Queensland police called it a ‘Bunny and Clod’ hold-up, but the subsequent tour conviction scarred this Chances actress. Now she is leading for
A Second Chance
13th June 1992
KATHERINE LI, who plays the daughter of a crime boss in the adult drama series Chances, is in the third and final year of a probation term imposed on her by Brisbane District Court.
In 1990, Katherine and her now estranged husband pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted armed robbery of a jewellery store in Brisbane.
The court was told the couple had a sawn-off .22-calibre rifle.
Desperate for money, they planned the crime to prop up a failing business venture.
Katherine, 23, who plays Lily Lo in Chances, admits her story will shock fellow cast members, most of whom do not know about it.
The mother of a baby girl, Hannah, Katherine is not looking for sympathy but hopes the public and her co-stars will give her a second chance.
Several factors make Katherine’s story an extraordinary one.
Before the attempted robbery, she had built a solid career in modelling. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree (with majors in drama, media communications and English literature) and has experience in costume design, stage managing, tour managing, concert lighting and writing.
Part-Chinese, she has co-written a play about the assimilation of Vietnamese in Australian society.
Feeling a responsibility to talk to TV WEEK about her past, Katherine says: “I’m never going to talk about this ever again.”
Katherine, who drove the getaway car, is not trying to trivialise the offence when she says the incident was viewed by police as one of the most poorly executed crimes in Queensland history.
Katherine says: “There were people laughing in the court … it was so badly done.
“I think they (police) called us Bunny and Clod.
“Nobody got hurt. It was not a violent thing.
“Even though there was an offensive weapon involved, the person (the jewellery store employee) wasn’t aware that it was even there. She didn’t realise the nature of what was happening.
“A couple of people have said to me, ‘How could you have done this? You seem to be an ordinary person like all of us’.
“It’s that sort of thing where you get yourself into situations out of your control. Most people, whether they know it or not, are capable of all sorts of things. It’s just whether you reach the edge or not.”
Katherine had gone from college to marriage, from having virtually no responsibilities to having more than she could handle.
In a state of confusion, she believed a robbery could solve mounting financial problems — giving little thought to the repercussions.
Katherine had three months of mental agony as she awaited court proceedings.
She calls it “the worst time of my life”, and it was during the court case that she came to understand the magnitude of her actions.
The uncertainty of her future — and the possibility of a prison term — weighed heavily on her mind.
She also realised the effect of the ordeal on her family. Their faces in the courtroom, she says, were a picture of anguish that will stay with her forever.
Katherine believes her penalty is indicative of the police and court’s attitude to the crime.
The probation term is evidence that she is not considered a threat to the community.
And probation, rather than jail, has allowed Katherine to re-ignite her career and given her the opportunity to care for her baby.
Interestingly, Katherine could not see a future in acting until the Chances role arose. She simply wasn’t interested in re-entering the public domain.
“I just didn’t think there was a possibility of it,” Katherine says. “It takes you a long time to regain your confidence.
“After it (the court case) happened, we just went to Thursday Island (in far northern Australia) and lived there. I worked in a kiosk, making toasted sandwiches, and cleaned a hotel.
“I know what it’s like to be out of work and to have the responsibility of a child, and I don’t want to be on social security.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m living in the land of the privileged. The whole idea of probation is that you get a second chance and this is my second chance – in Chances.
“If I stuff this up, if I make one mistake, then I’ll go to jail. I can’t afford to make any mistakes and I don’t want to.”
Story: Darren Devlyn
Main Picture: Dave Mason
Original content copyright TV Week.