Disturbing claims of abuse heard at Royal Commission into Knox Grammar School

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Child abuse cover-up?

Child abuse cover-up?

A FORMER teacher at Sydney’s prestigious Knox Grammar school has failed to appear at a royal commission into child abuse.

The commission has issued a warrant for the arrest of Christopher Fotis, who was due to give evidence on Tuesday.

A public hearing this week has heard disturbing claims of abuse at Knox, which happened in the 1970s and 80s. Boys at one of Australia’s most exclusive schools were allegedly shown pornography, given alcohol and groomed for sex by a number of teachers at the school.

On Thursday David Lloyd, counsel advising the commission, said police were searching for Fotis and if he was found he would be brought to the commission.

Fotis was never charged with offences at Knox but was jailed in Melbourne for sexual abuse offences at a school there after his time at Knox, in Wahroonga on Sydney’s north shore.

The inquiry into the NSW private boys’ school is focusing on an incident in 1988 at one of the boarding houses, MacNeil House, when a person wearing a Knox tracksuit and balaclava hid under a child’s bed and sexually assaulted him.

Mr Lloyd said although the person’s face was concealed by the balaclava a number of the boys in the dormitory believed the offender was Fotis.

Former students have also alleged abuse by other teachers happened in dimly-lit music rehearsals. One of the teachers was still working at the school when he was arrested in 2009.

The expensive private school, whose old boys include judges, politicians such as the late Gough Whitlam and actors Hugh Jackman and Hugo Weaving, faced adverse publicity in 2009 when four teachers pleaded guilty to abusing students.

One “notorious molester” had memorial gates erected in his honour with the inscription “He touched us all”, the inquiry was told.

Prestigious: Hugh Jackman was a former student at the prestigious Knox Grammar. There is

Prestigious: Hugh Jackman was a former student at the prestigious Knox Grammar. There is no suggestion he was abused. Source: Supplied

In his opening statement on Monday, Mr Lloyd said five teachers at Knox in Wahroonga on Sydney’s north shore were convicted of sex offences against students. There would be allegations of abuse by a further three teachers who were never charged, he said.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will examine the response of the Uniting Church and Knox between 1970 and 2012 to concerns raised about inappropriate conduct by a number of teachers towards students at the school.

Evidence has been given that paedophiles were allowed to continue working at Knox even after a string of complaints and some witnesses claimed there was a paedophile ring at the school.

Geoffrey Watson SC, representing Knox Grammar School, said the school humbly and sincerely apologised for its failings.

“It apologises to all of those students who were damaged by these events. It apologises to the parents of those students and the other members of their families,” he said.

DISTURBING DETAILS

One former student Scott Ashton, 44 told the commission he was nine when he went to the prestigious school. From the start he was abused “openly and brazenly” by teacher Barrie Stewart.

Mr Ashton gave evidence on Tuesday and said he remembers bleeding from his rectum when Stewart used his finger to molest him.

Some of the abuse happened at dimly-lit music rehearsals where Stewart also abused other boys.

In 2009 Stewart was convicted of five counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault. He was given a suspended sentence.

Lives ruined: Former student Scott Ashton with friend Gretel Pinniger (left) and lawyer L

Lives ruined: Former student Scott Ashton with friend Gretel Pinniger (left) and lawyer Leigh Johnson (right). Source: News Corp Australia

Mr Ashton also told of depression, confusion and substance abuse since leaving Knox. He ended up working in the sex industry.

He said he was already fragile when he arrived at Knox as his two-year-old brother had been killed after they were both hit by a car at a pedestrian crossing. The other students beat him up and tried to get him to say he was responsible for his brother’s death

Mr Ashton was too distraught to read his own statement to the commission. It was read instead by his friend, Gretel Pinniger, also known as the high profile Sydney dominatrix Madame Lash.

Mr Ashton was also deeply confused by the attitude at the school where all were expected to pay tribute to an art teacher Bruce Barrett who had died young.

Mr Ashton said Barrett was a “notorious molester” but the school put up memorial gates at the back entrance to the Wahroonga school in his honour and bearing the inscription: “He touched us all”.

Another witness, Coryn Tambling, said he was abused by Craig Treloar in 1984 when he was at Knox. He said the teacher showed him and other boys pornographic videos one of which was a “homosexual gang bang involving teenage boys”.

Shocking allegations of abuse at prestigious boys school Knox Grammar.

Shocking allegations of abuse at prestigious boys school Knox Grammar. Source: Supplied

The teacher would reassure the boys and tell them it was OK to be homosexual, he said.

“Treloar also told me he was part of a group in Kings Cross that made these movies and he would secure me a part in a movie if I wanted.” He said he showed the boys business receipts from the Kings Cross company.

Treloar was sentenced to four and a half years in jail, with two years non-parole in 2009 and is now out. He will give evidence at this royal commission hearing.

MAN IN A BALACLAVA

Counsel for the commission David Lloyd, said witnesses would give evidence that a number of boys in one of the boarding houses were abused by a man in a Knox tracksuit and a balaclava.

One witness will say he awoke one morning when he was in year 8 to find the “balaclava man” sexually assaulting him.

Mr Lloyd said that although the person’s face was concealed by a balaclava, a number of the boys in the dormitory believed it was Christopher Fotis.

The school investigated and the boys were later told the “balaclava man” was a young Asian man who had been arrested by police.

Mr Lloyd said there was no evidence to suggest the NSW Police were ever notified of the incident, either as a break-and-enter or as an assault.

He also said “despite the paucity of contemporaneous documents it is anticipated that there will be evidence that senior people at Knox knew about the allegations of abuse” at the time.

Man wearing a balaclava and Knox tracksuit allegedly abused boys at Knox. Picture: Troy S

Man wearing a balaclava and Knox tracksuit allegedly abused boys at Knox. Picture: Troy Snook Source: News Corp Australia

LIVES RUINED

A former teacher at Knox Grammar broke down as he laid the blame for his son’s ill health and early death squarely on the school he once respected.

John Rentoul, whose son David died aged 44 after a series of illnesses, said he only found out in 2009 that his son had been abused by teacher Barrie Stewart.

Dr Rentoul only found out about the abuse when David, who was at the school in the late 1970s, was giving evidence against Stewart.

“I was shocked and outraged when David told us of the abuse,” said Dr Rentoul, who taught at the school from 1969 to 1980. He became emotional as he told how his son revealed he felt terribly ashamed and guilty because Stewart was a family friend and this led him to hide the abuse for 30 years.

Former Knox teacher Barrie Stewart at the Hornsby local court.

Former Knox teacher Barrie Stewart at the Hornsby local court. Source: News Limited

“I absolutely believe that the extreme stress, guilt and shame David suffered as a result of the abuse directly lead to his health issues and also resulted in his marital problems.” He said his son’s immune system was compromised by prolonged and sustained periods of post traumatic stress and he could not fight a lung infection which led to organ failure.

Dr Rentoul said the family had welcomed Stewart as an excellent teacher and arranged for him to give David piano lessons.

He said they believed the commission should ensure that “institutions such as Knox be held accountable for failing to protect its students against sexual predators”.

Dr Rentoul also said “private schools are more susceptible to instances of sexual abuse because of more opportunities for the development of close relationships between teachers and students during extra-curricular activities, and because of the prevalence of boarding establishments”.

Another mother also told of the impacts of the abuse on her son, who has been given the pseudonym ATS. Her son started at the school in 2002 when he was 10 years old.

She said her son was very happy for the first term but then changed — he became quiet and withdrawn. He refused to talk to his parents, became angry and hostile and self-harmed before being hospitalised after a serious suicide attempt.

When he was 14, her son told a psychiatrist that he had been abused by former teacher Craig Treloar, who used to invite boys to his room and offer them ginger beer. Her son would later say things to her like “’Treloar tried it on lots and lots of times, but only got it once’”.

Counsel Assist David Lloyd at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child

Counsel Assist David Lloyd at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing into Knox Grammar School. Photo Jeremy Piper/ Oculi Source: News Corp Australia

She said she took this to mean that Treloar was constantly sexually harassing her son.

When ATS was 16 he was offered a professional rugby contract with Gordon Rugby Club, but he could not go through with it.

ATS, now 22, lives in Canada — he cannot bear to live in Sydney, she said.

“Words can’t express the enormity of the daily pain experienced by ATS or myself and his family,” she said. The strain led to her marriage breakdown.

She said the experience had been horrific, terrifying and heart-wrenching.

“As a mother I have hopes and dreams for my children. My dreams for ATS were stripped down to mere survival.”

Another witness who used the pseudonym ARY said students could not talk about the abuse because if they did they were seen as weak and considered as everyone’s “bitch”.

He said that during his time at the school he observed systemic bullying by teachers and by students of other students.

He blamed the culture at the school on the headmaster for 30 years Ian Paterson.

“Paterson and his rule dragged the school through a dark age that it should never had had, particularly as a Christian institution,” he said.

HEADMASTER NICKNAMED ‘SNAKE’

The inquiry heard that the autocratic style of a headmaster nicknamed “Snake” at Knox made it possible for teachers to take advantage of and prey on students.

A man using the pseudonym ARY said the governance style of Ian Paterson, headmaster at Knox for 30 years, made students fearful of reporting sex abuse by teachers.

ARY boarded at the school from Year 7 in 1974 and was there for four years. He was indecently assaulted by science teacher Roger James when he was 14. James was convicted and given a suspended sentence.

ARY and other former students told the sex abuse royal commission on Monday there was a culture of cover-up at the prestigious Wahroonga school.

Witnesses also accused the school of engendering a culture of homophobia with one saying he felt the school tried to force him out because he was gay.

ARY said James was a popular teacher, who was considered eccentric, smoked cigars in his office and the playground and was known to have alcohol in his office. He befriended ARY and stayed with his family, assaulting him during one stay.

ARY said he could not tell his parents who were paying for his expensive education. He also feared a backlash at school.

“In the boarding school if you were accused of a homosexual act you would never live it down,” he said.

 Knox Grammar School students leaving the school at Wahroonga in Sydney.

Knox Grammar School students at Wahroonga in Sydney. Source: News Corp Australia

ARY said because of the Knox experience he was severely and incurably homophobic, even though he knew it was illogical.

He said Dr Paterson’s “autocratic style of governance” contributed to the “Knox culture which conditioned students to be fearful of reporting inappropriate conduct, and to be accepting of such behaviour by teachers.” It also allowed “teachers to take advantage of, and prey upon, students,” he said.

It was widely known by students that James, music teacher Barrie Stewart and Adrian Nesbitt — three of five teachers who pleaded guilty to indecent acts — were “overly hands-on with boys,” he said.

“I cannot believe that Paterson and other long term staff had no idea that sexual abuse was happening at Knox.” But the culture stopped teachers from speaking up.

“Everyone was expected to keep up the reputation of Knox,” he said.

Former assistant headmaster John Rentoul became upset as he told how his son David revealed he was molested by Stewart in the late 1970s.

“I believe the school was more interested in protecting the reputation of Knox than ensuring the safety and welfare of its students,” Dr Rentoul said.

A former student using the pseudonym ATQ said when he told another teacher that Knox was a “paedophile ring” he was told, “you can’t say that”. ATQ was 16 when he was groomed and abused by a housemaster.

Justice Coate and Commissioner Atkinson at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Respon

Justice Coate and Commissioner Atkinson at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Picture: Jeremy Piper/ Oculi Source: News Corp Australia

Matthew O’Neal, who was abused by music teacher Barrie Stewart, said he was surprised to discover the teacher was still employed there 15 years later.

In a statement read to a royal commission hearing, Mr O’Neal, said when his brother started at the school in 1990, Stewart was still there.

“A gay paedophile in a boys school is like a kid in a candy shop. He should never have been working there,” Mr O’Neal said.

He said he went to the school when his younger brother was starting and he recalled a comment Stewart made to his mother. “I recall Stewart saying ‘Matthew is better looking than (his brother)’,” he said.

Mr O’Neal said he was relieved because it made him think at least he would not be interested in abusing his brother. He said Knox had done absolutely nothing to help him.

“They have not offered counselling, support, compensation, nothing”.

The commission heard that despite several internal inquiries there was no evidence Dr Paterson contacted the police.

Dr Paterson, headmaster at Knox from 1969 to 1998 will give evidence, probably next week.

Geoffrey Watson SC, representing Knox Grammar School, said the school humbly and sincerely apologised for its failings.

“It apologises to all of those students who were damaged by these events. It apologises to the parents of those students and the other members of their families,” he said.

CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS

Counsel for the commission David Lloyd said Knox, which was established in 1924 by the Presbyterian Church, had five boarding houses supervised by resident masters in the 1980s.

During that time there didn’t appear to be any formal process for employing someone who wanted to be a resident master.

“The evidence will disclose that at least one of the resident masters employed in around 1986, a Mr Chris Fotis, had criminal convictions for more than one offence at the time he was employed,” he said. The nature of the offence has no yet been disclosed. Mr Fotis was due to give evidence later in the hearing.

Former teacher, Craig Treloar, who admitted showing pornography to students in the 1980s continued teaching there until he was arrested for sex abuse more than 20 years later.

Mr Treloar thought he’d be sacked but was instead allowed to pick the timing of his six-month suspension. After returning from his suspension at the start of 1989, Treloar remained at the school until his arrest for child abuse in 2009.

He was sentenced to a minimum two years jail in 2010 for abusing boys at the school, but has also denied forcing his victims into sexual acts.

On Wednesday, he told the royal commission that, after admitting to showing porn to students in 1987, he was suspended from teaching for six months.

Treloar asked headmaster Ian Paterson if his suspension could be delayed — a request Treloar said was brought to the school council, which allowed him to start at the beginning of 1988 and to take off the last six months of the year.

The commission has heard Treloar admitted showing boys heterosexual porn, but evidence he also showed them videos depicting bestiality and paedophilia went undiscovered because the school held no investigation.

Five teachers pleaded guilty to indecent acts. Picture: Troy Snook

Five teachers pleaded guilty to indecent acts. Picture: Troy Snook Source: News Corp Australia

During his appearance at the commission, Treloar described his criminal charges of indecent assault as “letting boys touch me”.

“Do you have any self-awareness of how offensive it is to say that the boys wanted to touch you and you let them?” asked Peter Skinner, counsel representing three victims of sexual abuse. “You forced them to touch you. That’s the truth, isn’t it?” he continued.

“No, I didn’t force them to touch me,” Treloar replied.

Treloar, a Knox old boy who left in 1977 before returning to teach in 1982, told the commission he wasn’t asked for references when he applied to work as a resident master at a boarding home for year seven boys.

The former head of the Knox Preparatory School, Michael Jenkinson, told the commission Treloar’s status as an old boy was valued when he was interviewed for the boarding house job.

After he became aware of the porn, he and Dr Paterson concluded Treloar was immature.

“The only explanation we could give is that he’s just being a show off, of the level of his immaturity,” Mr Jenkinson said. After returning from his six-month suspension, Treloar was removed from the boarding house.

FILES DISAPPEARED

The inquiry heard that the files of students who made complaints of sexual abuse against teachers had disappeared.

David Lloyd, counsel assisting the commission, told the hearing Ian Paterson, who was headmaster between 1969 and 1998, will give evidence he kept documents recording the allegations — and the school’s response — in a black folder in his office.

But when the folder was inspected by Mr Paterson’s successor it became apparent a “number of files of students who made complaints of abuse have gone missing, without apparent explanation”.

Mr Lloyd said the commission will consider whether the documents were “deliberately destroyed in order to eliminate evidence which might adversely affect the school”.

The inquiry would also hear detailed reports were prepared after serious allegations were made against staffer Adrian Nisbett. Nisbett pleaded guilty to assaulting three boys in 1976 and 1986 and received a suspended sentence in 2010.

A duty manager at the school, Stuart Pearson, conducted an extensive investigation and found Nisbett had targeted “post-pubescent boys between 13 and 15 who excelled athletically as opposed to academically”. He recommended Nisbett be removed but there was no record of a response to his report.

Mr Nisbett was given a position as assistant to the headmaster, which he held until 1999, during which time he had access to student files.

He was then appointed to the role of Director of Students and aspects of the role included him providing pastoral care to pupils. There were further complaints and in 2003 Knox appointed an investigator, who carried out inquiries under the supervision of the Ombudsman.

The school accepted the investigator’s findings and informed the Commissioner for Children and Young People.

No mention was made of the NSW Police and the Ombudsman’s office did not pursue Knox, Mr Lloyd told the hearing.

Damien Vance, another teacher, was later given a glowing reference.

Vance was asked to leave Knox in 1989 because the parents of a boy he abused were coming to the school. When he left, Dr Paterson gave Vance a letter of service which he used to get a job in a school in Victoria. He continued to teach until a court ordered him to stay away from all schools two decades later.

Damian Vance, former Knox Grammar teacher who was convicted of inciting an act of indecen

Damian Vance, former Knox Grammar teacher who was convicted of inciting an act of indecency. Picture: Bradley Hunter Source: News Corp Australia

When the hearing was announced current headmaster John Weeks wrote to old boys saying the sex abuse incidents had been widely publicised in 2009 and Knox had “always accepted its responsibility in this matter”.

Mr Weeks also said Knox has a most comprehensive child protection policy covering staff selection and training, student awareness and support structures.


26/02/15

Knox Grammar teacher suspected of hiding under boy’s bed with balaclava, sexually assaulting him

A former teacher at the prestigious Knox Grammar School in Sydney was suspected of wearing a balaclava as he hid under a boy’s bed and inappropriately touched him, the royal commission into child sexual abuse has heard.

The commission heard details of the alleged assault, which was said to have occurred in the late 1980s, from Dr Timothy Hawkes, who was a former Knox Grammar boarding house master and is now the current headmaster at Kings School at Parramatta.

Dr Hawkes said he was alerted to what became known as the “balaclava man” incident when he responded to what was believed to be an intruder about 5:00am.

“This was just a bizarre, extraordinary and extremely worrying and even frightening event,” Dr Hawkes told the hearing.

The teenager, known as ARN, had allegedly been assaulted as he slept.

“[ARN] told me that a man in a balaclava had run his hand on the inside of his leg and up towards his genitals,” Dr Hawkes said.

“He had woken with a start, a shout, and that the man had run off.”

Dr Hawkes said he believed the boy when he was told about the incident and immediately alerted the headmaster, Doctor Ian Paterson.

“We needed action to be taken because we had somebody running around the school with or without a balaclava, sexually interfering with boys,” Dr Hawkes said.

Dr Hawkes told the hearing he did not report the matter to the police because the school hierarchy meant that it would have become the responsibility of the headmaster or his assistant, who was a recently retired police officer.

“I didn’t believe it was my place to do that,” Dr Hawkes said.

“I had every confidence that the matter would be dealt with by a very experienced headmaster.

“There was absolutely no question in my mind that I fully expected the police to be notified because it was a serious offence. And I was desperate to make sure that this person was caught because I did not want that happening again to any of my boys.”

Dr Hawkes reacted angrily to a question from counsel assisting that suggested his priority was to protect the school’s reputation.

“I would totally reject that comment and find it offensive,” Dr Hawkes said.

“I had particularly no motivation to have, to in a sense, protect the school. That would never cross my mind and to suggest so I find utterly offensive.”

In the months after the assault, Dr Hawkes said some students suspected two of his colleagues.

“There was increased speculation that the intruder may well have been somebody inside,” Dr Hawkes said.

“There were two that were talked about in equal degrees of likelihood and those were Mr Fotis and Mr Vance.”

A warrant was issued for the arrest of former Knox Grammar teacher Christopher Fotis, who failed to appear at the hearing on Tuesday.

In his opening statement, Counsel Assisting David Lloyd revealed Damien Vance was later convicted of one count of category four sexual assault and released on a good behaviour bond.

Mr Lloyd said on Monday that “although the person’s face was concealed by a balaclava, a number of the boys in the dormitory believed that the offender was Christopher Fotis, one of the resident masters in MacNeil House at the time”.

“The basis of that belief was that the offender had the same build as Mr Fotis and Mr Fotis had, before lights out on the evening before the assault, said to ARN that he had a surprise in store for him that night,” Mr Lloyd said.

Mr Fotis later resigned from the school “after being arrested for masturbating in his car while parked outside a school”, Mr Lloyd said on Monday.

The hearing before Justice Jennifer Coate and Commissioner Bob Atkinson continues.

The inquiry in Sydney continues.

Criminals including Tony Mokbel consider appealing convictions after IBAC mauls police over informer scandal


Here we go again , let the crooks ride the system for all it is worth, mostly on legal aid (taxpayers money). Drug dealers and murderers seem to be the only folks who can get access the bottomless resources of legal aid these days .Day to day folks have no chance because they are not facing jail time, does that make their legal woes any less important while scum like Mokbel milk the system dry? These crims see going to court appeal after appeal as a social outing, a time to see family and friends most of the time. They laugh at the system.

Vic police negligent in managing informers

Vic police negligent in managing informers

GANGLAND figures including Tony Mokbel are considering legal bids for freedom after the corruption watchdog found “negligence of a high order’’ in Victoria Police’s handling of informers.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s damning report was prompted by a Herald Sun investigation of the force’s controversial use of informers to get information on gangland crimes, drug lords and corrupt police.

IBAC’s inquiry, led by former Supreme Court judge Murray Kellam, found the force failed in its handling of endangered informers and may have subverted Victoria’s justice system.

WITNESS: ‘POLICE THREATENED TO TAKE MY CHILD’

EDITORIAL: WE’VE BEEN KEPT IN DARK ON DIRTY SKELETON

The Herald Sun can today reveal one witness central to the IBAC inquiry has said senior police once threatened to take away a child unless the child’s parent joined the secretive witness protection program.

Tony Mokbel.

Tony Mokbel.

IBAC found police had failed to follow their own guidelines and policies and made 16 secret recommendations for how to handle “human sources’’.

Police passed the report to prosecutors, as Premier Daniel Andrews vowed to oversee reforms “to learn where things have gone wrong”.

Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright said he would take responsibility, despite not being in command at the time of the controversial decisions.

The report is secret, but there were calls for it to be made public as IBAC revealed the force’s handling of cases may have adversely affected the administration of justice.

The ramifications of the informer scandal could intensify the demand for a judicial inquiry into the police handling of a series of notorious cases.

How the scandal unfolded.

How the scandal unfolded.

The Herald Sun understands several major criminals, including jailed kingpin Tony Mokbel, convicted killer Faruk Orman and a jailed drug figure, are considering their legal options because of the possible contamination of their cases.

Mokbel, who is serving at least 22 years for drug trafficking, has legal advice that the informer crisis could found a successful appeal against his conviction and sentence.

A Mokbel friend said: “We’ve been approached by some lawyers who say … he might knock off a few years, because they have conspired against him.”

Police had previously told the Office of Public Prosecutions more than a dozen cases may have been tainted by their handling of informers.

Mr Cartwright said: “Victoria Police acknowledges there were shortfalls in our management of human sources during that time (2005-09). We didn’t follow best practice and it’s important that lessons were learnt and they have been.”

Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright. Picture: MIKE KEATING

Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright. Picture: MIKE KEATING

But he said that the force and prosecutors had found no evidence of a contaminated trial at state level.

“In terms of the state in the last couple of years, there is no evidence at this stage of any threat to any conviction or any evidence of mistrial,” he said.

Any miscarriage of justice would be acted upon, he said.

Opposition police spokesman Ed O’Donohue said: “Daniel Andrews should urgently release a safe, redacted version of this report otherwise his lack of transparency could unfairly erode public confidence in our police force.”

Mr Andrews would not rule out releasing a redacted report.

“It’s my expectation that Victoria Police get on and implement each and every one of the recommendations that IBAC have made … given the history of this matter, I do hope to have more to say soon.

“But at the same time we do need to be very careful.”

He would not be drawn on why a key source was not interviewed by IBAC.


 

Grandmother accused of trying to kill step-grandson, 11, three times


None of this sounds like multiple coincidences does it? Grandmother or not, What sort of person would allegedly and continually try to kill children in their care and not expect to be caught. I shudder to think what may of happened if this woman was not arrested prior to the festivities of tonight! She can’t be named but the dad(s) are outraged as they should be that this has been allowed to fester over several years after suspicions were first raised. More to come

(Please not this is not the same grandmother that is charged with murdering 8 family members recently. This is another tragic crime in QLD.)

 KATE KYRIACOU, THOMAS CHAMBERLIN
courier mail logo
Woman charged over attempted fire murders

BRISBANE’S “house of horrors” grandmother tried three times to kill her 11-year-old step-grandson – once in a fire and twice by suffocating him in his bed, police will allege.

The 58-year-old Caboolture woman will face court today charged with four counts of attempted murder, attempted arson and interfering with a corpse.

Police this month revealed they were investigating the deaths of two boys, one aged three years and the other seven months, at the Morayfield home, as well as the attempted murder of two boys, aged 11 and nine, in a fire.

WARNINGS IGNORED: Children not separated

Police will allege the 11-year-old boy woke on two separate occasions to the grandmother trying to smother him in his bed. They will claim she used a pillow and a tea towel in her attempts to murder the boy.

They said both deaths and the fire occurred when the grandmother was at the house.

It is understood investigators will rely on the boy’s version of events – a version denied by the grandmother.

Eleven year old boy involved in the incident.

Eleven year old boy involved in the incident.

Detectives yesterday confirmed they were continuing their investigations into the suspected murders of the two younger children – one being the woman’s seven-month-old grandson.

“Today is one step, there are still further steps to be taken in the investigation, so today is just one step,” Detective Acting Inspector Ben Fadian said.

The Courier-Mail can reveal police charged the woman with interfering with a corpse under the belief she lied about how and where the youngest boy died.

Police renewed their investigation into the death of the three-year-old boy, who died in July 2013 from a suspected infection, following a fire at the family’s Morayfield home on February 27.

The two older boys claimed to have been trapped inside their bedroom during a fire that broke out when they were being cared for by their grandmother. Police enlisted the help of the fire brigade to recreate the fire in an effort to determine why the boys had been unable to escape from the bedroom.

“Investigations to date show the children’s escape from the bedroom was intentionally impeded,” police said.

The seven-month-old baby who died with his grandmother and his father.

The seven-month-old baby who died with his grandmother and his father.

The father of the two older boys said he was horrified to learn the woman had been charged with attempting to murder one of his sons on three occasions.

“No one has called me,” he said. “I have no contact details for them (the boys). It’s pretty bad.”

The three-year-old boy died on July 27 after suffering flu-like symptoms. He was taken to hospital but went into cardiac arrest.

On September 27, seven months after the fire, the children’s mother found the baby boy dead in his cot.

The baby’s father at the gate to the property yesterday.

The baby’s father at the gate to the property yesterday.

The grandmother is believed to have told police she put the child to bed with a bottle the night before and got up at 2am to check on him after hearing him stir.

She said she woke at 7am to the sounds of the boy’s mother “screaming hysterically”.

The boy’s father said this month that he believed his mother was not capable of killing “anything”.

He said he woke one morning to the news his son was dead.

Yesterday, the man walked out of his house carrying a sign with the words “private property no entry”, saying he would expose “lies” and “corruption” in the case.

Police yesterday questioned the children’s mother about whether she had taken steps to protect the children.

Solicitor Tim Meehan, from Bosscher Lawyers, said the grandmother was “assisting police”.

Additional reporting Chris McMahon and Trenton Akers

Memories of laughter where there are children no more

NESTLED among stands of trees and tropical palms, at the end of a winding drive, is Brisbane’s “house of horrors”.

It’s a place where boys once laughed and played. Where a large block of garden provided endless room to run and chase. But there were no children behind the wire fence of the Morayfield home yesterday – the home where police suspect two children were murdered and another two locked in a fire.

It was once home to the children’s grandmother. Police say she was there when the three-year-old boy died.

She was there when a fire broke out inside the house, threatening two boys in their beds. And she was there when the youngest – an infant of seven months – died at night.

She was the last to see both boys alive and the only adult home when the fire started.

The woman’s son – and the father of the youngest boy – walked the neglected yard to place a sign at the property’s front gate. He said he would expose “lies” and “corruption” in the case.

In a previous interview, the man said his mother was a beautiful kind-hearted person.

“I highly believe my mother would not be capable of killing anything,” he said. “Why would she all of a sudden? She is still the same person from 20 years ago.”

The sign he held yesterday – “private property no entry” – warned media to keep away. It was a repeat of an earlier warning when a visitor threatened to assault journalists waiting in the street.

The home’s four bedrooms are no longer home to those who played and slept there. Two little boys are dead. Two older boys are now in a “safe house”.

The Courier-Mail was once invited inside, viewing the small room where the fire took hold. There was no sign of the flames the family claimed began when someone threw an object through the window.

The grandmother has denied any wrongdoing – both with the fire and the deaths of the two boys


Cops investigating murder of two children and attempted murder of another two children from same Morayfield family

Detective Acting Superintendent Damien Hansen talks to the press on the murder of two chi

Detective Acting Superintendent Damien Hansen talks to the press on the murder of two children and attempted murder of another two children at Morayfield earlier this year.

POLICE are investigating the murder of two children and attempted murder of another two children from the same family at Morayfield, on Brisbane’s northern outskirts.

Acting Detective Superintendent Damien Hansen said nobody has been charged yet.

On July 27, 2013, a three-year-old child was reported dead at the home.

On February 27, 2014, there was a suspicious fire in which another two children, aged 9 and 11, had their escape blocked.

He said the QFES has assisted in a reconstruction of the burning bedroom where the two kids where sleeping.

“Through our investigations with Queensland Fire and Rescue … forensically we are able to say the fire was deliberately lit,” Det Supt Hansen said.

“The children couldn’t open the door at the time.”

“The children were inside the room and could not exit the room.”

One of the children suffered burns to their lower limbs and was treated at the Caboolture Hospital. Both children were treated for smoke inhalation along with other occupants of the house.

Then, on 27 September, 2014, a seven-month-old was found dead.

Det Supt Hansen said the investigation escalated from police “linking all three incidents”.

“It was certainly something more than a coincidence,” he said.

He said the homicide squad was involved and the Coroner had also agreed to re-investigate the deaths as suspicious deaths.

“(They were) initially thought to be SIDS deaths,” he said.

He said the parents had been cooperative.

“I regard murder as one of the most serious offences, if not the most serious offence that can occur. To have it happen to defenceless children is just mind-boggling,” he said.

“They are all from the same family, with all the incidents occurring at the same home.”

“I can’t name the family for legal reasons or give the address but I am making an appeal that anybody who knows this family, anybody who happened to be in the Morayfield area on the evening of February 27, 2014, and saw anything suspicious … if they can contact investigators through crime stoppers.”

Police have released a video as part of the investigation, they say, “in order to bring this investigation to a close”.

Det Supt Hansen said: “We are very confident we have the right line of inquiry with this investigation and will have a conclusion in the near future.”

“The recreation of the burning bedroom is a key focus for our investigation and it is where we have developed strong leads and our main focus.”

Police say the investigation has been comprehensive and protracted and has been led by the Homicide Group with the assistance of the Child Trauma Taskforce and regional and forensic investigators.

Cairns stabbing: Eight children found dead at a home in Cairns-Mum charged with murder


RIPkids19th Dec 2014

An absolutely horrific situation up in Cairns, 8 kids found dead in house, more to come!!! It’s understood a woman has been taken to hospital with stab wounds.The children are reportedly aged between 18 months and 15yrs

Mersane Warria has been arrested over the children’s deaths.

Mersane Warria has been arrested over the children’s deaths.

Mother arrested for murder after children found dead in Cairns home

MAJOR UPDATE Sat 20 Dec 2014, 9:30am

The 37-year-old mother of the children found dead in a Cairns home yesterday has been arrested for murder.

Cairns Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said the mother was lucid and awake and speaking with police.

The bodies of eight children were found following a multiple stabbing on Friday morning.

The children, aged from 18 months to 14 years, were found in Murray Street, Manoora, where the 37-year-old woman was also located with chest and neck wounds.

“The 37-year-old mother of several of the children involved in this incident has been arrested for murder overnight and is currently under police guard at the Cairns Base Hospital,” he said.

“Overnight we had the forensic people in the house. The deceased have been removed from the house.

“Today we will have our coroner and pathologist conducting their investigations with the assistance of the family.”

Detective Inspector Asnicar said police are not looking for anyone else in relation to the deaths and are comfortable the community is safe.

He dismissed speculation the Manoora house had been the subject of calls from the Department of Social Services.

“It’s not a problem house, as has been speculated,” he said.

Anyone who is distressed by this story is advised to contact the following organisations:

“This is an ordinary neighbourhood, a lot of good people, a lot of kids in the area. This is something that has caught everybody by surprise.”

Investigations are continuing throughout today and police said autopsies on the children would also occur today.

Police said a number of possible weapons including knives were located in the house.

Seven of the children found dead are siblings and the eighth child is a niece of the woman arrested, police said.

Police said the suburban Cairns home will be locked down for several days while forensic officers conduct their work.

Acting Chief Superintendent Russell Miller said the investigation would take time and officers from Brisbane and Townsville arrived yesterday afternoon to assist with the complex investigation.

Ms Warria, 34, is undergoing a mental health assessment in Cairns hospital, where she was transported after sustaining serious injuries. She suffered stab wounds to the chest and neck.

“She was having a bad night; I heard her fighting with someone this morning about 4am,’’ a neighbour, Tahnia Ruttensteiner, said.

Ms Ruttensteiner said she saw Ms Warria “moving stuff out of the house”, claiming she was going to “make a new start”.

“I last saw her about 6am, then it was quiet.

“She was putting furniture and stuff out the front on the street, giving stuff away to family and friends.

Relationships Australia has set up an office close to the murder scene.

Spokeswoman Debra Bennett said the organisation is inviting people in the community to seek counselling there if they feel they need to speak to someone.

“There’ll be a whole range of support services so we encourage people to take advantage of that and to encourage other members of their family and the community if they feel they’re struggling with this experience it’s really important that people don’t try to do this on their own,” she said.

Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child. The word filicide derives from the Latin words filius meaning “son” or filia meaning daughter and the suffix -cide meaning to kill, murder, or cause death. “A filicide” may refer to the parent who killed his or her child as well as to the criminal act that the parent committed.


 

A Mobile Police Facility has been established, and officers from the Cairns Criminal Investigation Branch, Child Protection and Investigation Unit, Scenes of Crime and Scientific section are investigating at the scene.

Eight children dead after stabbing at Cairns home

Updated 4 minutes agoFri 19 Dec 2014, 1:58pm

Emergency crews were called to an address in Murray Street in the Cairns suburb of Manoora. (ABC News: Sharnie Kim)

Emergency crews were called to an address in Murray Street in the Cairns suburb of Manoora. (ABC News: Sharnie Kim)

Authorities have confirmed that eight children have been killed at Cairns in far north Queensland.

It is understood there was a mass stabbing and a woman has been injured.

Details of the tragedy are unclear.

Emergency crews were called to an address in Murray Street at Manoora around 12:30pm (AEST).

A crime scene has been declared.

ABC reporter Sharnie Kim says there are police at the property, which has a small park at the back.

“There are about a dozen police vehicles at the scene including the region’s most senior detective inspectors,” she said.

“Part of the road has been blocked off and a police paddy wagon with lights flashing is at the property as well.

“The media are about 20 metres away from the property.”

Police will hold a media briefing shortly.

More details soon.

manoora-4870, cairns-4870, qld


The Daily Telegraph

December 19, 2014 1:47PM

Police on the scene of a major incident in the Cairns suburb of Manoora.

Police on the scene of a major incident in the Cairns suburb of Manoora.

Queensland Police have confirmed that eight children have been found stabbed to death at a home in Cairns.

Emergency crews were called to an address in Manoora a short time ago.

It is understood that a woman has been taken to hospital.


Death investigation, Cairns

Cairns detectives have established a crime scene and begun an investigation into the death of eight children in Manoora this morning.

Police were called to the Murray Street residence around 11.20am following reports of a woman with serious injuries.

During an examination of the residence police located the bodies of the children, all aged between 18 months and 15 years.

The woman, believed to be aged in her 30s, is receiving treatment for her injuries and is currently assisting police with their investigations.

A Mobile Police Facility has been established and officers from the Cairns Criminal Investigation Branch, Child Protection and Investigation Unit, Scenes of Crime and Scientific section are conducting an investigation and examination of the scene.

The road is currently closed and no further information is available at this stage.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Crime Stoppers is a registered charity and community volunteer organisation working in partnership with the Queensland Police Service.

For all non-urgent police reporting or general police inquiries contact Policelink on 131 444 or Policelink.qld.gov.au 24hrs a day.

MARTIN PLACE SIEGE REVIEW-Terms of Reference


MARTIN PLACE SIEGE – JOINT COMMONWEALTH – NEW SOUTH WALES REVIEW

17 December 2014

Prime Minister

Premier of New South Wales

E&OE

In the aftermath of the horrific Martin Place siege and following the tragic loss of innocent lives, we must learn what we can from this incident and implement any changes necessary at the State and Federal level.

The Commonwealth and New South Wales governments will urgently conduct a review into the Martin Place siege and what lessons can be learned from the events leading up to and surrounding the siege.

As our State and Commonwealth law enforcement and security agencies work together to keep Australia safe, the review will identify important lessons for the future.

The review will examine and make recommendations about a wide range of issues including the circumstances surrounding hostage-taker Man Haron Monis’ arrival in Australia and subsequent granting of asylum and citizenship; what information agencies had about him and how it was shared; and whether relevant national security legislative powers could have been better used.

The Terms of Reference for the review are attached.

As we work to learn what we can from these terrible events, we acknowledge once again the courage and professionalism shown by our law enforcement and security agencies and emergency services.

We are determined to ensure that nothing stands in the way of ensuring the people who put their lives on the line to keep Australia safe can get their job done.

We have asked the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Secretary of the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet to commence the review immediately, drawing on expertise from within our relevant jurisdictions and consulting as necessary with other States and Territories.

The review will report by the end of January 2015.

Martin Place Siege – Terms of Reference

On 17 December 2014 the Prime Minister and Premier of NSW established a review, for consideration by the Commonwealth and NSW Cabinets, of lessons learnt from the Martin Place Siege of 15-16 December 2014.

The aim of the review is to identify lessons for the future: what worked well and what might be improved.

The review will examine and make recommendations in respect of Commonwealth and NSW agencies and the cooperation between them, in relation to:

  • the arrival of Man Haron Monis in Australia and subsequent grant of asylum, permanent residency and Australian citizenship;
  • support received from, or any other interactions Man Haron Monis had with, government social support agencies;
  • information held by Commonwealth and NSW agencies about Man Haron Monis for the period prior to and following his arrival in Australia up until the siege including how any information relevant to public safety was shared between, and used by, agencies;
  • the interaction of Man Haron Monis with the NSW justice system;
  • Man Haron Monis’ access to firearms;
  • whether, how and at what stage relevant national security legislative powers including Control Orders were or could have been used in relation to Man Haron Monis’ activities of security concern;
  • any lessons learnt by the NSW and Australian Federal Police about the handling of the siege;
  • the effectiveness of public communication including coordination of messaging between the Commonwealth, NSW and jurisdictions; and
  • the effectiveness of coordination more generally between the Commonwealth and NSW.

The review will take account of the parallel investigations into the incident including by the NSW State Coroner, and NSW Police and Australian Federal Police.

The review will prepare a report for consideration by the Commonwealth and NSW Cabinets by the end of January 2015.

17 December 2014