Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing

The Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing occurred on 13 February 1978, when a bomb exploded outside the Hilton Hotel in George Street, Sydney, Australia. At the time the hotel was hosting 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.

Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing
The scene shortly after the bombing
LocationHilton Hotel, George Street, Sydney, Australia
Coordinates33°52′19″S 151°12′26″E / 33.87194°S 151.20722°E / -33.87194; 151.20722
Date13 February 1978 (1978-02-13)
12:40 am (UTC+11)
Attack type
PerpetratorsEvan Pederick was tried, convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment
Side view of the Sydney Hilton Hotel

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 men, Alec Carter and William Favell, the garbage collectors who picked up the bin. A police officer guarding the entrance to the hotel lounge, Paul Burmistriw, 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.[1]

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 Parliament of New South Wales unanimously calling for the Commonwealth to hold an inquiry in 1991 and 1995.[2][3]

The Hilton bombing was described in Parliament as the first and only domestic terrorist event in Australia.[2]

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.[2] 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.[4]

Workers cleaning up after the bombing[5]

Accusations of conspiracy edit

It has been asserted that there were a number of unusual circumstances, namely:

  • At the 1983 Walsh Coronial Inquest it was stated by Terry Griffiths and others that there was a continuous police presence outside the building since the previous morning. This may have prevented anyone placing a large bomb into the rubbish bin while the police were there.[6][verify]
  • The ABC documentary Conspiracy showed the driver of the garbage truck, Bill Ebb, claiming that the bins would normally be emptied several times each day, but police had prevented three earlier trucks from emptying the bin that contained the bomb even though it was overflowing with rubbish.[4][7]
  • John Hatton said in parliament that the garbage bin had not been searched for bombs and that searching bins is normally a high priority, and is specified in New South Wales police permanent circular 135.[2][8]
  • 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. Burley said they were unexpectedly called off a few days prior without explanation.[2][4]
  • 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.[2][4] (Hatton compared that to the detailed evidence retrieved from the Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded at 30,000 feet.[2])
  • In 1983, William Reeve-Parker provided a statutory declaration that an army officer had admitted planting the bomb by switching rubbish bins 24 hours earlier.[6][8][verification needed] Reeve-Parker denied knowledge of who the officer was, although he "had helped his son".[6][verification needed] Reeve-Parker was never called as a witness at the coronial inquest.[6]
  • The officer-in-charge of police immediately after the bombing, Inspector Ian MacDonald, claimed there had been a cover-up.[2][6]
  • In 1995, Andrew Tink said that it had been alleged 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.[3][4]
  • The principal private secretary of a federal senator was told that the bomb squad was waiting nearby at this early hour of the morning.[6] Barry Hall QC said that this would make it hard to claim that they were not involved.[4] The government would not permit people from the bomb squad to be called as witnesses to the inquest.[4]
  • 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.[4][verification needed] 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.[6][verification needed]

Many of these issues were identified by Terry Griffiths, a former policeman who was seriously injured in the bombing, who had called for an inquiry.[2] Peter Collins, NSW Attorney General 1991–1992, said "The Hilton Bombing is a history of half truths, a litany of lies".[4] Barry Hall QC, counsel for Griffiths, argued that ASIO may well have planted the bomb in order to justify their existence.[4]

The 1982 Walsh inquest had been terminated prematurely due to the finding of a prima facie case of murder.[6]

Arguments against a conspiracy edit

The then 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 High Commission, Canberra, Colonel Singh and his wife, were attacked in Canberra. Just over a month later an Air India employee in Melbourne was stabbed.)[9] ASIO had infiltrated the Ananda Marga from 1976 and were monitoring it.[10]

In 1998, Ben Hills wrote an article called "The Hilton Fiasco", published in the Sydney Morning Herald. He argued that members of Ananda Marga were responsible for the Hilton bombing, saying that Evan Pederick was recruited for the bombing by Tim Anderson, while a man called Abhiik Kumar was the likely mastermind. He also asserted that ASIO had information which would have helped in the police investigation, but withheld it.[10]

In Who Bombed the Hilton? (2016), film-maker Rachel Landers addressed the accusation that the bins outside the Hilton were left unemptied, with a bomb secreted inside one of them, as part of a conspiracy by Australian police or security agencies. Landers asserts: "An enormous number of people are free to shove any number of objects (including an enormous placard) into the bin, lean on it or use it as a convenient seat over a very long period of time. For the conspiracists to be correct, the following have to be lying in their statements: seven garbage men (including a street sweeper), an accountant, two hippies, a sign-writer, a father of two out for the day with his kids, an anarchist and the Hilton commissionaire. They also have to be colluding with each other, the police who have been told to wave away garbage trucks and, one assumes, ASIO and their mates at Special Branch." Landers also draws attention to the activities of Abhiik Kumar. She maintains that Kumar had been in almost every country where there was a threat, an attack or cases of Margis being arrested for violence against an Indian national. This included Kumar being in Sydney the day before the Hilton bombing.[11]

In The Hilton Bombing: Evan Pederick and the Ananda Marga (2019), Imre Salusinszky argued that "not a single shred of evidence has emerged to support any of the conspiracy theories about the Hilton bombing." He said "the official cover-up, if indeed there is one, has remained tight as a drum".[12]: 292, 303  Salusinszky gives a detailed account of Pederick's involvement in AM activities. This included planting the bomb outside the Hilton and then going to Brisbane on the same day. He also covers in detail Pederick's decision to confess to a Catholic priest after eleven years of guilt and torment.[12]: 8, 196–203 

Trials and Investigations 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.[13]: 70 

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.[4]

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 having already given discredited evidence accusing Dunn and Alister at the initial Hilton bombing inquest, was considered an unreliable witness in the written judgement of the High Court in Alister v R (1984):[14]

...Richard Seary, drug addict, informer and mentally disturbed fantasizer, must be one of the most unreliable persons ever presented as the principal prosecution witness on a charge of serious crime. The accused were entitled to refer to the fact that Seary had accused them of admitting the Hilton bombing. The accusation by Seary was made in circumstances which cast grave doubt upon his credibility. Seary claimed that Alister and Dunn made the admission to him in the car on the way to Cameron's house. However, in Seary's record of interview following the arrest at Yagoona, in which he set out the events, he made no reference to the Hilton bombing. If the admission had been made, Seary's failure to refer to it was extraordinary.

— Justice Murphy, Par 7, § "Improper Cross-Examination", Alister v R (1984)

However, there was also some police evidence, and the prosecution had strongly associated the matter with the Sydney Hilton bombing.[14] 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.[14][13]: 48 

A coronial inquest into the bombing itself was eventually held in 1982.[4] 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.[2]

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.[15]

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 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.[4] (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.[16]

According to Paul Alister's later assertions, points that emerged during the inquiry included:[17]

  • 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[citation needed]
  • 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

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.[17]

In 1989, Anderson was 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,[2] 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 judgement of acquittal.[18][19][20]

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".[2] He found: "On any view of the matter, his account of the events of 12 February 1978, and in particular of the circumstances relating to his actual attempt at assassination, is clearly unreliable. He is incapable of giving a description of those events which does not involve serious error."[21] Questions about Pederick's sanity were raised in the Anderson appeal. Gleeson criticised the trial judge's directions to the jury that Pederick must be assumed to be "sane". He described Pederick as "a witness who said that on a particular occasion he stood in George Street in Sydney and tried to blow up the Prime Minister of India, the Prime Minister of Australia, and a number of other people besides, and, when his attempt was unsuccessful, attributed its failure to the supernatural intervention of his guru". The Chief Justice added: "He seems to have been a person whose reasoning processes were somewhat unorthodox. There was a significant danger of confusing the jurors by telling them that the law presumed him to be sane".[22]

Pederick did (unsuccessfully) appeal his own conviction in 1996, the year before his release.[23] The 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."[10]

The two failed prosecutions against Tim Anderson and his friends have been cited as instances 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.[24][25][26][27][28]

Plaque for victims of the bombing

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

The then-Premier of New South Wales, Morris Iemma, commended the City of Sydney Council for restoring the memorial plaque to its original home, and said he hoped there will never be a need for another.[29]

See also edit

Notes edit

References edit

  1. ^ Anti-Terrorism Laws in Australia:The Security Legislation Amendment 2002 (PDF) (Report). University of Adelaide. 21 August 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mr John Hatton (9 December 1991). "Hilton Hotel Bombing (1st motion for an inquiry)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Parliament of New South Wales: Government of New South Wales. Other speakers: The Hon Peter Collins; Mr Paul Whelan. Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  3. ^ a b Tink, Mr Andrew (21 September 1995). "Hilton Hotel Bombing Inquiry Proposal (2nd motion for an inquiry)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Parliament of New South Wales: Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Daryl Dellora (1995). "Conspiracy". True Stories. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. An index can be found at [1]
  5. ^ "'Hilton bomb' sect in legal battle over $20m empire". Archived from the original on 12 October 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Walsh Coronial Inquest into the Hilton Bombing, 1983
  7. ^ Dixon, Norm (15 February 1995). "The Hilton bombing revisited (review of Conspiracy)". Green Left Weekly. No. 175. Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Terrorism Conspiracy Theories and the 1978 Sydney Hilton Bombing". Big Ideas. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2010. From 23:09
  9. ^ Australian Associated Press Canberra correspondents (1 January 2008). "Terror attacks remain a mystery 30 years on". Canberra: Archived from the original on 1 January 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  10. ^ a b c Ben Hills (12 February 1998). "The Hilton Fiasco". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 11. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012 – via – Scams and scoundrels.
  11. ^ Landers, Rachel (2016). Who Bombed the Hilton?. NewSouth Books. p. 24. ISBN 9781742233512.
  12. ^ a b Salusinszky, Imre (2019). The Hilton Bombing: Evan Pederick and the Ananda Marga. MUP. ISBN 9780522875492.
  13. ^ a b Molomby, Tom (1986). Spies, bombs & the path of bliss. Sydney: Potoroo Press. ISBN 978-0949764034.
  14. ^ a b c Alister and others v. the Queen (High Court of Australia 1984), Text. ([1983] HCA154; CLR 404; Decision dismissing application to appeal the Court of Criminal Appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales decision on the Cameron conspiracy and attempted murder case.)
  15. ^ "Doubts over Coronial powers as inquest resumes". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 September 1982.
  16. ^ "Maleny man's Hilton bombing memories". Sunshine Coast Daily. 25 May 2008. Archived from the original on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  17. ^ a b Alister, Paul Narada (1997). Bombs, bliss and Baba: The spiritual autobiography behind the Hilton bombing frame up. Maleny, Qld, Australia: Better World Books. pp. 202–204. ISBN 9780646347899.
  18. ^ R v Anderson (1991) 53 A Crim R 421
  19. ^ Anderson 1992, chapter 27.
  20. ^ Bolt, Steve; Mussett, Jane (1991). "The Tim Anderson Decision - The Chief Justice Cites the System". Legal Service Bulletin. 16: 126–127. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017.
  21. ^ R v Anderson (1991) 53 A Crim R 421 at p. 444
  22. ^ McClellan (2012).
  23. ^ R v Evan Dunstan Pederick [1996] NSWSC 623
  24. ^ Solomon, David. "Review of Kerry Carrington, 'Travesty! Miscarriages of Justice'" (PDF). Western Australian Law Review. 22: 438–440. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 May 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  25. ^ Kerry Carrington, ed. (1991). Travesty! Miscarriages of justice. Academics for Justice. ISBN 9780646041643. Archived from the original on 11 September 2017.
  26. ^ Hogg, Russell (February 1991). "Who Bombed Tim Anderson?". Polemic. 2 (1). Sydney University Law Society: 48–50. ISSN 1036-9503 – via AustLII: Australasian Legal Information Institute – Criminal Law database.
  27. ^ Michael Kirby, Remedying miscarriages in the criminal justice system (PDF), archived (PDF) from the original on 17 March 2016, retrieved 12 June 2017
  28. ^ Hoel 2008.
  29. ^ "Sydney Hilton Hotel blast commemorated". Sydney Morning Herald. 13 February 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2008.

Sources edit

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