A panic buying mother and daughter accused of fighting with another shopper in a Woolworths supermarket claim they were just protecting their jumbo pack of toilet paper.
Treiza Bebawy, 60, and Meriam, 23, were charged by police after video of their alleged behaviour at a south-western Sydney Woolworths went viral last month.
The pair, from a Coptic Christian migrant family from Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west, were apparently incensed that a woman, 49, was equally determined to get ahold of their toilet paper packs in the early hours of March 7.
After hair-pulling, scuffling and screaming, the furious victim spat at the Bebawy family: ‘I just wanted one pack!’
Mrs Bebawy is then recorded saying ‘no, not one pack!’ while shielding her trolley loaded with Quilton four-ply.
Meriam Bebawy, 23, and her mother Treiza, 60, were charged with affray over the Woolworths supermarket brawl
The Bebawy family members allegedly scuffled with the victim, above, at a Woolworths supermarket after collecting a sizeable amount of toilet paper
The alleged fracas ended with one Woolworths employee overheard telling Mrs Bebawy: ‘You are fighting over tissues. Think about what you’re doing, yeah?’
The brawl began shortly after the store opened, with police called about 7am on a Saturday.
This isn’t the Thunderdome. It isn’t Mad Max
Comments from a senior NSW police officer after footage of the fight went viral
It came as Australians bizarrely swept the supermarket shelves of toilet paper to an ‘unprecedented’ extent – sparking store shortages across the country.
The panic buying was sparked by fears the coronavirus pandemic would lead to citywide shutdowns.
NSW Police were called to the Woolworths store and spoke to the victim early that morning, leading a senior officer to make withering comments.
‘We just ask that people don’t panic like this when they go out shopping,’ acting inspector Andrew New told reporters at the time.
‘There is no need for it. It isn’t the Thunderdome, it isn’t Mad Max, we don’t need to do that.’
Accused: Mariam Begawy
The victim escaped the brawl uninjured.
The accused pair handed themselves in to police that evening, shielding their faces from waiting TV cameras.
Both were charged with affray, an offence that has a maximum punishment of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Their identities can now be revealed with a court date looming.
The definition of that charge under the Crimes Act is that a person has used or threatened unlawful violence and their conduct ‘is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his or her personal safety’.
‘If two or more persons use or threaten the unlawful violence, it is the conduct of them taken together that must be considered.’
The victim (on right) yelled at the pair that she just wanted ‘one pack’ – after the Bebawys had allegedly loaded up a trolley full of Quilton toilet paper
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,010
New South Wales: 2,734
Western Australia: 481
South Australia: 415
Australian Capital Territory: 99
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,010
The incredible run on toilet paper seen in early March forced supermarkets Coles and Woolworths to restrict customers to one pack per person.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, suppliers and police agencies were forced to reassure the community the nation was not at risk of running out of loo roll.
Mr Morrison said hoarding was ‘not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis.
‘It’s ridiculous, it’s un-Australian, and it must stop.’
The panic was uncalled for, given most of the country’s supply is produced in Australia.
Manufacturer Kimberley-Clark quickly forced its South Australian factory into 24/7 operations.
The Chullora incident was one of the most sensational instances of alleged violence surrounding toilet paper amid the hysteria, but it was far from not alone.
On March 4, police were called to a Westfield Parramatta supermarket after a woman allegedly pulled a knife on another shopper in the toilet paper aisle.
The next day, in Tamworth, a shopper, 50, was Tasered and charged after he allegedly ‘grabbed a woman’s throat’ during an argument over toilet paper at a Big W, on March 5.
A common scene in early March: Woolworths shelves stripped bare by shoppers over coronavirus concerns. There are signs the toilet paper hoarding is easing
That same week, police officers are seen speaking to shoppers after an incident involving a knife at Westfield Parramatta, in Sydney’s west, about 1.30pm on March 4
Likewise, on March 5, a man, 50 (above), was charged after allegedly assaulting a Big W staff member during an argument over toilet paper in Tamworth
So bleak was the toilet paper shortage that photographs of elderly people staring at empty shelves lit the internet alight.
While the demand for toilet paper has eased, the major supermarkets have confirmed demand is still well above average. On Sunday, Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said the retailer had sold more than 21.5 million toilet rolls in the previous week.
The supermarket has rushed out 500,000 extra packets of pasta to meet the demands of hoarders. Restrictions have been placed on other products, such as rice and paper towel.
Daily Mail Australia contacted Mrs and Miss Bebawy for comment about their case this week. A family spokeswoman hung up the phone. The pair face court on April 28.