|Sydney Hilton bombing|
The scene shortly after the bombing
Hilton Hotel, Sydney, Australia
|Date||13 February 1978
|Deaths||2 garbage collectors, 1 policeman|
|Part of a series on|
|Terrorism in Australia|
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 offshoot 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. 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.
The Hilton case has been highly controversial due to allegations that Australian security forces, such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), may have been responsible. This led to the New South Wales parliament unanimously calling for the Commonwealth to hold an inquiry in 1991 and 1995. The federal government refused to hold an inquiry.
In June 1978, members of the Ananda Marga organisation were implicated by a police informant, Richard John Seary, but his evidence has been discredited. 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 were given prison sentences, but Anderson was acquitted on appeal in 1991. Pederick appealed but his appeal failed and he served eight years in prison. In directing Anderson's acquittal NSW Chief Justice Murray Gleeson said:
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.
There were a number of unusual circumstances surrounding the bombing, namely:
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. Barry Hall QC, counsel for Griffiths, argued that ASIO may well have planted the bomb in order to justify their existence.
The 1982 Walsh inquest had been terminated prematurely due to the finding of a prima facie case of murder. 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.) ASIO had infiltrated the Ananda Marga from 1976 and were monitoring it.
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.
On 15 June, Seary told Special Branch that members of Ananda Marga intended to bomb the home of Robert Cameron, a member of the far-right National Front of Australia, 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.
It was alleged that Dunn and Alister had intended to plant a bomb at Cameron's home. 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".
However, there was also some police evidence, and the prosecution had strongly associated the matter with the Sydney Hilton bombing. The trial relating to the alleged plot to bomb Cameron's home 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.
A coronial inquest into the bombing itself was eventually held in 1982. 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.
Coronial inquiries are 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.
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. (The inquiry did not directly cover the Hilton Bombing.) The pardoned trio received compensation from the NSW Government. Alister ploughed his compensation money into land on Bridge Creek Road near Maleny, Queensland, which would become his home, and also the site of the Ananda Marga River School.
According to Paul Alister's later account, points that emerged during the inquiry included:
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, 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.
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". 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."
Paul Alister later speculated about Richard Seary's motives, saying he was a "wild card" because he seemed to have his own agenda. 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.
The two failed prosecutions against Tim Anderson and his friends have been cited examples of Australian miscarriages of justice, for example in Kerry Carrington's 1991 book Travesty! Miscarriages of Justice and in other law texts including notes on compensation practice.
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. 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.
A new plaque was unveiled at the site of the explosion in George Street on 13 February 2008, the 30th anniversary of the blast.
Richard Seary was born in Sydney in 1952. 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. 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. He was then involved with the Hare Krishna group from 1972–74. 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. 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. 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.
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. In the introduction, he described himself as a spy and secret agent. He also stated that he – a man in his 70s[dubious ] -->- was dying, without going into details. He died in 2014.
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