Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing

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Sydney Hilton bombing
Hiltonbombing wideweb 470x314,0.jpeg
The scene shortly after the bombing
Location 33°52′19″S 151°12′26″E / 33.87194°S 151.20722°E / -33.87194; 151.20722Coordinates: 33°52′19″S 151°12′26″E / 33.87194°S 151.20722°E / -33.87194; 151.20722
Hilton Hotel, Sydney, Australia
Date 13 February 1978
12:40am
Attack type
Bomb
Deaths 2 garbage collectors, 1 policeman
Non-fatal injuries
11
Perpetrators Unknown
Sydney Hilton Hotel

The Sydney Hilton bombing occurred on 13 February 1978, when a bomb exploded outside the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. At the time the hotel was the site of the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting (CHOGRM), a regional off-shoot of the biennial meetings of the heads of government from across the Commonwealth of Nations.

The bomb was planted in a rubbish bin and exploded when the bin was emptied into a garbage truck outside the hotel at 12:40 a.m. It killed two garbage collectors, Alec Carter and William Favell. A police officer guarding the entrance to the hotel lounge, Paul Birmistriw, died later.[1] It also injured eleven others. Twelve foreign leaders were staying in the hotel at the time, but none were injured. Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser immediately called out the Australian Army for the remainder of the CHOGRM meeting. [2]

In June 1978, members of the Ananda Marga organisation were implicated by a police informant, Richard John Seary, but his evidence has been described as unsatisfactory. A member of Ananda Marga, Evan Pederick, claimed in 1989 that he had carried out the Hilton bombing on the orders of another member, Tim Anderson. Both men went to prison, but Anderson was acquitted on appeal in 1991. Pederick served eight years in prison.

The Hilton case has been highly controversial due to allegations that Australian security forces may have been responsible. This led to the New South Wales parliament unanimously calling for the commonwealth to hold an inquiry in 1991[3] and 1995.[4] The federal government refused to hold an inquiry.

Accusations of conspiracy[edit]

There were a number of unusual circumstances surrounding the bombing, namely:

  • The driver of the truck, Bill Ebb, stated that police had prevented three earlier trucks from emptying the bin that contained the bomb which was overflowing with rubbish.[5]
  • The garbage bin had not been searched for bombs. Searching bins is normally a high priority, and is specified in New South Wales police permanent circular 135.[3]
  • The entire truck and all bomb fragments were dumped immediately afterwards at an unrecorded location. This prevented forensic evidence, such as the type of explosive used, from being gathered.[3] (This was compared to the detailed evidence retrieved from the Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded at 30,000 feet.[3])
  • Army dog handler Keith Burley said that his dogs could smell very small quantities of explosives, and were expected to be used for the event. He said they were unexpectedly called off a few days prior without explanation.[3][6]
  • The officer-in-charge of police immediately after the bombing, Inspector Ian MacDonald, claimed there had been a "cover-up"[3]
  • Former Attorney General of New South Wales Frank Walker and Federal Government Senator Gareth Evans had been told by a CSIRO scientist that under pressure from ASIO they had made two fake bombs in the week prior to the bombing. The bombs were designed not to explode but could do so in a garbage truck compactor.[4]
  • William Reeve-Parker provided a statutory declaration that an army officer had admitted planting the bomb by switching rubbish bins 24 hours earlier.[7] Reeve-Parker denied knowledge of who the officer was, although he "had helped his son".[7] Reeve-Parker was never called as a witness at the coronial inquest.
  • The principal private secretary of a federal senator was told that the bomb squad was waiting nearby at this early hour of the morning.[7] That would suggest that they knew about the bomb. The government would not permit people from the bomb squad to be called as witnesses to the inquest.[5]
  • Sgt Horton stated that he saw an occurrence pad entry that showed the warning call was received at 12:32, 8 minutes before the bomb exploded.[5] It was not relayed instantly to the police out front. At the inquest four other versions of this pad were shown, each timing the call at 12:40.[7] (It may not have been relayed because police already knew about the bomb and the call was merely a pretext to call the waiting bomb squad.)

Many of these issues were identified by Terry Griffiths, a former policeman who was seriously injured in the bombing, who has called for an inquiry.[3] Barry Hall QC, counsel for Griffiths, argued that ASIO may well have planted the bomb in order to justify their existence.[5] The 1982 Walsh inquest had been terminated prematurely due to the finding of a prima facie case of murder, which was based on discredited evidence by Richard Seary.

The Indian prime minister Morarji Desai claimed that Ananda Marga had attempted to kill him due to the imprisonment of the organisation's spiritual leader, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. (There had been other alleged attacks by Ananda Marga, namely on 15 September 1977 the military attaché at the Indian Embassy, Colonel Singh and his wife, were attacked in Canberra. Just over a month later an Air India employee in Melbourne was stabbed.)[8] ASIO had infiltrated the Ananda Marga from 1976 and were monitoring it.[9]

Trials and inquiries[edit]

A few days after the bombing, Richard Seary offered his services to the police Special Branch as an informant. He expressed the view that the Ananda Marga society might be involved with the Hilton bombing; he soon infiltrated that organization, which had its headquarters in three adjacent houses in Queen Street, Newtown.[10]

On 15 June, Seary told Special Branch that members of Ananda Marga intended to bomb the home of Robert Cameron, a neo-Nazi, that night at his home in the Sydney suburb of Yagoona. Two members of the society — Ross Dunn and Paul Alister — were subsequently apprehended at Yagoona in Seary's company and charged with conspiracy to murder Robert Cameron.[5] Tim Anderson was arrested soon after at Ananda Marga headquarters in Newtown.

It was alleged that Dunn and Alister had intended to plant a bomb at Cameron's home, while Tim Anderson was to provide a press release. Dunn and Alister stated that they intended only to write graffiti at Cameron's home and had no knowledge of the bomb, which they claimed had been brought by Seary. Seary was considered by some to be an unreliable witness, having already given discredited evidence accusing Dunn and Alistair at the initial Hilton bombing inquest, being a drug addict and a "mentally disturbed fantasizer".[11]

However, there was also some police evidence, and the prosecution had strongly associated the matter with the Sydney Hilton bombing.[11] The trial for the Cameron charges began in February 1979, but the jury could not come to a verdict. A second trial was held in July and all three defendants were convicted.[11] [12]

A coronial inquest was eventually held into the bombing itself in 1982, although inquests are normally held within a few weeks.[5] Stipendiary Magistrate Walsh found a prima facie case of murder against two members of Ananda Marga – Ross Dunn and Paul Alister (but not Tim Anderson) – based on evidence from Richard Seary, which was later discredited.[3] This finding caused the inquest to be closed prematurely.

Coronial inquiries were limited in their scope. No person appearing before the coroner has a right to subpoena evidence without permission from the coroner, and in this inquest Walsh rejected all applications.[13]

In 1984, the Attorney-General, Paul Landa, established an Inquiry to investigate the convictions of Dunn, Alister and Anderson. The inquiry was similar to a Royal Commission, and was headed by Justice Wood. Richard Seary was in England at the time and did not take part, but after the Inquiry he indicated that he was willing to take part. Justice Wood reconvened the Inquiry and it ran through to February 1985. The result was that Justice Wood recommended the pardoning of the three and they were released in 1985.[5] (This Inquiry did not directly cover the Hilton Bombing.)

According to Paul Alister's later account, points that emerged during the Inquiry included:[14]

  • Tapes of conversations between Richard Seary and his Special Branch contact showed that Seary had originally suggested that the Hare Krishna group might have been responsible for the Hilton bombing
  • Police ignored the Hare Krishna suggestion and told Seary to spy on Ananda Marga.
  • Seary infiltrated Ananda Marga one month later than he had originally stated in court
  • Seary knew how to obtain explosives illegally, although he had said in court that he did not
  • Seary had told police about the alleged Cameron bombing plan five days earlier than he originally stated
  • Dr Emanuel Fischer, who had done a psychiatric assessment of Seary, said he was schizoid and psychopathic
  • Seary's girlfriend Wendy said that Seary had told her that he had thought they were going to Robert Cameron's house to put up posters and he had been surprised that explosives were brought along
  • Wendy said that Seary had not volunteered to spy on Ananda Marga but had been pressured by the police
  • Seary's friend Dok said that Seary had a plan to bomb an abattoir when he had been in the Hare Krishnas.

In 1989, a former member of Ananda Marga, Evan Pederick, claimed that he had planted the bomb at the Hilton Hotel on orders from Tim Anderson. Anderson was then re-arrested for the Sydney Hilton bombing, tried, convicted and sentenced to fourteen years. The crown prosecutor was Mark Tedeschi QC. However Anderson was acquitted in 1991 by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal,[3] which held that the verdicts of guilty were unsafe and unsatisfactory. Chief Justice Gleeson concluded:

...there was one important respect in which, in my view, the proceedings miscarried... The crown was permitted, in an unfair manner, to obscure a major difficulty concerning the reliability of the evidence of its principal witness... by raising an hypothesis that was not reasonably open on the evidence... a direction given by the learned trial judge to the jury relating to the "sanity" of Pederick... constitutes an additional reason for treating the verdicts as unsafe and the process at the trial as unsatisfactory... The trial of the appellant miscarried principally because of an error which resulted in large part from the failure of the prosecuting authorities adequately to check aspects of the Jayewardene theory. This was compounded by what I regard as an inappropriate and unfair attempt by the crown to persuade the jury to draw inferences of fact, and accept argumentative suggestions, that were not properly open on the evidence. I do not consider that in those circumstances the crown should be given a further opportunity to patch up its case against the appellant. It has already made one attempt too many to do that, and I believe that, if that attempt had never been made, there is a strong likelihood that the appellant would have been acquitted.

Instead of ordering a new trial, the Court entered a judgment of acquittal.[15][16]

Pederick had confessed to the bombing and so was convicted without detailed scrutiny of his confession. However, in the Anderson appeal Chief Justice Gleeson said Pederick's account of the bombing was "clearly unreliable".[3] Pederick's later appeal was rejected when he produced no evidence to explain why his original confession had been false. Pederick was released after serving eight years in jail and stated "I guess I was quite unique in the prison system in that I had to keep proving my guilt, whereas everyone else said they were innocent."[17]

Paul Alister later speculated about Richard Seary's motives, saying he was a "wild card" because he seemed to have his own agenda.[18] He stated that Seary seemed to have a mixture of motives for what he said, and seemed to dislike the police. Seary's girlfriend indicated that Seary had been pressured by the police to find evidence that incriminated the "Margiis". Alister and his colleagues speculated that perhaps Seary was being blackmailed into informing because of his former activity as a drug addict. Seary had also been present when someone had died of a drug overdose; this may have given the police leverage over him because he could be charged.[19]

Sometime around 1983, police sergeant Ernie Tees visited the offices of publishers Wild & Woolley and asked to see the manuscript for Free Alister Dunn and Anderson by Tim Anderson. Pat Woolley turned him away; "It's at the National Library", she said. Several years later, in the 1990s, Richard Seary's father went to the same office, where Wild & Woolley had set up their on-demand print system Fast Books, and enquired about publishing his son's 'real story'. He never returned.

Political effects and significance[edit]

Before the inquiries it was described in Parliament as the first and only domestic terrorist event in Australia.[3]

Prior to the bombing the security forces had been under considerable pressure. In South Australia, the White inquiry into their police special branch was very critical, and ties with ASIO were cut.[3] New South Wales was about to have a similar inquiry. After the bombing, the NSW inquiry was never held, and the Commonwealth increased support for the anti-terrorism activities of the intelligence services.[5]

30th anniversary of Sydney Hilton commemoration ceremony[edit]

A new plaque was unveiled at the site of the explosion in George Street on 13 February 2008, the 30th anniversary of the blast.

The then New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma commended Sydney City Council for restoring the memorial plaque to its original home, and said he hoped there will never be a need for any more.[20]

Plaque for victims of the bombing

Richard Seary[edit]

Richard Seary was born in Sydney in 1952.[21] His father John was a successful racer of motor bikes, but he abandoned the family in 1956. The children's mother also left not long after. He and his siblings were farmed out to various institutions, mostly in Queensland in Seary's case, because his father was living there. He had short-lived stays with his father, but was tormented by a stepmother he described as a psychopath.[21] He absconded from a Brisbane institution in 1968 and went to Sydney.

Seary subsequently became a drug addict and was convicted for heroin possession in 1971, but succeeded in breaking the habit.[22] He was then involved with the Hare Krishna group from 1972-1974.[22] In 1974, through the Hare Krishnas, he met an English woman named Sally, who had a child from a previous relationship. They went to England, where Sally gave birth to a baby girl.[23] However, Seary and Sally split up at an early stage and Seary returned to Australia in 1976.

By early 1977, Seary was doing volunteer work as a Crisis Centre counsellor at the Wayside Chapel in Potts Point, Sydney.[24] He went to England after the trial of the Ananda Marga members, but came back to Sydney in 1985 for the inquiry headed by Justice Wood.[25] By 1992 he was doing welfare work at a church in Sydney. In late 1992, he fled to Queensland after an attempt was made on his life. In 2012 he published a book — Smoke'n'Mirrors: How the Australian People Were Screwed—at Amazon.com in Amazon Kindle format. In the introduction, he described himself as a spy and secret agent. He also said he was dying,[26] but he was still alive in August 2012.[27]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lahey, John (2 February 1978). au/view_bestofarticle.asp?straction=update&inttype=1&intid=1100 "Day of courage and cowardice". The Age. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  2. ^ "Anti-Terrorism Laws in Australia:The Security Legislation Amendment 2002" (PDF). University of Adelaide. 21 August 2003. Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Parliament Hansard: Hilton Hotel Bombing". Government of New South Wales. 9 December 1991. Retrieved 13 March 2008.  (First motion for an inquiry)
  4. ^ a b "Parliament Hansard: Hilton Hotel Bombing Inquiry Proposal". Government of New South Wales. 21 September 1995. Retrieved 16 March 2008.  (A second motion for an inquiry)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Daryl Dellora (1995). "Conspiracy". True Stories. Australian Broadcasting Commission.
  6. ^ "Burleys letter". 4 November 1991. Retrieved 1 May 2008.  Letter to Allen Barry MP
  7. ^ a b c d Walsh Coronal Inquest into the Hilton Bombing, 1983 
  8. ^ "Terror attacks remain a mystery 30 years on". Canberra: News Ltd. 1 January 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  9. ^ Ben Hills Site
  10. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, Tom Molomby (Potoroo Press) 1986, p.70
  11. ^ a b c Alister and others v. the queen, High Court of Australia (1983). (Decision rejecting appeal for Cameron conspiracy.)
  12. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, Tom Molomby (Potoroo Press) 1986, p.48
  13. ^ "Doubts over Coronial powers as inquest resumes". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 September 1982. 
  14. ^ Bombs, Bliss and Baba, Paul Alister (Better World Books) 1997, pp.202-204
  15. ^ R v Anderson (1991) 53 A Crim R 421. See also Tim Anderson's book, Take Two
  16. ^ Take Two, 1992, Chapter 27, http://lorikeet.and.com.au/t2/B3-CCA. htm
  17. ^ Ben Hills. "The Hilton Fiasco". SMH 12 Feb 1998, p.11 http://www.benhills.com/articles/articles/SCM38a.html (accessed 6 Sept 2010)
  18. ^ Bombs, Bliss and Baba, p.88
  19. ^ Bombs, Bliss and Baba, p.91
  20. ^ "Sydney Hilton Hotel blast commemorated". Sydney Morning Herald. 13 February 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  21. ^ a b Hilton bombing page
  22. ^ a b Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, p.35
  23. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, p.343
  24. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, p.53
  25. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, pp.288-9
  26. ^ Amazon.com
  27. ^ Seary message at Pride's Purge

External links[edit]