Mr Hooke said Burgess had seemed normal until told it was time to go home.
He said Burgess told him: “This is f***ing inhumane and you know it”.
‘I said to him, “You can’t abuse me like that in my own home”,’ Mr Hooke told the court. ‘In a place where we’ve provided you love and support and afforded you sanctuary.’
Mr Hooke said Burgess had told him: ‘F*** you, you’re a piece of s***. You’re just like your daughter.’
‘I was taken aback because I had never seen that behaviour directed at me by Sam before,’ Mr Hooke told the court.
‘He came straight over, right in my face. He said, “F*** you. I’m going to get you. You’ve set all of this up.”
Burgess was not present in court on Friday for Judge Williams’ decision but watched the proceedings via audio-visual link, as did Mr Hooke who was at home in his office. Burgess is pictured on the day he married Phoebe Hooke
‘I’m standing there, there’s a six foot five, 118 kilo bloke threatening to beat me, threatening to hit me. I’ve never felt fear like it.’
‘I said, “You’re going to hit a 64-year-old man?” And he said, “I’m going to get you, I’m going to f***ing get you.” I said, “They’re going to put you away Sam”.’
Asked what he thought was going to happen next, Mr Hooke said: ‘I was resigned to being hit. I had absolutely no doubt.’
Judge Williams said on Friday: ‘If he did say he was going to get him, he was going to get him sometime in the future, not necessarily with physical violence.’
Burgess said when he arrived at the Hooke home about 2pm he was met by his father-in-law who told him: ‘The kids are there, instructions are there’, then left him alone with the children.
The children played happily with their father until just after 4pm when Phoebe sent Burgess a text message asking when he was leaving the property.
Burgess sent Phoebe a text to say he would wait until she returned to the house because he did not want to leave the children unattended.
Sam and Phoebe separated in late 2018 before rekindling their relationship by April 2019. They split permanently on October 2 that year and have since divorced. Burgess is pictured taking bags from the former marital home in January 2019
Phoebe insisted in another message that Burgess leave, then Mr Hooke emerged from his office and spoke to Burgess.
‘He tapped his watch and said, “Time’s up, let’s go”,’ Burgess told the court.
‘I told Mitch I thought that this was inhumane.
‘At this point I didn’t really want to argue or discuss things in front of the kids. I said, “Mitch, please, not in front of the children. Let’s leave it.”
‘He said, “Since you opened the batting I’m going to continue”.’
Burgess said he left the house and Mr Hooke followed him outside.
I said, “Mitch, I think you’re a bad person inside and out… and that’s why Phoebe is the way she is.” I told him he couldn’t make up for lost time.’
Burgess said Mr Hooke approached him on the pebble driveway and said, ‘You could have had all this’.
‘I think he meant the property,’ Burgess told the court.
‘He was pretty upset. He then shouted at me. He said, “F*** you Sam”. I returned serve. I said, “F*** you Mitch, you’re a piece of s***”.
Mitchell Hooke ran the Minerals Council of Australia. He is pictured with daughters Phoebe (centre) and Harriet after being made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2016
Phoebe has said she will keep using the Burgess surname because that is what her children are called. She has continued to post images to Instagram of her apparently idyllic lifestyle
Burgess claimed Mr Hooke had told him: ‘I’m going to destroy you if it’s the last thing I do. I’m going to destroy you and your career.’
‘He said, “Sam, nobody loves you. Your own family doesn’t love you. We loved you. You’ve thrown that away”.”
Burgess said he then told Mr Hooke: ‘No one in this whole town likes you. You’re a bad person’.
Under cross-examination Burgess said he did not think it was Mr Hooke’s job to tell him what to do with his children and agreed he had called him a ‘s***house grandfather’.
Mr Rabbidge said Burgess and Mr Hooke were familiar with dealing with the media and after the confrontation both had engaged their networks of influential friends, which was ‘not surprising or necessarily nefarious’.
Sam and Phoebe’s fiery exchange
Sam and Phoebe Burgess exchanged a series of texts on October 19, 2019, before after he was accused of intimidating her father:
11.48am: Hi Phoebe, I’m down in Bowral. Just thought I’d offer to come earlier when poppy wakes up so you’re not waiting for me for her chores and then I could still get my time with the kids. Thanks. (Sam)
11.49am: Both asleep now. 2pm is still fine. I’ll leave you to it today. Phoebe. (Phoebe)
11.49am: Great (S)
4.04pm: Let me know when you’ve left. (P)
4.05pm: I’m not leaving both kids with your dad. (S)
4.05pm: Excuse me. (P)
4.05pm: I will be home in 5 minutes when you have left. (P)
4.06pm: I am on my way now. (P)
4.06pm: Harriet is also there (P)
4.06pm: Ok I’ll wait until you get home (S)
4.06pm: Nobody in the house – want me to leave the kids in the living room (S)
4.07pm: No, dad will happily sit with them until I am home. ALl good. He’s in his office (P)
4.07pm: Just knock, he will happily come out and I am on the road. (P)
4.07pm: I’ll just wait. No problem. (S)
4.07pm: Please head off, I am on my way;, honestly I will send a pic when I have arrived home. I am not up to seeing you today, please understand. (P)
4.21pm: Really should stick to your plan Phoebe. That didn’t work (S)
4.22pm: Don’t you ever message me again (P)
4:22pm: You’re still not home. Billy crawling out of the front door and poppy as I left (S)
4.22pm: Great parenting (S)
4.22pm I’m here (P)
4.29pm: Harriet witnessed that – you are a pig. I was waiting in the road to get back to my babies. You’re an absolute low life. How dare you. we are done – at least 2 people have now seen who you really are you f*** (P)
4.32pm: You guys are all the same. Your dad does exactly what you do. None stop, followed me around provoking me. It was exactly like you. Harriet had to come and stop your dad. So bad. The kids were crawling out of the house. I took photos. They were left unattended by your dad (S)
Mr Boulten had said the intimidation charge against Burgess hung on the phrase, ‘I’m going to get you’, which his client denied using.
‘What you’re left with is two grown men arguing about the end of a access visit and that is not intimidation,’ he said.
Mr Boulten said Mr Hooke had become upset when challenged by Burgess in his home and his evidence about the encounter should not be accepted.
‘Mr Hooke is a man who is not used to being questioned or challenged,’ Mr Boulten told the court.
Burgess married Phoebe at Daffodil Downs in December 2015 and they have two children, four-year-old Poppy, and Billy, who turned two in December.
The couple separated in late 2018 before rekindling their relationship by April 2019. They split permanently on October 2 that year and have since divorced.
Burgess will face Moss Vale Local Court in May after allegedly being detected driving with cocaine in his system while on his way to pick up his children from Bowral on February 22.
He was allegedly unlicensed while behind the wheel of his BMW X5 which was unregistered due to his failure to pay $1,200 in parking and traffic fines.
A TRANSCRIPT OF PHOEBE’S CALL TO TRIPLE ZERO IN OCTOBER 2019
Phoebe: Oh look I don’t, I’m just reporting something that’s happened in my home, um.
Operator: Yes. What’s your address there?
Um we’re at (address suppressed).
Yeah I don’t need anyone here, I just need to report something.
Yeah that’s OK, let me just get up the address, how do you spell your street?
Um, (address suppressed)
Yep, so (address suppressed)
No, no, sorry, the street is (address suppressed)
Yep and sorry and the town?
Yep, is that at Daffodil Downs?
Yeah that’s that.
OK and your nearest corner street there?
Look I’m just a bit shaken up, I’m just going through, uh, my husband and I are going through a bit of a separation at the moment.
Um, and I’ve left him with the children and I’ve come home and he, um, he was supposed to have left when I arrived home and I repeatedly told him I didn’t want to see him, so he has threatened and abused my father, who is the children’s grandfather who was supervising the visit (begins to cry).
Yeah, OK, alrighty, what’s your husband’s name?
It’s Sam Burgess, so it can’t be made public but I just need to report it cause he’s still in the area and he’s really angry (crying).
Yeah, OK, is there any weapons on him?
Oh, I don’t imagine so.
OK, and is your dad or the kids, or no ones injured?
No, everyone’s OK.
We don’t need an ambulance?
No, no, no, no.
And have you guys got AVOs?
No, I didn’t want to do that, but his just um…
OK, and how many kids have you got there?
He’s done this to me, too, he’s done this to me.
OK, and are the kids with you or with him?
No, they were with him.
Where are the kids now?
Yep, yeah, my mums putting my son now and my daughter is with my sister.
OK, is he likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
Yeah, normally, that’s what we’ve been going through (crying).
Yeah, OK, alrighty.
I trusted him!
What was your name?
My name’s Phoebe Burgess, I trusted him… (crying).
And I have to report this because he is not supposed to behave like this on someone else’s property (crying).
Yeah, Phoebe, it definitely sounds like a hard situation for everyone, what I’m going to do, I’m going to send the police to see you.
Oh, is it necessary, do you reckon?
Yeah, look, it is.
We just have a duty of care, we want to make sure that you’re OK and just help you work out the best way we are going to deal with this, what was your date of birth?
Um, 18th of April, 1989, I promise we’re all fine, I just know that, I got, I got lawyers for this exact reason, um, and I…
Yeah that’s OK, so Phoebe, we want to come and check on you because we do have a duty of care, I know you say you’re fine, but we’ll come down just to have a chat and then we’ll go from there. What time was it that he abused, um verbally abused his dad?
Hm, he’s only just left and I blocked his calls.
Alrighty and what sort of car does he drive?
Um, his in a white BMW and obviously, and I’m just saying this, I don’t want this to be public for him, I just, he’s in a white BMW, I just know he’s angry, and I know he’s alone and he’s just acting like a f***ing idiot.
Yeah, alrighty. what we’ll do Phoebe, we’ll get someone down there to help you at (address suppressed).
…if he comes back and there’s any further drama before we get there, call Triple Zero immediately, ok?
I don’t think he will, I think he’s gone now.
Do you know his date of birth at all?
His date of birth?
Yeah, it’s the 14th of December ’88.
Mkay, alrighty, no problem and your dad is definitely not injured?
No, no, he’s 60 years old and it’s just, he’s just shaken up (Phoebe starts crying).
He’s a great man, I just can’t believe he’d do that to my 60-year-old father (Crying).
Yeah, for sure I totally understand, we’ll come down and have a chat and help you out. Any mental health conditions for him or anyone in the house?
No we’re all fine, Sam’s not fine, he’s going through a lot of things.
Is it Sam or Dan?
Sam, Sam Burgess.
Sam, alright sorry, it’s a bit of a bad line Phoebe.
That’s ok, and your best phone number?
(Phone number suppressed)
No worries, alright Phoebe I’m really sorry everyone’s been through that, we will come down and have a chat to you.
I appreciate you being so understanding, thank you.
Yeah, look’s it’s definitely a tough situation, but we will come down and have a chat to you, OK? Like I said…
He’s just, he’s just done it to me so many times, and I didn’t ever realise it was bad and, and my dad said that’s just horrific.
Yeah, I, uh, imagine that it probably is, if he turns up, Like I said Phoebe before we get there, just call us.
Alright thank you. Bye.
No problems Phoebe, we will be there as soon as we can.
We’re OK, yep, we’re all right.
Mr Hooke (pictured with wife Sarah) denied setting out to destroy the footballer’s career after the breakdown of his marriage to wife Phoebe during questioning in November