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


Knox School cared about one thing, their reputation. 30 years later staff and ex staff still will not admit so, it beggars belief listening to some of the answers as to why they did not react to anything relating to abuse and scandal by going outside the school…keep it all in-house was the mantra

Pathetic and they should be ashamed hiding behind their credentials all these years later.

http://www.news.com.au/video/id-xhNHFwczrKxwqVr756pbVMvz4P4WQPPg/Headmaster%27s-astonishing-defence


UPDATED 03/03/15

The messiah takes the stand

The messiah and KING Former Knox Grammar headmaster Ian Paterson

The messiah and KING Former Knox Grammar headmaster Ian Paterson

Live feed to hearings here

http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-study/6202742a-5e8d-490b-bec4-84876bef3de0/case-study-23,-february-2015,-sydney


No bloody wonder he wanted to make his statement up front. It would of sounded ridiculous had he done it after his evidence and the commission is finished with him (back on the stand tomorrow)

Very cagey in his answers, instant recall to his achievements and foggy for all the abuse. Disgrace who needs his bestowed Honours removed asap!

Very cagey in his answers, instant recall to his achievements and foggy for all the abuse. Disgrace who needs his bestowed Honours removed asap!

Former Knox Grammar principal Ian Paterson fronts Royal Commission

Former Knox principal’s apology to sex abuse victims

Former Knox principal's apology to sex abuse victims

THE former headmaster accused of covering up child sexual abuse admitted he gave a glowing reference to a religious teacher who resigned after he was seen masturbating outside another school.

Ian Paterson, head of prestigious Sydney boys’ school Knox Grammar from 1969 to 1998, told today’s hearing the reference he gave Chris Fotis was “grossly inappropriate”.

Fotis, a Knox old boy, had been hired without any reference check and had prior child-sex convictions. He left the school in 1989, by which time Dr Paterson was aware of a string of complaints against him.

Dr Paterson giving evidence at the Royal Commission hearing in Sydney.

Dr Paterson giving evidence at the Royal Commission hearing in Sydney. Source: News Corp Australia

One was that he was suspected of donning a balaclava, hiding under a dormitory bed and groping a 14-year-old boy.

The school’s duty master Stuart Pearson told Dr Paterson that Fotis had been convicted of sexually assaulting two girls before he joined Knox and that he was verbally abusing boys.

Dr Paterson gave Fotis a reference describing him as “enthusiastic for his job” and “meticulous in the standards he requires from students”.

Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of Fotis, who failed to appear when he was called last week.

Dr Paterson revealed earlier today that he had not reported another teacher for molesting a boy because he was “not aware it was a crime”. He said it did not enter his head to report the balaclava incident.

“It never entered any one of our heads,” he said, referring to duty master Mr Pearson and Tim Hawkes, the housemaster in charge of the Mac Neil boarding house where the incident happened.

Dr Ian Paterson is giving evidence.

The head is accused of covering up decades of child-sex abuse. Source: News Corp Australia

Dr Paterson said he now agreed police should have been called. He denied ever telling the boys that the intruder was an Asian man who had been arrested.

When pressed by counsel advising the commission David Lloyd, Dr Paterson said: “I can assure you that controlling the reputation of the school never once entered my head.”

The head, who is accused of covering up child sexual abuse at Knox Grammar over three decades, earlier admitted to ignoring a student’s claim he had been abused by a teacher and described his as “a drama boy” who was known to “exaggerate stories”.

He confronted the claims today at the Royal Commission into Institution Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, amid new explosive accusations he engaged in abuse at the school himself.

Dr Paterson admitted a 15-year-old student had complained to him about a teacher, Damien Vance, touching him inappropriately in 1987, and the then headmaster told him to think about the allegations.

Purple ribbons tied to the gates of Knox Grammar following revelations of widespread paed

Purple ribbons tied to the gates of Knox Grammar following revelations of widespread paedophilia at the prestigious school. Picture: @concernedknox Source: Twitter

“The boy was a drama boy,” he told the Sydney hearing. “He was known as rather dramatical boy who could build up situations … I asked him to think about what I said.”

The former headmaster began his admissions to the Royal Commission expressing “deep regret” over years of abuse.

“I should have known, and I should have stopped the events that led to the abuse of those boys in my care and their families,” the former headmaster told the hearing in Sydney.

“My abject failure to secure for you a safe and secure place at Knox strikes at the very heart of a responsibility of a headmaster.”

In his opening address, Dr Paterson said he was “deeply and profoundly sorry”, and acknowledged that his decisions were wrong.

“This is a source of intense pain for myself and my family,” he said.

Dr Paterson’s appearance at the commission has been delayed since Friday as more witnesses came forward.

The Commission was rocked yesterday with a shock allegation from Lucy Perry, a high profile charity CEO who claims she was groped by Mr Paterson as a schoolgirl.

Lucy Perry was a surprise witness at the hearing yesterday.

Lucy Perry was a surprise witness at the hearing yesterday. Source: News Corp Australia

Ms Perry told the hearing into the elite Sydney boy’s school that Mr Paterson groped her in 1989 when she was part of a musical being produced by her school Roseville, and Knox Grammar.

Ms Perry who is chief executive of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia), said the assault happened in full view of students at the Knox school hall, and the boys who saw it “roared with approval”.

She reported the assault to NSW police in 2009 when numerous allegations about widespread sexual abuse at the school were coming out.

Ms Perry said at one of the rehearsals she was backstage talking to some of the boys at a production of Guys and Dolls when Dr Paterson pointed to her and one of the boys and said “you and you out”.

Lucy Perry leaves the Child Sex Abuse Royal Commission.

Lucy Perry leaves the Child Sex Abuse Royal Commission. Source: News Corp Australia

Despite this she turned up at the next rehearsal and Dr Paterson, who was the producer, singled her out.

As she walked to the edge of the stage “he placed his hand on my backside. I would describe it as between a pat and a grope”. “He then slid his hand right down to cup my buttocks and (I) felt him touch my genitals outside of my clothing”.

She said he had a creepy look on his face.

When asked by Jim Harrowell, a solicitor representing Dr Paterson, if he was just positioning her on the stage she said: “I would suggest to you Mr Harrowell that positioning girls by their bottoms is not the best way to do that”.

She received a standing ovation from Knox victims and their supporters as she left the hearing.

Along with being pressed on the new allegations, Mr Paterson is expected to be asked what he told students about a balaclava-wearing intruder who molested a 14-year-old boy.

Much of the inquiry, which is now in its second week, has concerned an incident in late 1988 when an intruder wearing a Knox tracksuit and a balaclava hid under a boy’s bed and tried to molest him in the early hours of the morning.

Stuart Pearson, the former general duties master at the school and a former policeman said a few days after the incident Dr Paterson told the boys police had arrested an “Asian man” for the break-in.

Image show purple ribbons have been tied to the gates of Knox Grammar to show support for

Image show purple ribbons have been tied to the gates of Knox Grammar to show support for victims. Pic: Twitter / @concernedknox Source: Twitter

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse can find no record that police were ever contacted and on Monday a former student told the commission he recalled Dr Paterson saying the intruder was an “old boy” with mental problems.

Other witnesses have pointed the finger at Chris Fotis, a former teacher who is now being sought by police after the commission summoned him to appear.


 Royal commission into sex abuse: seven key Knox Grammar figures
March 3, 2015 – 1:53PM

THE PLAYERS

Five Knox teachers were convicted of multiple sex charges and one is wanted by police. These seven people are the key figures in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sex Abuse.

CONVICTED: Adrian John Nisbett (above)

Popular English teacher who worked at the school from 1971-2004. Arrested over sexual offences in 2009 and given a suspended sentence. Current principal John Weeks told the royal commission in February 2015 he believed former head master Ian Paterson was covering for Nisbett and wanted to sack him when he became headmaster. Nisbett was allowed to resign. Unable to be summonsed, he now lives in South Africa and is working for a cheetah conservation reserve in Namibia.

CONVICTED: Damian Vance (above)

English and French teacher who was asked to leave the school two years after indecently assaulting a student. Royal commission told Vance received a glowing reference from the school praising his teaching skills, despite having indecently assaulted one student and physically assaulted two others. Arrested in 2009, convicted and released on a good behaviour bond. Told the commission he had previously hit two boys at the school, in 1985 and 1986. Now a cleaner in Melbourne.

CONVICTED: Roger James

Science teacher between 1974-77. Resigned to take up a teaching position in New Zealand. Arrested for sex offences in 2009, convicted and given a suspended sentence. A 14-year-old victim told the royal commission in March 2015 he did not complain about the abuse at the time because of the culture of cover-up at the school. Boys who did speak up were “victimised and ostracised,” he said. “They were seen as weak and they became everybody’s bitch.”

CONVICTED: Craig Treloar (above)

Knox old boy. Resident master and teacher; taught at the school from 1982 until his arrest in 2009. Treloar was convicted on multiple charges of child sex abuse in 2010 and served two years in jail.  Denied to the royal commission in February 2015 he forced children to perform sex acts with him, saying that he allowed the boys to touch him. Said he was shocked when he wasn’t sacked after the pornography claims surfaced. Now unemployed.

CONVICTED: Barrie Stewart

Music teacher and “notorious groper”. Arrested in 2009, convicted of multiple counts of indecent assault and sexual assault relating to seven students. Given a suspended sentence. Former assistant headmaster John Rentoul told the commission in February 2015 his son David was molested by Stewart.

HEADMASTER: Dr Ian Paterson (above)

Principal of Knox Grammar from 1969 until 1998. Students referred to him as “the snake”.  Allegations to the royal commission that Dr Paterson had knowledge of abuse and even allegedly signed a reference letter for one of the teachers he knew was involved. Accused in March 2015 by Roseville Ladies College student Lucy Perry of sexual abuse backstage at a school performance in 1989 when she was 16. Paterson told the royal commission on March 3 he didn’t know it was illegal to sexually proposition a student and that he was an ‘abject failure’. The commission has heard there is no evidence he referred any sex abuse matters to the police. 

ARREST WARRANT: Christopher Fotis (above)

Religious education instructor, pictured above, suspected of being the so-called “balaclava man” who assaulted a year 8 boy in his bed at a school boarding house in 1988 that was under the supervision of Dr Timothy Hawkes (below), now head of the Kings School. Fotis was arrested in 1989 for masturbating in his car while parked outside a school in North Ryde. Dr Paterson provided Fotis with a reference letter in which he described him as an “enthusiast”. Warrant issued for his arrest in February 2015 for failure to appear at the royal commission. Whereabouts unknown since mid-February 2015.

TIMELINE

1924: Knox Grammar School first established as a Presbyterian Church School.

1969: Dr Ian Paterson becomes headmaster.

1970s: Allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” first surface, involving teachers Barrie Stewart, Roger James and Adrian Nisbett. Former assistant headmaster John Rentoul weeps  as he tells the royal commission about the discovery his son, David, was molested by Knox music teacher Barrie Stewart in the late 1970s.

1980s: Rumours of sexual abuse circulate more widely.

1986Christopher Fotis employed as religious education instructor despite having convictions for assaulting a female and offensive behaviour.

1987: Craig Treloar disciplined for watching hardcore pornography, including paedophilia and bestiality, with boys but allowed to keep his job.  Damian Vance indecently assaults a boy in a room under the chapel. Stuart Pearson reports Treloar to Dr Paterson after a boy alleged the teacher had propositioned him for sex. Pearson told the royal commission in February 2015 he was “gobsmacked” Treloar and Nisbett were working at the school years after he reported them to Paterson.

1988: A masked man, believed to be Fotis, sexually assaults a boy in his bed in a boarding house at the school.

1989: Vance asked to leave. Fotis asked to leave later that year after being caught masturbating outside a school in North Ryde. Headmaster Ian Paterson alleged to have sexually abused 16-year-old Roseville Ladies College student Lucy Perry backstage.

1990s: Sixteen-year-old student ATQ forms a sexual relationship with his resident housemaster. Warns another housemaster that Knox is a “paedophile ring” but nothing done in response.

1999: New principal Peter Crawley initiates investigation into Adrian Nisbett.

2009: Nisbett, Treloar, Stewart, James and Vance arrested and later convicted of multiple sex charges.

Emails tendered in evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse reveal an unnamed solicitor had recommended the destruction of documents in 2009, following the arrests of the five teachers who abused children.

More info here, exhibits, transcripts and witness lists http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-study/6202742a-5e8d-490b-bec4-84876bef3de0/case-study-23,-february-2015,-sydney

February 26, 2015 1:16PM

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.

Sydney terror raid-Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, arrested, hunting knife and flag seized


Omar al-Kutobi, a computer science student, and Mohammad Kiad, who moved into the property only last year

Omar al-Kutobi, a computer science student, and Mohammad Kiad, who moved into the property only last year

Friggin wannabe terrorists or facebook heroes by the look of them. Do not be deceived though, this is real and current and can bee happening in your very own street…Obviously they were not very clever pre posting a video leading to their arrest, amateurs really. But that is the way of the lone wolf it seems.

Sydney terror raid: Two men arrested, hunting knife and flag seized

Machete, flag and video found in terror raid
  • Two men arrested at Fairfield home hours before atrocity, say police
  • Machete, large hunting knife and IS flag seized.
  • Video, allegedly featuring one of the men, referred to IS attack
  • Neighbours described their ‘disbelief’ and ‘fear’
  • Premier Mike Baird said details of the plot were ‘beyond disturbing’

THE two men arrested in terror raids yesterday had been living in a small granny flat at the back of a share house in Fairfield, where neighbours today spoke of their disbelief.

Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, were arrested at the flat on Riverview Rd, Fairfield about 4pm yesterday by the Joint Counter Terrorism Taskforce after a receiving information that an attack was imminent.

Police allege the pair had armed themselves with a machete and large hunting knife and were due to carry out a terror attack yesterday before police swooped.

Mohammad Kiad was arrested at his Fairfield home yesterday. Pitcutre: Supplied.

Mohammad Kiad. Picture: Supplied. Source: Supplied

Omar al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad. Pitcutre: Supplied.

Mohammad Kiad and Omar al-Kutobi. Picture: Supplied. Source: Supplied

Terror suspect Mohammad Kiad. Pitcutre: Supplied.

Omar al-Kutobi, a computer science student, and Mohammad Kiad, who moved into the property only last year. Pitcutre: Supplied. Source: Supplied

THE NEIGHBOUR

Roberto Macatangay has lived in a caravan at the back of the property and said he knew Mr Al-Kutobi, a computer science student, for about three years.

He said Mohammad Kiad moved into the property only last year.

“I’m scared that I’m living with these people, “ Mr Macatangay said. “They seemed to be really nice. They were sarcastic people but I didn’t mind that. We used to joke about religion, about Mohammad and Jesus Christ.”

The granny flat and car on Riverview street in Fairfield. Picture: Supplied

The granny flat and car on Riverview street in Fairfield. Picture: Supplied Source: News Corp Australia

The granny flat in Fairfield where two men hatched a plot to carry out a terror plot. Pic

The granny flat in Fairfield where two men hatched a plot to carry out a terror plot. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

The Fairfield house from the outside. Picture: Google

The Fairfield house from the outside. Picture: Google Source: Supplied

Mr Macatangay said he did not believe Kiad worked full-time, but may have been studying for a forklift licence, and often visited a nearby recreational centre to do weight-lifting.

The 25-year-old has permanent residency in Australia and Al-Kutobi was granted Australian citizenship last year, he said.

 They don’t mingle much
Manueal Abello, tenant in the main house 

On his Facebook site, Kiad listed himself as married but Mr Macatangay said the couple separated last year when he moved in with Al-Kutobi.

Neighbour Roberto Macatangay said he was ‘scared’ living next to two terror suspects. Pic

Neighbour Roberto Macatangay said he was ‘scared’ living next to two terror suspects. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Inside the Fairfield granny flat raided by police yesterday. Two men have been charged wi

Inside the Fairfield granny flat raided by police yesterday. Two men have been charged with plotting a terror attack. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

The facade of the granny flat where the plan was hatched. Picture: Supplied.

The facade of the granny flat where the plan was hatched. Picture: Supplied. Source: News Corp Australia

Mr Macatangay, a pensioner who moved to Australia from Hong Kong three years ago, said he was at home when heavily armed police stormed the property yesterday afternoon.

They carried out a search warrant at the property, sifting through the granny flat and Mohammad’s car, parked in the street, until the early hours of this morning.

“I was totally surprised and really scared because the gun was pointing at me,” Mr Macatangay said.

“I was watching TV in my caravan and suddenly the electrics turned off. I saw the police, they had their faces covered up with helmet and heavy machine gun. I didn’t know what was happening.

“They asked me about the people living there.”

The small, white granny flat remained locked yesterday. A small religious prayer flag could be seen hanging in a back room of the flat, along with study books, clothes and drawers that had been pulled out and left on the floor.

A car belonging to one of the two men charged with plotting a terror attack remains on th

A car belonging to one of the two men charged with plotting a terror attack remains on the street after being searched by police. Source: News Corp Australia

THE TENANT AND THE OWNER

The owner of the property said Kiad and Al-Kutobi rented the two-bedroom granny flat at the back of the property for about $200 a week.

She said she had never been inside as they always kept it locked up.

Manuel Abello, a tenant in the main house, said the pair were nice but very private.

“They don’t mingle much,” he said.

“I never expected this at all. They are quite nice. Very rarely they have guests.” Kiad’s car is still parked out the front of the Fairfield property, with finger printing dust the only tell-tale signs of the police search on Tuesday.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn and Australian Federal Police Deputy Commis

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn and Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan address the media. Picture: AAP Image/Ava Benny-Morrison. Source: AAP

THE LAW

Police raided the men’s home and searched a car and where they work. Both men were charged with undertaking acts in preparation of planning a terrorist act and will face court this morning.

A number of items were seized in the raids including a machete, a hunting knife, a home-made flag representing terrorist organisation IS and a video which depicted a man talking about carrying out an attack.

Fairfield Local Court heard the pair have spoken with a lawyer, but he is unavailable to appear for them in court today.

The pair’s legal aid lawyer didn’t apply for bail on the mens’ behalf and it was formally refused by magistrate Vivien Swain. The men did not appear in court after asking not to be brought up from the cells.

Commonwealth DPP prosecutor Michael Allnut, centre, arriving at Fairfield court today whe

Commonwealth DPP prosecutor Michael Allnut, centre, arriving at Fairfield court today where two men appeared on terror charges. Picture: Ross Schultz Source: News Corp Australia

Commonwealth prosecutor Michael Allnutt told the court the matter should be moved to Central Local Court due to “security issues.”

 We believe the men were potentially going to….kill somebody
Catherine Burn 

Two sheriffs officers today were searching bags and scanning every person who entered the complex ahead of the appearance of the two men.

Magistrate Vivienne Swain adorned the case until tomorrow, when both bail applications are expected to be heard.

A terror plot foiled last year allegedly involved kidnapping a person from Martin Place a

A terror plot foiled last year allegedly involved kidnapping a person from Martin Place and executing them. Picture: Bradley Hunter Source: News Corp Australia

The men will be assisted in their applications by an Arabic interpreter.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said it will be alleged that the two were going to undertake an act of terrorism in Australia as revenge for incidents overseas.

“What we are going to allege is consistent with the IS messaging,” she said.

“We believe that the men were potentially going to harm somebody, maybe even kill somebody, and potentially using one of the items that we identified and recovered yesterday, potentially a knife.”

She added that police will allege the attack was due to be carried out yesterday, with a video shaping to be a key piece of evidence.

Police do not know the nature of the alleged terrorist’s target but urged people to remain vigilant, whether that be police, military or the general public.

“And a really, really important message about that vigilance is that everybody needs to remain alert and no matter what that piece of information is, it is really helpful,” Deputy Commissioner Burn said.

Marcia Mikhael crying while holding a flag inside the Lindt Cafe. Souce: Channel 7.

Marcia Mikhael crying while holding a flag inside the Lindt Cafe. Source: Channel 7. Source: Channel 7

The pair were not known to police, and police say they were only made aware of the planned activity recently.

AFP deputy commissioner Michael Phelan said the threat was acted on as quickly as possible.

Premier Mike Baird said he could not comment on what the accused terrorists were planning, but said it was “beyond disturbing”.

“I was very concerned. You can’t help but be on edge given the events that we have seen last December, the events we’ve seen around the world. This is an ongoing battle, an ongoing fight,” Mr Baird said.

The Premier thanked police for foiling the terror plot.

Police in a previous raid last year spoke of a plot to behead someone in Martin Place. It is understood that alleged plot involved abducting a random Australian, executing them by beheading in a public place, possibly Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD, and filming the act and posting it on social media.

Australian fugitive Khaled Sharrouf who fled Australia to fight with Islamic extremist in

Australian fugitive Khaled Sharrouf who fled Australia to fight with Islamic extremist insurgents in Syria seen with other ISIS extremists. Source: News Corp Australia

 Story by

Rabbi Yosef Feldman tells child abuse royal commission reformed paedophiles deserve leniency???????? Really WTF


Mon 9 Feb 2015, 8:35pm

Paedophiles who are no longer abusing children should not have to spend their lives feeling like the “scum of the Earth”, a senior rabbi has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman, a leader within the Sydney Yeshivah community, told the inquiry he was friends with convicted child abuser Daniel Hayman when he was arrested and charged in 2011.

He said he did not think it was fair that a member of the community should go to jail for an historical case of child abuse if they had already repented and received treatment.

“I would be asking for more leniency on people who have shown that they haven’t offended in the last 20 years or decades ago, and have psychological analyses that this is the case,” Rabbi Feldman said.

Once someone is not a paedophile any more or is showing [he] is not acting wrongly any more, that should be considered in a very strong way.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman

“Once someone is not a paedophile any more or is showing [he] is not acting wrongly any more, that should be considered in a very strong way.

The more lenient approach would show “when you do the right thing, you won’t get mistreated badly and it’s not the end of the world … then you are not treated like a pariah, like a scum of the Earth”.

Rabbi Feldman lashed out at the media, saying publicity about child sex abuse “encourages even people who may not be real victims or may want to be considered heroes” to go to the police.

“Like we have seen here in Melbourne, we had one rabbi who was ultimately vindicated, and I was very against too much of a public situation, like I see with the media also, they go out in a very public way, and also exaggerating, at times lying,” he said.

“I’m worried about the effect of the hype of child abuse.”

His lawyer told the commission Rabbi Feldman had received death threats since Friday’s hearing, in which he said he did not understand it was illegal for an adult to touch a child’s genitals.

‘The less the media is involved, the better’

Rabbi Feldman was asked about an apparent conflict between one of his public statements and a private email he sent in mid-2011.

The commission heard Rabbi Feldman had once written to the Sydney Beth Din (Jewish court) that convicted paedophile David Kramer’s “life and family is being ruined now for no good reason.”

In a sometimes heated exchange, he told counsel assisting the commission, Maria Gerace, he was entitled to his own opinions, and denied they were at odds with the rule of law.

He said he was concerned about miscarriages of justice occurring.

“It’s obvious I care about people,” he said.

“A rabbi cares mostly about people.”

Rabbi Feldman told the commission, Jewish law dictated that “you have to be very careful about not embarrassing people” and “the less the media is involved the better”.

He said sinners did not deserve to be known “all around the world” for their crimes.

“The publicity of someone being charged and the naming and shaming, it’s already public,” Rabbi Feldman said.

Ms Gerace responded that perhaps it would give more encouragement to others who were abused to come forward and face their perpetrators.

“I have thought about that and I have no problem with the general pronouncement,” Rabbi Feldman said.

“But not at times when it seems like a PR process and it seems like when there’s hype and then you join in the hype … it’s all false, that sort of thing.

“If the rabbis would come out at other times, at normal time, nothing to do with any hype, with society… saying this is a strong issue we should deal with, that is fantastic and the victims are the most important and we have to deal with that.”

Rabbi Feldman said he did believe in secular law and reporting child abuse immediately.

“But not matters of a PR situation … that’s what brings about false charges and things of this nature,” he said.

ABC/AAP


 

Rabbi Yosef Feldman says media hype causes ‘fake’ abuse victims

Rabbi feared ‘false’ abuse claims

Rabbi Yosef Feldman leaves the Melbourne County Court after giving evidence at the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. Source: News Corp Australia

AN orthodox rabbi has argued media “hype” causes “fake victims” to make allegations of child sexual abuse, while admitting he feared people were making false allegations against his friend, David Cyprys, who was later convicted of serious child sex offences.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman, rabbinical administrator of Bondi’s Chabad Yeshiva centre, today told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he had expressed concern when he learnt in 2011 that Beth Dins in Sydney and Melbourne were planning to make public statements encouraging abuse victims to come forward.

“Too much hype causes miscarriages of justice,” he said. “I didn’t think it was the time and place for the rabbis to come out in the media with public statements.

“I think it’s bad for the Jews.”

Rabbi Feldman wrote a series of emails to other rabbis in 2011 — when abuse allegations involving Yeshivah College in Melbourne became public amid a police investigation — arguing Jews with information about child sex abuse allegations should see a rabbi rather than police.

He said today that he would “highly encourage” Australia to change its laws to allow rabbis to assess the veracity of child sex abuse complaints before encouraging victims to alert police.

He also said greater leniency should be shown to paedophiles who had committed sex offences years ago, if it could be shown they hadn’t offended since. And that would be proved how?

“I would lobby the government about this if I could,” he said. “They do the right thing and they are shown to do the right thing, (then) they deserve a bit more respect.”

Rabbi Feldman said he was worried at the time that further complaints might be laid against Cyprys, a friend who had worked at Yeshivah in Melbourne for decades.

Cyprys is currently serving an eight year prison sentence for abusing several boys at Yeshiva.

“I was worried the publicity would bring about fake victims, “ Rabbi Feldman said.

“The reality is they make a whole issue of child abuse and it encourages people to accuse people of abuse when … they are really innocent.”

Other rabbis have condemned Rabbi Feldman’s views and called for victims to be encouraged to go to police.

The commission heard threats had been made against Rabbi Feldman on social media since he began giving evidence.

The hearing continues.


 

Five accused of Sydney’s two biggest drug ops get bail-Bloody joke


What chance have the cops got when these blokes get bail? Billion dollar drug busts….FFS they are connected to big crime gangs and what, a judge thinks they are going to hang around like choir boys for the next court date. 1.5 million for bail is like a 10 minute parking meter charge for these gangs. part of doing business in the big cities. Pathetic and draining of energy for the authorities chasing these peddlers of death and destruction!

Mark Morri Crime Editor
The Daily Telegraph
December 31, 2014 12:00AM

Police images of the drug haul which allegedly led to the arrests of three men accused of

Police images of the drug haul which allegedly led to the arrests of three men accused of links to the Comanchero Bikie Gang. Picture: NSW Police

FIVE people charged over two of Sydney’s largest drug operations — with amounts measured in tonnes and bearing a street-value in the billions — have received bail, leaving senior NSW and federal police shocked and furious.

One of the major drug schemes allegedly involved international drug cartels and the other a Sydney bikie gang.

In one case two men accused of taking part in the importation of $1.5 billion dollars worth of drugs into Sydney were granted bail in Central Local Court last week.

Police images of the lab uncovered in the raid in Kenthurst. Picture: NSW Police

Police images of the lab uncovered in the raid in Kenthurst. Picture: NSW Police

The two, Rene Arancinia, 23, from Kogarah and Joshua Hamlin, 34, from Sylvania have been charged with attempted possession of a commercial quantity of drugs.

The pair are allegedly part of a coalition of organised crime groups responsible for importing almost three tonnes of illegal drugs, including 1917kg of ecstasy (MDMA) and 849kg of crystal methamphetamine.

Magistrate Les Mabbutt granted the men bail on December 17 despite the case involving the second-biggest drug bust in Australian history. Both men had to hand up their passports as well as post bail with a security of $1.5 million as part of the conditions.

“(If convicted) These guys are facing life, are allegedly linked to some of the wealthiest drug cartels in the world and are granted bail. I know the surety seems quite high but we are talking about more than a billion dollars in drugs,” a senior NSW police source said.

Three men have faced court and received bail in relation to the Kenthurst Lab, shown here

Three men have faced court and received bail in relation to the Kenthurst Lab, shown here. Picture: NSW Police

The illegal substances were intercepted by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers. The drugs were hidden in a mixed container-load of furniture and unmarked boxes.

Police will allege the consignment with an estimated weight of almost two tonnes of MDMA and more than 800kgs of methamphetamine was shipped to Australia from Germany and arrived into Australia on 19 November.

Police conducted a controlled delivery of the consignment to an address in Blacktown where its contents were removed and transported to another location. The men have been ordered to appear again on February 4.

Police were just as shocked in Parramatta local court the week before when three men with links to the Comanchero bikie gang were given bail after being charged in relation to the manufacture of $48 million worth of methamphetamines.

The men were charged in relation to the manufacture of $48 million worth of methamphetami

The men were charged in relation to the manufacture of $48 million worth of methamphetamines. Picture: NSW Police

The NSW Gang Squad raided a property in Kenthurst in Sydney northwest where they allegedly found 32kg of methamphetamine and other chemicals used in the manufacturing of ice.

A .357 unregistered pistol was also found.

Three men, Emra Oncu, 29, from Stanhope Gardens, Ulas Doga, 25, of Quakers Hill and Koray Unver, 28, of St Clair were later charged with manufacture of a large commercial quantity of prohibited drug, and participating in a criminal group. One was also charged over illegal possession of a weapon.

The men appeared in Parramatta Local Court on December 10.

All three were granted bail on the condition they report daily to police, hand up their passports and relatives deposit their homes as security on their non-appearance.

A .357 unregistered pistol was also found at the lab. Picture: NSW Police

A .357 unregistered pistol was also found at the lab. Picture: NSW Police

They were also ordered not to approach, contact or associate with any prosecution or any co-accused or any member of the Comanchero group.

Despite impending changes to the bail act being introduced by current Attorney-General Brad Hazzard, the five men have received bail under the current laws introduced by his predecessor Greg Smith in 2013 that removed the presumption for or against bail.

The new changes mean that people seen as an “unacceptable risk” to the community will be refused bail automatically, and those accused of serious offences will have to “show cause” why bail should be granted.

The arrested men were ordered not to approach, contact or associate with any prosecution

The arrested men were ordered not to approach, contact or associate with any prosecution or any co-accused or any member of the Comanchero group. Picture: NSW Police

Despite the urgency to pass the new laws, they are not operational — with Mr Hazzard saying it will take until January 28 to train magistrates, court staff and police in how the changes work.

“Changing the provision of the bail act was obviously critical following the report we had from former … John Hatzistergos,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The government ensured all the provisions were legislated and now we are in the process of making sure all of the people who have to make decisions under the Bail act are properly trained in the new provisions.

“The government has made it very clear to everybody we wanted it underway as soon as humanly possible. The reality is people do need to be trained.”

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

Update Martin Place siege: Hostages taken in Lindt Chocolate shop-Ends in tragedy


This is a very serious situation taking place live on TV. All sorts of reporting about who and why they have taken hostages…Lets hope the hostages get out alive- UPDATE Unfortunately that has not been the case. I personally think they needed to react much much earlier and take the asshole out.The dust will settle and all that will be analysed. My thoughts are really with the family and friends of hostages both dead and alive.

There are hundreds and hundreds of bouquets, it’s probably about 15 metres by 15 metres and growing rapidly… the thing that struck me is that these aren’t just random bouquets, people have gone to the effort of writing personal notes to the families and to the victims.

ABC 702 reporter John Donegan

sad update this morning, he also made hostages film this tape yesterday afternoon causing great anguish and stress, as the hostages cannot understand why a few simple demands had still not been met (in their eyes) which would enable their release.Compelling viewing (removed by youtube ATM)

sheikh-haron-october2014_redacted

letter-to-pm-tony-abbott-1nov13_redacted

about-sheikh-haron

Hauntingly I have been able to find his website via the archives online and check out this ominous warning in relation to channel 7 and something they broadcast quite a while ago, in 2011 (Click image to enlarge

Haron promise


 

A good insight, until we get the official reports from the enquiry I will not be posting any more news media…

Sliding door tragedy of the Lindt cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place

 AT 9.44am on Monday, the sliding doors closed at the Lindt cafe. Seventeen hours later, two lives would be lost and an evil sham sheik would have changed our nation forever.

HE orders a skinny flat white.

He is in a hurry, yet there’s time to admire the vaulted ceilings of the former bank chamber.

The four well-dressed ladies around the corner seem so happy. Here’s an old fellow alone at a table. Then, they call his name. “Chris?” Wow. That was quick.

Chris Kenny does not see a middle-aged man with the scruffy beard, a father of four who likes his coffee.

He is sitting at a table, a sawn-off shotgun in a blue bag, chatting with the cafe manager.

Kenny, a senior journalist at The Australian, is walking out the door.

His phone is ringing and his mind is elsewhere. It’s 5AA, a South Australian radio station, for a pre-arranged interview.

Kenny sits at an outside table, a few metres from the automatic doors. He discusses the state Liberal Party’s apparent need for generational change.

As he finishes, three motorcycle police pull up with sirens blaring.

A woman tells officers she has tried to enter through the cafe’s sliding doors. They have been locked shut.

UNIMAGINABLE END FOR A PERFECT LIFE

10 FATEL FAILURES THAT LED TO TRAGEDY

NINE SILENT MINUTES THAT BEG SO MANY QUESTIONS

DUMP HIS BODY AT SEA, MUSLIM LEADERS SAY

BARISTA ELLY CHEN ESCAPED WITH LIFE

Kenny’s interview started at 9.40am. He may have been the last person to walk through the sliding doors of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place.

He belongs now with David Johnson, the Lindt cafe worker given the day off, and his colleague Bruno, who turns up just before 10am for his shift.

He belongs with us, on the outside, if only just, in the chaos of sirens and roadblocks, where the confusion is captured by a Sydney cabbie blocked in Elizabeth St: “Bastards. Terrorism in Sydney. My god.”

INSIDE the cafe, palms are pressed against glass.

The mood Kenny witnessed has dissolved in the theatrics of a movie scene, starring a villain who delivers bad lines for the next 17 hours.

Eighteen staff and customers have been ordered to put their hands up.

They have been told to lie down. There are screams and sobs. Someone vomits.

The man with the bandana and the shotgun wants to be called “the brother”.

He says he is from the Islamic State. He says he has bombs.

Man Haron Monis is doing what he has done since he arrived in Australia in 1996.

As a proclaimed IS extremist, he is pretending to be something he is not: until recently, before the most unlikely of conversions, he was a Shi’a – not Sunni — Muslim.

He has terrorised before, by words and deeds, though not like this.

He has chosen an unusually nice grouping of people to menace.

John O’Brien, the 82-year-old, is on his annual ritual of a coffee after his eye check-up upstairs. Three lawyers, including Katrina Dawson and her pregnant colleague Julie Taylor are catching up.

Dawson is indulging a daily routine in being here: she had asked along another friend this morning, but she had missed the call.

Among four Westpac people is the Indian father, Viswakanath Ankireddy, who would ring his wife during the crisis and his colleague, Puspendu Ghosh, still abuzz from a recent skydive. Selina Win Pe is with them to discuss IT issues: soon, under threat of a gun, she will be making demands of a prime minister.

The cafe staffers, their fellow prisoners, share a genuine camaraderie that defies many workplaces.

Tori Johnson, 34, is the sort of manager who sticks his tongue out in Christmas Party photos.

He is from a close-knit family: he hopes to one day marry his partner of 14 years, Thomas Zinn.

The staff share qualities with their customers that Monis can not claim.

They laugh in their spare time. They love. They have much to give and stand to be missed.

They belong on the outside. Monis, it subsequently seems, has never belonged.

Monis has a plan.

 Like all his plans it runs short of a logical conclusion. As far as it goes, it succeeds within the first hour or so.

His impact is almost Dystopian. The streets are emptied and barricades rise. Trains are stopped and offices are evacuated.

The Martin Place Christmas tree suddenly soars like a relic from another era.

Elly Chen, normally a smiley 22-year-old, is working only her sixth day at the cafe.

She holds up a black flag with white Arabic text to the window, directly behind the cafe company’s Christmas message.

It is an opening shot in Monis’ message which, like all of Monis’ messages, runs foul of logic.

And there is a lag, almost as if the world is granted time to process events.

For hours, no one is saying what is going on. Monis wants to speak to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He wants his siege to be announced as an attack by ISIS.

He orders an ISIS flag delivered. He has hostages deliver these messages to news outlets from about noon.

It’s still unclear how soon dialogue is established with police negotiators.

John O’Brien was one of the first to escape. Picture: Toby Zerna

John O’Brien was one of the first to escape. Picture: Toby Zerna Source: News Corp Australia

O’BRIEN has a headache when he spots his chance.

It’s maybe five hours since he would have left of his own accord, perhaps for a hit of his beloved tennis.

He, along with lawyer Stefan Balafoutis, has been allowed to go to the toilet.

They spot a green button at the bottom of a glass door and wonder if the button will open the door. They discover it does.

The cameras track their first uncertain steps on the street, driven by an overwhelming mix of relief and adrenaline, while TV commentators fumble for the right verb — release or escape?

Chen’s expression captures the same anguish and fear when she spills into the street soon afterwards.

She has followed colleague Paolo Vassallo, and precedes Bae Jie-Un.

Monis is enraged by the escapes. He speaks of “an eye for an eye”. None of his demands have been met.

What would have followed had they been — he promised limited releases of hostages for each — is unclear.

Jarrod Hoffman is one of several hostages ordered to spread Monis’ gospel.

It is probably Hoffman, a 19-year-old student, who rings 2GB’s Ray Hadley.

Hadley reports hearing a Middle-Eastern Australian voice giving instructions in the background.

More calls are later made to the Daily Telegraph and TV stations.

Hoffman explains that he is on speaker and that he has a gun pointed to his head. “If someone else runs, someone dies,” Hoffman explains.

Later in the day, Monis orders hostages to record video messages for media organisations.

They are sinister viewing. The hostages speak of “we”, as if they are willing.

Some look more nervous than others. Taylor is businesslike: “We are here with … ummm our brother, who has asked for three simple things, and the first is that Tony Abbott calls him, live in the media, to have a short conversation. . . we can’t understand why that hasn’t happened.”

Mother-of-three Marcia Mikhael has been pressed into Facebook postings by early afternoon. Her formalness is unusual in the social media age, but then again, her words read like a poor joke.

Like Taylor, she is a very successful person, a Westpac executive and fitness business owner. Yet no one inside the cafe can argue against Monis, a nobody in the outside world.

Onlookers feel surges of futility.

Yet only the hostages burn with the violation of being manipulated as pawns. Only they can properly express the growing fear reflected in increasingly tense messages.

“Dear friends and family…” Mikhael’s Facebook message reads.

“The man who is keeping us hostage has asked for small and simple requests and none have been met. He is now threatening to start killing us.”

Such communications are unprecedented, at least in Australia.

They are a product of a new age of technology and terror. Media outlets mostly heed police bans and do not publish or broadcast Monis’ messages.

Yet Monis grabs some underground traction. He resorts to YouTube and these video messages are said to spread.

The hostages’ families, meanwhile, are fretting.

“Please do not share or spread any messages released by the hostages as the terrorist is using them as a means of communication,” writes Mikhael’s niece. “This could put my aunty and the others in grave danger.”

Another hostage, Fiona Ma, uses Facebook as a source of hope. She has been posting and reading messages throughout the day, prompting this latter message: “I’m getting your messages everyone! Thank-you you beautiful souls…Guys I love each and everyone of you.”

OVER 17 hours, Monis does not get what he wants.

Instead, he muddles and confounds.

In doing so, like in his past, he inspires others to rise above his “antics” — as one acquaintance puts it — and seek to overcome the hurt he inflicts.

The hostages have a world’s prayers. It isn’t enough, not on this battleground, not even with hundreds of heavily armed cops just metres away. Monis has an unfair advantage. He has unpredictability — and his gun.

His skittishness grows later in the day. He paces and herds the hostages from one end to the other — this followed rotations when hostages held their hands on the windows.

He shouts and uses Louisa Hope, an MS sufferer with a walking stick as a “shield”. Later, Monis still grips her as he started to tire, despite the protests of her 68-year-old mother, Robyn.

The refusals of her and O’Brien to yield to an armed crazy man’s wishes sound like the makings of folklore.

O’Brien has refused to hold Monis’ flag or lie on the floor for him. Monis, according to a report in The Australian, leaves him alone after this.

It is many hours after O’Brien has gone.

Australia has gone to sleep, knowing the police will wait it out. It is about 2am, and fear and exhaustion are major factors.

The next 15 minutes stand to be forensically analysed in months ahead. For now, we must rely on witness accounts and unofficial sources.

We know that a plot has been hatched after Monis says “it will be in the morning”.

Comic book fan Joel Herat, 21, is a ringleader. A group of hostages figure that death will follow inaction.

A single shot rings out at 2.04am. It is said that the bullet slams into a door or the ceiling. Is it a warning shot aimed at dissuading those hostages who soon appear, arms raised, in the street? Herat shepherds a pregnant 30-year-old Taylor before making his own exit.

The hostages have smashed a side-door lock to escape. Ankireddy’s father sees his son’s escape on Indian TV.

Hostages were forced to hold up an Islamic flag at Lindt cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Hostages were forced to hold up an Islamic flag at Lindt cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place. Source: Supplied

The cafe is darkened. It’s said that Johnson now tackles Monis and tries to grab his gun. It makes sense that Johnson would try to free his fellow hostages.

Such an act sounds true to his nature.

One newspaper report says that Johnson is beaten around the head before being killed with a head shot by Monis’ gun.

This may be the 2.13am shot that is played again and again the next day, the shot that leads a technical support sniper, perched at a Channel 7 window opposite, to say into his microphone: “Hostage down. Window two.”

What follows is officially known as the “emergency action plan”. Police in night goggles break in, setting off what looks and sounds like an indoor fireworks display. Stun grenades echo. Dozens of rounds are fired.

The outburst is timed at 34 seconds. When it ends an alarm rings and there is screaming. Monis is dead.

His shield Louisa Hope is shot in the foot, her mother Robyn in the shoulder.

Katrina Dawson is fatally wounded. Her loss, like Johnson’s, is inexplicable, and the floral memorial for their loss will lend itself to easy comparisons with Princess Diana’s death in 1997. It will seem so right that Johnson loved flowers.

It will seem so wrong that Dawson’s children, aged eight, five and three, wake the next morning to the worst news.

According to Channel 7, Monis greets the rush of officers with a lament: “Look what you’ve made me do.”

AS epitaphs go, Monis’ final words sound about right.

They befit a predator long practised in the role of playing the victim. They also raise questions about Monis’ goals. The only obvious thread in his public history, besides its oddness, lies in his drives. His religious and moral principles hold no coherence. His need for attention, however, is a constant. Publicity for Monis has never been a byproduct so much as an outcome.

In upturning his past in the days after his death, the thoughts of one of his previous victims jump out.

Man Haron Monis and Amirah Droudis.

Man Haron Monis and Amirah Droudis. Source: News Limited

Joan Senger once received a letter from Monis. Her son, Craig, an Australian trade official, had been killed in the 2009 Jakarta terror bombing.

Monis’ words had been hurtful and insulting. Speaking in 2013, Mrs Senger appears to have figured out Monis long before he stopped a city with a gun.

“I just don’t think he thinks like normal people think,” she said.

Unpredictable. Unhinged. Paranoid. These terms are used by those who knew Monis best. He was well-known to others as the sick sod who had linked fallen soldiers and bushfire victims to obscure religious scriptures.

He had been seeking sympathy since he first chained himself to a pole at the NSW Parliament House in 2000, when he demanded his family be brought from Iran and introduced himself as “Ayatollah”.

Those who knew him knew he played at roles. He was the “sham sheikh”.

He was the “peace activist”. Yet his performances served to mask the villain within. Monis tended to be scorned rather than feared, even though his history is potted with extreme violence and misogyny

Martin Place gunman caught on CCTV before siege

Update 10.50AM 16/12/14

THE manager of the Lindt cafe who was fatally shot in the Martin Place siege is being praised as a hero, responsible for allowing others trapped in the cafe to escape.

Tori Johnson, 34, was wrestling a gun from hostage-taker Man Haron Monis when he was killed.

Photo

Hero hostage: Cafe manager Tori Johnson was killed attempting to disarm the gunman.

It is understood the cafe manager decided to take action when the hostage-taker begun to doze off after the siege had been ongoing for 17 hours.

He lunged at the gunman’s weapon, enabling others to flee.

The second hostage killed has been identified as Katrina Dawson, 38. The mother-of-three is the sister of well known Sydney lawyer Sandy Dawson.

Katrina Dawson

Katrina Dawson

Ms Dawson was tragically killed trying to defend her pregnant friend, AAP reports.


 

Sydney siege: Two hostages and gunman dead after heavily armed police storm Lindt cafe in Martin Place

Tue 16 Dec 2014, 7:51am

Paramedics remove a person, with bloodstains on the blankets covering the person, on a stretcher after the end of the Sydney siege on December 16, 2014.

Paramedics remove a person, with bloodstains on the blankets covering the person, on a stretcher after the end of the Sydney siege on December 16, 2014.

About 2:10am (AEDT) there was a confrontation between police and self-styled Iranian cleric Man Haron Monis, who had taken 17 people hostage inside the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place on Monday morning.

Police said shots were fired and as a result, the 50-year-old gunman was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

It is not clear if the two hostages who died, a man aged 34 and a woman aged 38, were shot by the gunman or killed in the crossfire.

Monis, who was granted political asylum in Australia, took staff and customers in the cafe hostage shortly before 10:00am (AEDT) on Monday.

He was on bail for a string of violent offences, including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

Monis was also facing more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges and had a conviction for sending offensive letters to families of deceased Australian soldiers.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott issued a statement commending the “courage and professionalism” of the police and other emergency services involved.

“Australians awoke to the news this morning that the siege in Martin Place has ended,” he said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two deceased hostages, the wounded and the other hostages.”

This morning, NSW Premier Mike Baird addressed a media conference and said: “I come before you with the heaviest of hearts. Unbelievably overnight, we have lost some of our own in an attack we never thought we would see here in our city.

“In the past 24 hours, this city has been shaken by a tragedy that none of us could have ever imagined. The values we held dear yesterday we hold dear today. They are the values of freedom, democracy, and harmony.

“These defined us yesterday, they will define us today, they will define us tomorrow. Our first thoughts and prayers this morning are with the innocent victims of this horrendous, vicious attack.”

Following the confrontation, two women were also taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, while a male police officer is in a non life-threatening condition after a gunshot wound to his face.

The police operation has concluded and the investigation into the entire incident will be overseen by the Professional Standards Command, a police statement said.

“All information will be provided to the coroner who will determine the cause of, and make any findings about, the events leading to the deaths,” the statement said.

Loud explosions and yelling could be heard from near the cafe at about 2:00am (AEDT) before officers rushed inside.

Just before police stormed the building, at least five hostages came running from the cafe with their hands up and one man lay down on the floor as police patted him down.

Minutes later what appeared to be gunfire and explosions could be heard.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the situation changed suddenly inside the cafe, allowing more of the hostages to escape.

Police then made the quick decision to put their emergency action plan into place and they moved inside the building.

Thanking all the officers involved in the siege, Commissioner Scipione said: “I want to point out they have saved lives, they have saved many lives.”

He said of the hostages: “I can only imagine the terror that they’ve been through. They are very brave people who in many cases were buying a cup of coffee and they got caught up in this dreadful affair.

“We should reflect on their courage, the courage that they displayed during the many hours in that room.”

He said it was an isolated incident and urged: “Do not let this sort of incident bring about any loss of confidence of working or visiting our city.

“It was the act of an individual. This should never destroy or change the way of our life.”

Soon after police entered the cafe, paramedic crews who had been stationed at the scene throughout the day were seen carrying people out of the building on stretchers, and one patient could be seen being resuscitated.

ABC reporter Siobhan Heanue said there were two volleys of gunfire and loud explosions, in the middle of which screams could be heard.

“The sound ricocheted throughout the tall buildings around the area… and hostages started pouring out of the building,” she said.

“Some running, some able to walk, some with their hands up, and some being carried by ambulance staff.”

An exclusion zone around Martin Place remains, with roads still closed, but the police presence has significantly diminished.

The ABC’s Nick Dole said police were working to secure the scene.

“Exactly what is going on inside we don’t know but we have seen evidence that perhaps police from the bomb squad would be in there,” he said.

“So police are working through the Lindt cafe to at least make it safe for investigators to go through.

“We’ve seen a robot – what looks like a police robot.

“Police are working very hard to make the crime scene safe so the investigation can continue.”

Hostages have been taken to a number of hospitals in the city.

Shortly after Monis locked the hostages inside the cafe, some were seen with their hands up while others were made to hold a black flag with Arabic writing against a window.

Heavily armed police officers took up positions in the pedestrian area, which was cleared for several blocks.

Several hours later, at about 4:00pm, two men ran from a front door of the cafe while a man wearing a Lindt apron came out of a side door.

About an hour later two women who worked at the cafe ran from the building.

Martin Place Cafe Siege: Man Haron Monis named as gunman

Sydney siege gunman identified

THE man who held several people hostage in a Sydney cafe for over 18 hours is a self-styled ‘sheik’ with a long history of run-ins with law enforcement.

Man Haron Monis, 50, is believed to have been killed when police stormed the Lindt cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place in a hail of gunfire shortly after 2am this morning.

Pic of Sheikh "man Monis" Haron charged with writing offensive letters to widows and fami

Sheik Man Monis Haron charged with writing offensive letters to widows and families of fallen Aussie soldiers outside Downing Court today. Source: News Limited

Monis, also known as Sheikh Haron and Mohammad Hassan Manteghi, was on bail on a charge of accessory to murder, relating to the death of his ex-wife, who was allegedly stabbed and set alight in a stairwell of her Sydney apartment complex last year.

LATEST

Monis’s current partner has been charged with murder over the incident.

On granting bail, Magistrate Darryl Pearce saying the Crown’s noted the case against Monis was weak.

In March this year he was charged with more than 50 sexual offences including the 2002 sexual assault of a young woman which was allegedly carried out under the guise of ‘spiritual healing’.

His victim, 27 at the time, allegedly saw an advertisement for ‘spiritual consultation’ in a local newspaper and contacted him.

Man Haron Monis ‘Spiritual healer’ arrested for sexual and indecent assault — SCC Sex Cri

Man Haron Monis ‘Spiritual healer’ arrested for sexual and indecent assault — SCC Sex Crimes Squad Source: Supplied

He told her he was an expert in astrology, numerology, meditation and black magic and advised her to visit his clinic.

Monis arrived in Australia as a refugee from Iran in 1996 and first became known to the public when he was charged with sending offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the letters Monis called one Australian Digger ‘the son to a dirty pig, and to a dirty animal’, and urged the Diggers’ families to call on the government to pull troops out of Afghanistan.

In court Monis claimed he was a ‘peace activist’ and that his rights to free speech were being trampled.

Haron Monis was charged for sending hate letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghan

Haron Monis was charged for sending hate letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Here, he is pictured appearing for sentencing at the Downing Centre. Source: News Limited

It’s believed Monis lost a High Court appeal against his conviction just last Friday — an event which may have precipitated his decision to stage the Sydney siege.

Shortly before 9.45am yesterday morning Monis entered the Lindt cafe in the heart of Sydney, armed with a sawn-off shotgun and taking up to 20 hostages, several of whom managed to escape yesterday.

Emergency personnel wheel an injured hostage to an ambulance overnight. (AP Photo/Rob Gri

Emergency personnel wheel an injured hostage to an ambulance overnight. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith) Source: AP

After a prolonged period of silence overnight, several hostages desperately fled the cafe before police stormed in shortly later.

Live images of the ensuing firefight were beamed around the world as one loud blast, possibly from Monis’s shotgun, was heard. It was followed by dozens of shots from automatic weapons and flashes from the tactical officers’ flash grenades.

Armed tactical response officers and emergency workers attend the scene (AP Photo/Rob Gri

Armed tactical response officers and emergency workers attend the scene (AP Photo/Rob Griffith) Source: AP

Several ambulances rushed an unknown number of people to hospital as medical teams performed CPR on people in Martin Place. One police officer was seen with blood rushing from his head.

It’s believed three people, including Monis, have died as a result of the firefight.


A man is holding several people hostage at Martin Place cafe

Staff and customers at the Lindt cafe hold what is believed to be a jihadist flag up agai

Staff and customers hold up what is believed to be a jihadist flag up against the window of the Lindt cafe. Source: Channel 7

  • As many as 30 people being held hostage at Lindt cafe
  • Police say at least one gunman involved
  • Incident not being treated as terrorism yet
  • Motivation of gunman unknown – but police have finally spoken directly with him
  • PM Tony Abbott urges calm: “The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people.”

HOSTAGES have emerged from the Lindt Cafe in central Sydney where they have been held by a gunman since just before 10am this morning.

Five people have now left the cafe which has been at the centre of a hostage crisis that has paralysed central Sydney and shocked Australia.

Their escape comes after NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn confirmed hostage negotiators were now speaking directly with the gunman.

“Police negotiators have had contact and will continue to have contact,” she said.

Two female Lindt employees ran from the building just before 5pm. Three other hostages, all men, ran from the cafe earlier this afternoon and are now speaking with police.

It was not immediately clear if any of the hostages were released or if they had escaped.

Hostages inside the café have spoken to media outlets. Two hostages have spoken to Sydney radio station 2GB while Ten News is reporting that they have also spoken to two hostages.

One of the hostages runs towards police from Lindt cafe in the central business district

One of the hostages runs towards police from Lindt cafe in the central business district of Sydney. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

A terrified woman runs from the Lindt Cafe

A terrified woman runs from the Lindt Cafe Source: Supplied

A terrified Lindt employee runs to safety

A terrified Lindt employee runs to safety Source: Supplied

Two of the first hostages to get away came out of the front door while the third came out of a fire door. All had their arms raised in the air.

Dramatic television images showed the terrified hostages running free from the buiding and being shielded by heavily armed police.

One was a man in a white shirt and blue jacket, another wore a white shirt, while the third was clearly the Lindt cafe worker dressed in black.

David Faktor, spokesman for St Vincent’s Hospital, told news.com.au that they have received “one male patient and he is in a satisfactory condition”. Mr Faktor would not comment on anything else in relation to the man’s condition but said “he is fine”.

The hospital is on standby for anything else that might eventuate from the siege.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott addressed media tonight and praised police and security services for their work.

“I’ve received messages of support from a number of international leaders and I thank them for their encouragement on this difficult day. It has been a difficult day, it has tested us

He added that “like Australians in all situations, we have risen to the challenge”.

A hostage is seen outside the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place.

A hostage is seen outside the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place. Source: Getty Images

Two hostages run to safety outside the Lindt Cafe.

Two hostages run to safety outside the Lindt Cafe. Source: Getty Images

Dramatic scenes outside the Lindt Cafe as hostages run free after six hours of being held

Dramatic scenes outside the Lindt Cafe as hostages run free after six hours of being held captive. Source: Getty Images

The five hostages escape followed reports that as many as 50 people being held by a gunman at the popular cafe. However, when asked this afternoon about the number of hostages NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said: “That sort of number does not equate to what we are assuming.”

At least one offender took hostages at the popular Lindt chocolate cafe, in Martin Place, just before 10am.

Some members of staff could be seen wearing their shop aprons and standing with their hands up at the windows. There is also a black and white flag being held up in a window. It is believed to be the Black Standard, a flag that has been hijacked by jihadists and Islamists.

Hostages have reportedly called Channel 9 news late this afternoon – the second time media outlets have been called by those inside the cafe.

It’s believed hostages have been forced to call the television network.

This morning at least two calls were made to 2GB host Ray Hadley. He later spoke to the mother of an 18-year-old apprentice plumber who texted his mother from inside the cafe.

When she asked him how he was he replied: “I’m okay Mum, I can’t talk”. She hasn’t heard anything since then.

Deputy Commissioner Burn said police had spoken with the gunman for the first time since the siege began.

Three hostages escape Lindt cafe siege

Her information was that the remaining hostages hadn’t been harmed.

She said the gunman’s motivations were not known and it wouldn’t be helpful to “speculate”.

The incident has not been branded a terrorist attack yet, but police have confirmed they have “moved to a footing consistent with a terrorism event” in their response.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione earlier told reporters it remained a hostage situation “but we are ready to escalate if we need to”.

They did not have “direct contact” with the hostage-taker.

“We’re working through that – at this stage we’ve not got extensive communications … We are not dealing directly with him.”

It was not clear what the offender’s motivation was.

Lindt Australia CEO Steve Loane told news.com.au at the scene this morning he believed there are 40 to 50 people inside the cafe, including customers and staff.

Other reports are suggesting there may only be 13 hostages and police have since said they believe there to be fewer than 30 hostages.

Police handcuffed a man 200m from the cafe siege but a police statement has since clarified the arrest was unrelated to the siege.

Jihadist flag at city centre siege

One of the men believed to be holding people hostage: Courtesy: Channel 7 Source: Channel 7

Jihadist flag at city centre siege

Picture: Courtesy of Channel 7. Source: Channel 7

The National Security Committee of Cabinet has met for briefings on the situation this morning.

At a press conference this morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government did not know whether the hostage situation was politically motivated.

“We don’t yet know the motivation of perpetrator, we don’t know whether it’s politically motivated although there are indications it could be,” he said.

“The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people… Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society and nothing should ever change that and that’s why I urge all Australians to today to go about their business as usual.”

Mr Abbott urged all Australians to go about their business as usual but if anyone noticed anything unusual they should call the National Security Hotline 1800 123 400.

He said that the ordinary business of government would go on and the Budget update would be released as planned.

NSW Premier Mike Baird said this afternoon: “We are being tested today in Sydney. The police is being tested, the public is being tested, but whatever the test …we will remain a democractic, civil society.

“There could be some disruption obviously, we are asking also to be patient … we will get through this.”

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione confirmed an “armed offender” was involved. Police were doing everything in their power to bring the situation to a “peaceful outcome”.

“We have a number of incidents that people believe are connected to the city events

a lot of people concerned when they see police vehicle drive down their street, (that area is involved). This is not the case.”

He said there were a number of officers on standby and was satisfied with the response so far. “It’s as good as you will get anywhere.”

Major landmarks in Sydney, including the Sydney Opera House, have been evacuated as polic
Police are patrolling landmarks around Sydney in response to the Martin Pl hostage siege.

Police are patrolling landmarks around Sydney in response to the Martin Pl hostage siege. Source: Getty Images

In a statement earlier, Mr Abbott said he had also spoken with NSW Premier Mike Baird and “offered him all possible Commonwealth support and assistance”.

“This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner,” he said.

Mr Baird said his thoughts and prayers were with those affected.

“I’ve spoken to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione & have full confidence NSW Police are working effectively to resolve the situation,” Mr Baird said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he had spoken with Mr Abbott this morning and offered him the Opposition’s full support.

“Our thoughts and prayers today are with the innocent people involved … (and) also with their families who are seeing this incredibly distressing situation unfold, along with the rest of Australia.

“Australians can be assured that we are one when it comes to keeping Australians safe.”

Tactical response officers arrive at the scene. Picture: Toby Zerna

Tactical response officers arrive at the scene. Picture: Toby Zerna Source: News Corp Australia

Siege at Martin Place.

Siege at Martin Place. Source: Supplied

Earlier today, Sydney talkback show host Ray Hadley reportedly spoke to one of the hostages inside the cafe off air.

A spokesman for 2GB said Hadly spoke to someone who he believed was a hostage inside the cafe.

The radio presenter called the number more than once and passed the name and details onto the police.

The Sydney Opera House, which was evacuated earlier today, has cancelled tonights performances, while police have urged people to stay away from the central city tonight for their own safety.

International reaction to the crisis has been swift with Canadian PM Stephen Harper tweeting his support and US President Barack Obama being briefed on the situation at the White House.

Lindt Cafe released the following statement on their Facebook page.

“We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and kind support over the current situation at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place. We are deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff and customers involved and all their friends and families. The matter is being dealt with by the authorities and we are waiting for any updates from them.”

Also on Facebook were pages supporting the gunman, including one called “Lindt cafe bombers supporters facebook page”. Facebook swiftly removed the page, and urged users to report any offending pages immediately for them to remove.

Police have set up an exclusion zone around the cafe in Martin Place.

BUILDINGS EVACUATED

A Lindt cafe worker who managed to get out of the building told Nine News: “Everyone was sitting down, the door was locked. There was one guy walking around with a hat and a beard.”

Channel 7 reported that a woman told police that she saw a man near the cafe at 9.44am carrying a blue sports bag with what she thought was a gun inside.

The chocolate shop is 30 or 40 metres from the Channel 7 offices so they have cameras trained on the building. Channel 7 was evacuated.

Martin Place is home to several prominent buildings, including NSW Premier Mike Baird’s office, the Reserve Bank of Australia, Westpac Bank and the Commonwealth Bank headquarters as well as the US embassy and the Seven Network. The Supreme Court, Sydney Hospital, State Library of NSW, and NSW parliament were also in lock-down.

The Sydney Opera House was also in lock-down for a short time as authorities enacted a cluster of security measures across the city.

The US Consulate has also been closed.

Seven reporter Chris Reason is currently on the corner of Philip and Hunter St where all five floors of Channel 7 staff were evacuated. He told news.com.au that he is with several hundred people from Seven and surrounding buildings.

He confirmed that police entered Channel 7 at 10am to use their building as a viewing point after the incident first happened at 9.44am.

Sydney siege: Heavily armed police run near Martin Place
Courtesy of Channel 7.

Courtesy of Channel 7. Source: Channel 7

A map of Sydney shows where the Martin Place Lindt Chocolate cafe is located.

A map of Sydney shows where the Martin Place Lindt Chocolate cafe is located. Source: News Corp Australia

At 10.20am the entire building was evacuated and the central hosting duties was transferred to Melbourne to broadcast out of there.

Police have erected a large black shield to cover the corner of the Lindt Store from view.

Mr Reason said: “It’s tense, people are obviously concerned for the people inside. During the initial minutes when the evacuation happened there was, of course, a lot of concern, a lot of anguish from some staff. But nobody resisted, we all followed police orders. Right now, outside the building there is a mix of curiosity and concern and hope that the people inside get out OK.”

Currently there are at least 100 police and tactical units stationed in Martin Place

“I was at a cafe right next to the Lindt Store when I noticed people suddenly running towards the building and looking in. At 9.45 I sort of approached and realised what was happening. At first we thought it was an armed holdup because the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) is next door and there were armoured vehicles outside. When we saw the hostages against the windows holding up the flags it was quickly apparent that this was severely urgent.”

When asked whether he thought why the men may have chosen Martin Place, he said: “It’s hard to tell, as we saw in the terror raids in September, Martin Place would be a target. It might not be iconic Sydney location but it is deeply symbolic, on top of our building (Seven) is the State Government, the treasurer the minister, beside it is the financial heart of Sydney with the reserve bank and right in the centre is the cenotaph and ANZAC memorial so it ticks so many boxes when trying to make a political statement.”

There are State Government agencies in the same building and police have shut down traffic in a wide perimeter surrounding the incident. Surrounding buildings are also in lockdown.

RELATED: Martin Place long identified as potential terrorist target

 

There is no confirmation yet whether this is a terrorist attack.

A police statement confirmed that they were dealing with an armed incident and specialist officers were attempting to make contact those inside a cafe.

“Some nearby offices have been evacuated as a precaution. Anyone else in the area encompassing Hunter, George, Elizabeth and Macquarie streets bordering Martin Place is directed to remain indoors and away from open windows. Anyone in the vicinity but outside that area is free to leave their buildings,” the statement said.

“Police urge members of the public to remain calm and note that an appropriate police presence is in place.

Elsewhere in Australia, security has reportedly been increased at the Gabba ahead of the cricket and the Lindt Cafe in Melbourne has been closed with police patrolling the streets outside.

TRANSPORT IMPACTED

The Martin Place train station is shut and trains and buses around the area are being diverted or stopped, including trains between Bondi Junction and Central. Roads are blocked.

A Transport for Sydney spokeswoman told news.com.au that conditions were still changing and they would follow directions from police.

“This is chilling,” said The Morning Show host Kylie Gillies of the scene as she watched on with host Larry Emdur from the Channel 7 news studios. The duo are now off air.

RELATED: Sydney trains cancelled, buses diverted

Frightening siege at Lindt cafe Martin Place Sydney

Frightening siege at Lindt cafe Martin Place Sydney

Sydney siege: Gunman takes hostages in Lindt cafe

Hundreds of armed police have sealed off Martin Place in Sydney’s central business district

Related Stories

At least one gunman has taken several people hostage at a cafe in the Australian city of Sydney.

Pictures on Australian television show at least three people with their hands up against a window, and a black flag with Arabic writing.

Hundreds of armed police have sealed off Martin Place in Sydney’s central business district.

New South Wales police have asked people to avoid the area.

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter said that gunfire had been heard at the scene, the Lindt chocolate cafe – but this has not been confirmed.

No injuries have been reported from the incident, according to a police spokesperson.

At the scene: Wendy Frew, BBC Australia Editor Online

Martin Place is a public pedestrian thoroughfare through the heart of Sydney, joining its parliamentary, legal and retail districts.

It is full of media, members of the public and the police, with what appear to be anxious colleagues of people trapped inside the building, waiting for news. Several surrounding blocks are cordoned off.

Police are at this stage not giving media briefings at the site, there are dozens of police cards have arrived at the scene – with more continuing to come.

Sydney map

Police have also said that they are dealing with an “incident” at the Sydney Opera House which has been evacuated.

Local media are reporting that a suspicious package was found there on Monday, though it was unclear whether it was connected to the Martin Place incident.

Terror threat

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described the Martin Place incident as “deeply concerning”.

“All Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner,” he said in a statement.

A National Security Committee of Cabinet has been convened for Monday morning, the PM’s office said.

Australia has been facing a growing terror threat in recent months, in part connected to the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria and Iraq.

In September, the largest anti-terror raids in Australian history were carried out in Sydney and Brisbane after intelligence emerged that people were planning to carry out random attacks on Australian soil.

Only one person was charged with terror offences.

Anti-terror legislation was passed in October, which critics said was too severe.

Mr Abbott has said the threat meant “the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift”.

About 70 Australians are believed to be fighting in the Middle East while another 20 have returned home.

Australia recently introduced tough legislation to combat the threat from returned fighters

The Lindt Cafe is located in a plaza in the heart of the city’s financial and shopping district that is usually packed with shoppers at this time of year.

It is home to the state premier’s office and the headquarters of two of the nation’s largest banks.

The state parliament house is also only a few streets away.


 

The Daily Telegraph

  • 12 hostages thought to be held
  • Public transport shut down between Central and Bondi
  • Channel 7 offices evacuated

A hostage has been forced to hold up an Islamic State flag in the window of a shop in Martin Place that is currently under siege.

It is believed there are 12 hostages in the store and an ISIS flag has been placed in the window.

Martin Place is the main financial area of the Sydney CBD.

The scene of a seige at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney's Martin Place.

The scene of a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place.

The scene of a seige at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney's Martin Place.

The scene of a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Twitter image of a seige at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney's Maritin Place.

Hostages hold up an IS flag at Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Public transport between Central and Bondi Junction has been stopped.

Buses are diverting away from Elizabeth St and Hunter St.

There are various road closures in place and motorists are advised to stay away from the area.

In September Federal Police made a host of arrests after allegedly uncovering a plot to abduct a random Australian and execute them by beheading in a public place, possibly Martin Place and post the act on social media.

Hostage in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney's Maritin Place.

Hostage in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Lindt Cafe in Sydney's Maritin Place.

Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Just before 10am it is believed an attempted robbery was taking place when the offender then took a number of hostages inside the Lindt Chocolate shop.

The area has been cordoned off and police are urging people to stay away.

Police do not know how many hostages are in the shop or what the offender is armed with.

The Lindt shop is usually very busy with four or five staff at this time.

More to come.

Two arrested as robbery strike force inquiries continue – Strike Force Tuft


Two arrested as inquiries continue into spate of armed robberies across Sydney

The Blue Gum Hotel at Waitara was held up on October 20.

The Blue Gum Hotel at Waitara was held up on October 20.

TWO men arrested yesterday are helping police with their inquiries into a spate of armed robberies across Sydney, including one at the Blue Gum Hotel at Waitara.

Detectives from Strike Force Tuft arrested the two men, aged 33 and 30, after a car was stopped at the intersection of Kurrajong Rd and Glossip St at St Marys.

The men are assisting the detectives with inquiries into armed robberies at a hotel in Rooty Hill on Saturday and a licensed premises in St Marys on Sunday.

Inquiries are also continuing into a series of armed robberies at newsagencies, service stations, liquor stores and hotels across Sydney between August 24 and October 21.

During some of the incidents, two men entered the premises armed with a pistol and demanded cash from employees before fleeing the scene.

The Blue Gum Hotel was held up on Monday, October 20 when two men entered the establishment about 3pm and approached a woman in the poker machine room. The men showed her a handgun and demanded cash.

The pair left with a small amount of money and fled via the bottleshop area in Unwin Rd and were last seen turning left into Clarke Rd.

Detectives have renewed their appeals for anyone with information to come forward.

Call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/


 

Monday, 24 November 2014 08:41:41 PM

Two men are assisting with inquiries into a number of armed robberies across Sydney.

Between Sunday 24 August and Tuesday 21 October 2014, a series of armed robberies was committed upon newsagents, service stations, liquor stores and hotels across Sydney.

During some of the incidents, two men entered the premises armed with a pistol and demanded cash from employees before fleeing the scene.

Officers attached to the Metropolitan Robbery Unit established Strike Force Tuft to investigate the 15 armed robberies and believe they may be linked.

As a result of inquiries by strike force detectives two men, aged 33 and 30, were arrested after a car was stopped at the intersection of Kurrajong Road and Glossop Street a St Marys today (Monday 24 November 2014).

The pair are currently assisting with strike force detectives with inquiries into armed robberies at a hotel in Rooty Hill on 22 November and a licensed premise in St Marys the next day.

Meanwhile, inquiries by strike force detectives into the robberies are continuing.

Further details of the armed robberies include:

a service station at Bankstown on Sunday 24 August 2014,

• a service station at Kellyville on Sunday 24 August 2014,

• a bottle shop at Padstow on Sunday 24 August 2014,

• a newsagency at Smithfield on Thursday 28 August 2014,

• a hotel at Rosehill on Thursday 28 August 2014,

• a club at Eastwood on Saturday 30 August 2014,

• a hotel at Fairfield on Monday 1 September 2014,

• The attempted robbery of a hotel at Allawah on Sunday 7 September 2014,

• a hotel at Ashfield on Sunday 7 September 2014,

• a hotel at Villawood on Thursday 9 September 2014,

• a hotel at Warwick Farm on Monday 13 October 2014,

• a hotel at Merrylands on Wednesday 15 October 2014,

• a hotel at Summer Hill on Saturday 18 October 2014,

• a hotel at Greenfield Park on Monday 20 October 2014,

• a hotel at Waitara on Monday 20 October 2014, and;

• a hotel at Smithfield on Wednesday 22 October, 2014

Detectives are continuing their inquiries and have renewed their appeals for anyone with further information to come forward.

Police are urging anyone with information in relation to this incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/ Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. We remind people they should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Rozelle store owner Adeel Khan arrested over blast that killed three people


More to come, the store owner has been arrested in explosion that killed 3.
September 23, 2014 – 9:57AM

Facing three murder charges: Adeel Khan.

Facing three murder charges: Adeel Khan. Photo: Supplied

The owner of a Rozelle convenience store that was destroyed by fire that killed three people has been arrested at his hospital bed.

Adeel Khan is expected to charged with three counts of murder in relation to the blast and subsequent fire earlier this month, polices sources.

Bianka O’Brien, 31, her baby son Jude and their neighbour Chris Noble, 27, all died in the Darling Street fire.


Mon 8 Sep 2014,

The father and husband of two victims of a shop explosion in Sydney last week says he is devastated by the loss of his wife and their 12-month-old son, who “made everyone smile”.

The NSW Police Arson Squad is leading a criminal investigation into the Rozelle blast and fire on Thursday that killed Bianka O’Brien, 31, and her son, Jude, along with 27-year-old Chris Noble.

John O’Brien described his wife of eight years as “an inspiration to all who knew her”, saying she was a wonderful wife and an even better mother.

He said people gravitated towards her because of her “beautiful and warm personality”.

“Bianka and I were together for eight years, married for two, and to say she was the love of my life is an understatement,” he said in a statement.

“I can’t believe how quickly those eight years have flown by but they have definitely been the best years of my life.

“I know I was truly loved by her and the feeling was entirely mutual.”

Jude O'Brien

Photo: Jude O’Brien, 1, “never stopped smiling”, his father John says. (Supplied)

Mr O’Brien said he loved his son Jude with all his heart, describing him as the perfect baby who “never stopped smiling”.

“By far the proudest moment of my life was becoming a father,” he said.

“Jude had just started to walk and was only just discovering the world around him. Everything was exciting to him and he was just a joy to be around. He made everyone smile.”

He said the events of the past few days had been devastating, but he has been overwhelmed by the support from the community.

“Finally, I would like to extend my sympathy to the family of Chris Noble and everyone else who has been affected by this,” he said.

The owner of the convenience store on the Darling Street block, Adeel Khan, remained in intensive care at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Asbestos concerns at blast site

Concerns over asbestos contamination and an exclusion zone around the site the explosion and fire were discussed at a town hall meeting on Sunday.

The area around the blast site has been described by investigators as “very dangerous” and shut off to residents and business owners since Thursday.

Inspector Gary Coffey assured the gathering that authorities were addressing concerns over asbestos and the impact of an exclusion zone around the site.

“We understand the very real need to restore this community in a timely manner so that the healing process can begin,” Inspector Coffey said.

“I can assure you that we are all working very hard every minute of the day to try and achieve this.

“The priorities for the police operation are to assess the asbestos management at the site, reducing the exclusion zone to allow unaffected businesses to re-open and to provide pedestrian access to those businesses and crime scene examination.”

Local business owner Steve Isaac said his electrical store on Darling Street had been closed since Thursday and the exclusion zone set up around the blast site had been having a major impact on his business.

“Because it’s a crime scene and the street is closed off, it’s hard to get deliveries in and out and we’ve had a lot of cancellations,” Mr Isaac said.

“Most of us have had to stay shut.”

Inspector Coffey said a demolition order had been issued for the building next to the convenience store on Darling Street.

An accredited company carried out an asbestos inspection on Friday and told police asbestos had been detected on the ground and immediately around the site.

“An asbestos exclusion zone was put in place at the site, and the clean up commenced (on Saturday), and at the same time a hygienist commenced air monitoring at several locations around the site,” Inspector Coffey said.

“The result we received was that there was no airborne asbestos detected.

“Early this morning asbestos clean up at the site recommenced and we will be conducting further testing today and these results will determine how quickly we can reduce the exclusion footprint so that businesses can re-open.

“The site itself is very dangerous and the conditions are constantly changing, and we’ll keep everyone informed of developments.”

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