Southport Court. Hylton Miller Picture Mike Batterham
Southport Court. Hylton Miller Picture Mike Batterham

Tragic story of Surfers shooting victim

Hylton Miller could have been any one of us.

You, me, any of the 13 million visitors who come to the Gold Coast each year.

The family man was walking along the Surfers Paradise beachfront with his loved ones when a stray bullet fired from a high-rise balcony thudded into his guts.

Moments early he was just casually strolling amid all the other well-meaning locals or holiday-makers taking in the pleasant promenade.

Southport Court. Hylton Miller Picture Mike Batterham
Southport Court. Hylton Miller Picture Mike Batterham

The Millers had been out ten-pin bowling just prior.

In the worst kind of irony imaginable, they had relocated to the Gold Coast to get away from crime-ridden South Africa where he had once been shot four times in a home invasion.

It was December 4, 2010, a busy part of the year when the visitor hub was starting to thrive with tourists leading into the busy Christmas and New Year season.

It should have been a happy time for the Millers and their children who had embraced sunny Queensland to rid themselves of the fear of living back in their native South Africa.

But Mr Miller, through no fault of his own other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, would not be awake for either occasion.

Hylton Miller and solicitor Michael Gatenby leave the Southport Magistrates Court during the trial.
Hylton Miller and solicitor Michael Gatenby leave the Southport Magistrates Court during the trial.

The bullet left him in a coma for four months. He contracted a severe infection requiring more than 30 operations at a cost of more than $120,000.

Eventually, he came out of the coma and he recovered from the infection - but he never recovered mentally from being randomly shot for no reason and no one ever being held accountable.

A physically, financially and emotionally broken Mr Miller took his own life in the first week of December, 2015 - five years almost to the day when he got shot.

In the lead up to his death, his teenage daughter Jaime would later reveal he had tried to end his life three times in his final weeks.

Hylton Miller and his daughter Jaime Miller.
Hylton Miller and his daughter Jaime Miller.

On one occasion, Jaime said her troubled father was discharged from Gold Coast University Hospital only hours after trying to end his life and did not receive counselling during an earlier six-day stint in its mental health ward.

Jaime will also never forget the day she walked in on her 47-year-old dad, dressed in his army uniform, ready to hang himself.

"I found him at the back of the house," the 18-year-old would tell the Bulletin in December, 2015, a week after his death.

"I asked him what he was doing and he just said he wanted to go feeling proud of himself."

After his death, Gold Coast Health said it was in contact with him every day prior though admitted "while every effort is made to identify people of increased risk, the reality is this is not an exact science and every death under such circumstances is devastating for all involved".

Hylton Miller and his daughter Jaime Miller.
Hylton Miller and his daughter Jaime Miller.

Early on it would be dubbed the Surfers Paradise sniper case.

But the reality was allegedly far more mundane and inexplicably careless.

An exhaustive and complex investigation by police traced the source of the bullet back to a high-rise balcony in the Circle on Cavill building where a drunken dinner party had taken place.

Hylton Miller and his daughter Jaime Miller.
Hylton Miller and his daughter Jaime Miller.

Salesman Rick El Masri was charged with grievous bodily harm in relation to the shooting.

During the trial, the jury was told El Masri had been at a gathering hosted by fellow salesman Hakan Altinoglu and also attended by both men's girlfriends.

Police alleged El Masri had drunkenly fired two shots from a large calibre handgun towards his former workplace - the Hollywood Showgirls strip club - from the balcony of Mr Altinoglu's unit.

Southport Courthouse Surfers Paradise Sniper Case. Rick El Masri and his girlfriend Kylie Cunnington (right) Picture Mike Batterham.
Southport Courthouse Surfers Paradise Sniper Case. Rick El Masri and his girlfriend Kylie Cunnington (right) Picture Mike Batterham.

One of the bullets missed the venue and continued on for a kilometre, striking down Mr Miller.

During the trial, El Masri and Altinoglu testified, each blaming the other for pulling the trigger to let off steam about past grudges.

Their two girlfriends denied seeing who fired the gun. The weapon was never found.

El Masri was acquitted following a two-week trial in the Southport District Court and a shooter - responsible for Mr Miller's plight which would ultimately lead to his tragic death - was never brought to justice.

Witness Hakan Altinoglu leaves Southport Court on day 2 of the trial for the Surfers Paradise sniper, who shot a bloke from a high-rise building. Pics Adam Head
Witness Hakan Altinoglu leaves Southport Court on day 2 of the trial for the Surfers Paradise sniper, who shot a bloke from a high-rise building. Pics Adam Head

At the time of the verdict, Mr Miller stormed from the courtroom, indicating outside he was too upset to talk.

His estranged wife of 20 years, Juanita and their daughter were also stunned by the result.

"We were just in shock," she said at the time.

A week after his death, Mr Miller's lawyer Michael Gatenby reflected on the impact of the stray bullet on his client: "He had a very successful airconditioning business that was in such demand he couldn't keep up. Then all of a sudden he lost absolutely everything."

"He lost his business and he lost his relationships. He was just a shadow of the man he was."



New butcher ready to 'meat' the challenge

premium_icon New butcher ready to 'meat' the challenge

Port City Meats opens in a familiar spot at Clinton.

State Govt's early release of $3.1m funding for Gladstone

premium_icon State Govt's early release of $3.1m funding for Gladstone

Funding will help with local infrastructure projects.

MILESTONE: Yarwun refinery receives new shipment

premium_icon MILESTONE: Yarwun refinery receives new shipment

First bauxite shipment from new mine arrives.

Local Partners