Ex-England rugby league captain Sam Burgess has been convicted of intimidating his father-in-law during a heated clash in the wake of his break-up with wife Phoebe.
Burgess, who served two turns as captain of the English side in 2016 and 2017, was found guilty on Friday of intimidating Mitchell Hooke during an argument at Hooke’s home in New South Wales in October 2019.
The court heard that a furious argument erupted between the pair as it came time for Burgess to leave the home after visiting his two children as per the terms of his split with Phoebe, which had been finalised just a week earlier.
During the row, Burgess had told Hooke ‘you’re a f***king piece of s*** [and] I’m going to get you’, which left the older man ‘pale, shaken and unsteady on his feet’.
Burgess was sentenced to a two-year community correction order a two-year apprehended violence order, but his lawyers immediately said he would appeal.
Lawyer Bryan Wench said: ‘We will go all the way if necessary, [Burgess] has done nothing wrong’.
Meanwhile Burgess’s mother Juile, who attended the court session, also spoke out to defend her son – calling him ‘a good man and a good father’.
NRL star Sam Burgess has been found guilty of intimidating his father-in-law during a heated clash in the aftermath of his messy break-up with wife Phoebe
Burgess is pictured with his lawyer Bryan Wench before the verdict was delivered at Moss Vale Local Court on Friday morning
Burgess, pictured with ex-wife Phoebe in happier times, was sentences to a two-year community corrections order and a two-year apprehended violence order
The court heard that Burgess married Phoebe at her parents’ grand home 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 told the court his relationship with Mr Hooke – a wealthy mining magnate – had deteriorated over the last year of his marriage but he had treated him with respect before their confrontation.
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.
The two men gave vastly different versions of what happened after the visit, with each accused of threatening the other.
Burgess claimed Mr Hooke 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.’
Mr Hooke said he was left in ‘absolute terror’ that the dual-code international was going to hit him in his own home.
Assessing the two accounts, magistrate Robert Rabbidge said Phoebe and her sister Harriet gave convincing evidence that Mr Hooke had clearly been ‘terrified’ during the encounter.
‘What is incontrovertible is the shock and distress Mr Hook displayed to his daughters and police,’ Mr Rabbidge found.
All the evidence supported Mr Hooke having suffered ‘severe trauma’ rather than just being involved in an argument as Burgess had alleged.
Mr Hooke declined to comment on the court decision when contacted by Daily Mail Australia.
‘No thanks,’ he said. ‘I think the magistrate has said it all and we’re just going to leave it at that.’
Burgess, with mum Julie in white shirt, sat slumped forward in a chair while magistrate Robert Rabbidge delivered his decision
Mr Rabbidge rejected the suggestion Mr Hooke had made a false complaint to police as part of an orchestrated campaign to destroy Burgess and his career.
The showdown between Burgess and Mr Hooke took place at Phoebe’s family home where the couple got married in the New South Wales Southern Highlands.
Burgess was accused of intimidating Mr Hooke, although there was never any allegation of actual physical violence.
Mr Rabbidge described Mr Hooke, a father-of-three and grandfather of six, as a successful businessperson and ‘staunch man’ who was tall and lean and ‘not a wilting flower’.
He said Burgess was also a man of ‘high achievement’ who had captained the Rabbitohs, a team he noted was supported by Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Hollywood star Russell Crowe.
He was also ‘far taller, bulkier, fitter and half the age of his father-in-law Mr Hooke.’
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’.
Mr Rabbidge descibed the Hooke family estate as a ‘well-tended property and beautiful home’ where Sam and Phoebe’s children could walk in paddocks and feed the chickens in a ‘lovely country environment’.
‘Like much in life there had been significant work behind the scenes to create this safe environment where Sam could have time with the children,’ he said.
‘This peaceful environment was destroyed by Sam Burgess’s failure to leave by the agreed time of 4pm.’
Before delivering his decision Mr Rabbidge dealt with a last-minute email from Mr Hooke to the prosecution which noted the magistrate’s family had connections to his own.
Mr Rabbidge said one his younger relatives had once been a friend of of one Mr Hooke’s younger relatives. There had been a friendly relationship between those two families but that was no longer the case.
His son’s partner had also once been beauty editor at Cleo magazine and her boss at the time was the author of articles published in The Australian newspaper last year which accused Burgess of domestic violence and drug use.
Mr Hooke attended court in his RM Williams boots and plaited kangaroo skin belt with an Order of Australia pin on his lapel, even when he was not required at an earlier hearing on January 22
Sam Burgess married Phoebe Hooke at her family home just outside Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands in December 2015. The couple had two children and split in late 2019
Neither the prosecution nor defence made an application that Mr Rabbidge should remove himself from the case due to any apprehended bias but Burgess’s solicitor Mr Wrench described Mr Hooke’s email as ‘an attempt to undermine the integrity of this court.’
Mr Rabbidge said his son’s partner had not worked in magazines for eight or nine years and he did not know her media friends.
‘I’ve lived in this region for 23 years,’ Mr Rabbidge said. ‘I’m well familiar with literally thousands of people.’
Burgess waited more than a year for this case to be finalised, having insisted through his lawyers from the start he was not guilty of committing any crime.
The case pitted Burgess, one of four footballing brothers from England’s north, against gentleman farmer Mr Hooke, a former CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia.
Burgess hired some of Sydney’s best lawyers and was accompanied throughout the proceedings by his fiercely protective school teacher mother Julie.
Mr Hooke attended the hearing in his RM Williams boots and plaited kangaroo skin belt with an Order of Australia pin on his lapel, even when he was not required in court.
He and his daughter have admitted co-operating with a reporter they both knew who in October wrote stories accusing Burgess of drug use and domestic violence.
Sam’s ex-wife Phoebe leaves court after admitting to giving damaging documents about her ex-husband Sam to The Australian newspaper. She denied she did so to destroy his reputation
If Burgess had once been close to the wider Hooke family, by the time he, Mr Hooke and Phoebe had given evidence about what happened at Daffodil Downs the gulf was irreparable.
He was asked if Mr Hooke had embraced him as part of the family. ‘In his words, yes,’ Burgess responded.
Burgess used to call Mr Hooke ‘Mitchy Boy’ in text messages and said he had routinely signed off with ‘love you’ and Xs out of politeness.
‘He’s my father-in-law,’ he told the court.
Mr Hooke said that Burgess had initially seemed normal while visiting his house for the access visit until told it was time to go home.
Sam and Phoebe married in 2015 and 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
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.’.
‘He said, “F*** you, you’re a piece of s***”. I said, “Sam, you’ve got to go”.
‘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.” He was wild. He was yelling.
‘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.’
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
Even with the repetition of a few colourful phrases, Burgess’s version of the face-off with Mr Hooke was far less confrontational.
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.
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”.’
In happier times: Burgess’s ex-wife Phoebe and his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke gave statements about Burgess to the media. The three are pictured together
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 said.
‘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***”.
‘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’.
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
Under cross-examination Burgess said he was unhappy about leaving the property before Phoebe returned.
‘I didn’t want to leave the children with Mitch because I didn’t trust him with them,’ he said. ‘He’d never had them before by himself.’
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’.
Burgess’s barrister Phillip Boulten SC put to Mr Hooke that he told the footballer: ‘I’m going to destroy you if it’s the last thing I do.’
‘You have taken steps to destroy his reputation as best as you can humanly do it,’ he said to Mr Hooke, who denied it.
Mr Hooke said he did not recall Burgess telling him, ‘You’re a bad person. You’re a bad person inside and you’re bad outside. You’ve got a bad heart.’
He denied telling Burgess, ‘You run away from everything in your life’, ‘No one loves you’ and ‘Your family don’t even love you.’
Mr Hooke further denied saying to Burgess of Daffodil Downs: ‘What have you done, Sam? All this could have been yours.’
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)
Burgess pleaded not guilty to charges of intimidation after a confrontation with his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke at the Hooke family home (pictured)
Phoebe’s sister Harriet gave evidence she had heard Burgess shouting from the house and saw him standing over her father in a ‘menacing stance’.
‘He said, “What kind of grandfather are you? Everyone that knows you hates you. I’m going to get you”,’ Harriet told the court.
Mr Boulten had said the case against Burgess on the intimidation 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.’
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.
‘He is a man who has a very firm belief in his own stature and particularly so in his own living room.’
As the head of the Minerals Council, Mr Hooke had played a key role in derailing then-Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd’s planned mining tax.
Mr Hooke denied Mr Boulten’s suggestion he considered himself a ‘hard man’ and had bragged to Burgess he brought down Mr Rudd.
‘Mr Hooke regards himself as being a tough head,’ Mr Boulten told the court.
‘He abides by a public policy advocacy principle if you’re going to hit me make sure I stay down because if I don’t I’m going to come after you.
‘He does not brook opposition without coming after his opponent doubly hard.’
On October 2 a report in The Australian newspaper made untested allegations of domestic violence by Burgess towards his wife, as well as claims of wild partying including drug use. Burgess and Phoebe are pictured
The court had been played a Triple Zero call made by Phoebe in which she told the operator she wanted to report ‘something that’s just happened at my home’.
Phoebe said the family did not require police assistance and nobody had been physically harmed. ‘We’re all fine,’ she said.
Before making the call Phoebe had tried to ring Brisbane QC Sydney Williams, a family friend, and spoke to her solicitor Carly Middleton.
Mr Hooke called Mr Williams and another lawyer four hours before making a police statement. He also spoke to former colleague Ben Mitchell, a public relations expert.
Mr Boulten submitted Mr Hooke and his daughter had used the court proceedings against Burgess as part of an orchestrated plan to destroy him.
‘They were lawyered-up and PRed up from the get-go,’ Mr Boulten said.
‘This is an unusual phenomenon. This is not the way things normally occur. This is top-shelf treatment.’
‘Mitch Hooke and Phoebe Burgess have tried to destroy my client’s career. This case is part of it and it’s not going to stop here, you might think.’
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
On October 2 a report in The Australian newspaper made untested allegations of domestic violence by Burgess towards Phoebe, as well as claims of wild partying including drug use.
That report drew on a 50-page police statement Phoebe had made to police in late September 2020 and included quotes from Mr Hooke.
Phoebe admitted giving documents damaging to Burgess to The Australian, but denied she did so to destroy his reputation.
Mr Hooke also denied setting out to destroy the footballer’s career but did admit to talking to The Australian about Burgess.
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.