The Guardian 2024-02-27 10:31:37


Bodies found at Bungonia four days after serving officer charged with murder

Bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies found at Bungonia four days after serving officer charged with murder

NSW police say remains found near Goulburn after Sen Const Beau Lamarre charged with murders of ex-Channel Ten TV presenter and Qantas flight attendant

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Two bodies have been found south-west of Sydney during the search for missing couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

The discovery came four days after the serving New South Wales police officer Beau Lamarre, 28, was charged with their murders.

Detectives on Tuesday afternoon said a crime scene had been established at a second property at rural Bungonia near Goulburn, about 160km south-west of Sydney, where the bodies were found in surfboard bags.

“Today … at that location, we believe we have located two bodies,” the NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, told reporters. “The families have been notified. We are very confident we have located Luke and Jesse.”

Webb said the discovery of the bodies had been made with the assistance of the accused.

The police assistant commissioner Michael Fitzgerald said Tuesday morning was the first time since he had been arrested that Lamarre had “willingly told us information”, after he obtained a lawyer.

Fitzgerald said Sen Const Lamarre – a former celebrity blogger whose full name is Beaumont Lamarre-Condonwas forthcoming with detectives about the location when interviewed at Silverwater jail in western Sydney, where he is on remand.

Det Supt Danny Doherty said the bodies were found under a fence at a driveway on the property on Jerrara Road and it appeared attempts had been made to cover them with rocks and debris.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Earlier in the day, investigators had been searching in the Royal national park, south of Sydney, and canvassing at Grays Point oval near Cronulla.

Webb said on Tuesday morning that divers concluded their search of dams at another property at Bungonia which was first searched on Sunday. The bodies were found about 20 minutes away from that initial search location, police said.

Lamarre was charged last Friday with the murder of 26-year-old Baird – a former Channel Ten presenter – and Qantas flight attendant Davies, 29, Baird’s new partner.

Doherty said police would allege in court that there was “some type of relationship at some stage” between Lamarre and Baird.

Police said the relationship “did not end well”.

Police allege Lamarre killed the couple on Monday 19 February at Baird’s share house in Paddington, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, using his force-issued handgun. Lamarre then hired a white van to dispose of their bodies, police allege.

The alleged use of a police handgun will be the subject of an internal NSW police review with oversight from the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (Lecc) as well as Victoria police.

“We’re in this position that a police firearm was used, and that can never happen again,” Webb said on Tuesday. “So we’ve got to look to ways to mitigate that risk in whatever way we can.”

Webb said Baird’s and Davies’ families had arrived from interstate and she had spoken to them.

“Each day, each hour was an agonising wait. So I’m relieved for the families … That’s what parents want – they want to know where their children are.”

The deputy commissioner Dave Hudson told reporters on Monday that Lamarre was not cooperating with investigators in the search.

Police will allege that Lamarre made “partial admissions” about the alleged murders to an acquaintance who is alleged to have accompanied Lamarre to the first Bungonia property on Wednesday 21 February.

The pair allegedly bought an angle grinder and padlock and drove to the gates of the property, where the acquaintance said she waited for half an hour at the entrance while Lamarre entered the property, having cut the lock. The new lock was placed on the gates before the pair returned to Sydney, Hudson said.

Police said on Tuesday they would allege Lamarre returned to the property and moved the bodies sometime in the early hours of the morning on Thursday 22 February.

Police said the acquaintance was fully cooperating with police and they believed she was “an innocent agent”.

Lamarre allegedly drove the van to Newcastle and used a hose belonging to a second acquaintance to wash out the vehicle.

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, said this week had been one of the “toughest imaginable” for everyone who loved Baird and Davies.

“Our heart goes out to everybody hurting right now,” he said. “We only hope they can find some peace and closure in the certainty of this sad news.”

Lamarre will remain in custody until he next appears in court on 23 April, while police prepare a brief of evidence.

Explore more on these topics

  • New South Wales
  • Sydney
  • Australian police and policing
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • Bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies found at Bungonia four days after serving officer charged with murder
  • Blood, a hire van and a remote property: a timeline of the search for Jesse Baird and Luke Davies
  • NSW police commissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response to alleged double murder
  • Morrison says faith gives him ability to be honest on his failings – he just doesn’t have any Paul Karp
  • The latest poll results are a wake-up call for anyone ready to declare Peter Dutton politically obsolete Peter Lewis

Blood, a van and a rural propertyHow the search for Jesse Baird and Luke Davies unfolded

Explainer

Blood, a hire van and a remote property: a timeline of the search for Jesse Baird and Luke Davies

Here’s everything we know so far about the Sydney couple, whose bodies police say they have found in Bungonia, and their alleged murderer Beau Lamarre

New South Wales police say they have found the bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies four days after one of their officers, Sen Const Beau Lamarre, was charged with murdering the two men.

The story has horrified Sydney and Australia. Police previously said Lamarre was not assisting them with inquiries but that on Tuesday he disclosed the location of Baird’s and Davies’ bodies.

Here’s what we know about the Sydney couple’s disappearance and the alleged involvement of Lamarre.

Friday 16 February

Lamarre allegedly took a force-issued handgun from storage at the Miranda police station in south Sydney.

Lamarre signed the gun to work at a “protest activity” happening on Sunday 18 February, police say. It is unclear whether he actually worked at the event.

It was a “user pays” event where police officers are hired for private events – such as music festivals and rallies. Organisers pay for policing services.

Monday 19 February

9.50am – Neighbours hear gunshots at Baird’s home in Paddington, police say. The shots were not reported to police until days later.

9.54am – An emergency call is made to triple zero from Davies’ phone but is terminated before being connected to an operator.

Later that evening – Lamarre allegedly hires a white Toyota HiAce van from Sydney airport.

Tuesday 20 February

Lamarre allegedly makes “partial admissions” about the killings “to an acquaintance of having been involved in the deaths of two individuals”, police say.

Police allege at some point between Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Lamarre drove the hired van to Cronulla and discarded some personal items of former TV presenter and AFL umpire Baird, 26, and Qantas flight attendant Davies, 29.

Wednesday 21 February

11am – Bloodied clothing and personal items are found in a skip bin in Cronulla, which leads police to launch a missing person investigation. The homicide squad is notified.

1pm – Police discover a large amount of blood when examining Baird’s home in Paddington.

Later that afternoon – Investigators search Davies’ home in Waterloo.

During the same day – Police allege Lamarre attends a Bungonia property near Goulburn with an acquaintance. The acquaintance is described by police as “an innocent agent”.

Lamarre and the acquaintance allegedly buy an angle grinder and a padlock from a hardware store in the area before driving to the gates of the property in the NSW southern tablelands.

Lamarre allegedly cuts the padlock with the grinder and proceeds into the property in the hired van. The acquaintance says they wait at the entrance at the top of the property for about half an hour.

After Lamarre places a new padlock on the property’s gate, the pair drive back to Sydney later that afternoon, police say.

Police say the acquaintance who visited the property with Lamarre is a “long-term friend of the accused” and “we don’t believe she was fully aware of what had taken place”.

Detectives say they believe the Bungonia property was previously visited by Lamarre through a former relationship.

11pm – Lamarre allegedly buys weights from a department store.

Police allege Lamarre then returns to the rural property near Goulburn during that evening or overnight. Lamarre allegedly acquires two torches from the acquaintance before he returns.

Thursday 22 February

4.30am – Lamarre allegedly leaves the Bungonia area again in the hired white van and drives back to Sydney.

It is believed Lamarre drove to the city and remained in that area before he attended another acquaintance’s home in Newcastle.

Lamarre didn’t disclose anything to this acquaintance but asked for access to a hose to clean the van, police allege.

11.30pm – Detectives say a third person – later identified as Lamarre – “may be able to assist with investigation”. They raid a home in Balmain thought to be connected to Lamarre.

Friday 23 February

5am – Lamarre is believed to have stayed in the Newcastle area until early Friday morning.

6.15am – Lamarre returns to Sydney.

10.39am – Lamarre hands himself in at Bondi police station while wearing a black T-shirt and cap. A few hours later, police charge Lamarre with two counts of murder.

4pm – Lamarre appears before Waverley local court. He does not apply for bail and the matter is adjourned to 23 April.

Saturday 24 February

Morning Police search waterways in the Newcastle suburb of Lambton. Detectives believe Lamarre visited the city north of Sydney before turning himself in at Bondi.

Sunday 25 February

Police, including specialist divers, begin searching the rural Bungonia property near Goulburn looking for the bodies of the missing Sydney couple.

Divers scour the area and dams behind the home.

Monday 26 February

The NSW deputy commissioner Dave Hudson provides more details of the police case against Lamarre.

These details include:

  • The Glock pistol Lamarre allegedly used for Monday’s murder may have been stored at the Balmain police station after the alleged shootings before being returned to storage at Miranda police station.

  • There were “approvals within the organisation for firearms to be stored at home as well”.

  • A break-in allegedly occurred at Baird’s house in August 2023 – at the time, Lamarre and Baird were still in some form of a relationship.

  • Police allege Lamarre sent messages using Baird’s phone pretending to be him after the alleged murders – telling his housemates he was potentially moving to Western Australia and to deal with his property.

  • Investigators allege Lamarre’s crimes followed months of “predatory behaviour” that culminated in the fatal double shooting.

Tuesday 27 February

11am – Detectives interview Lamarre at Silverwater jail in western Sydney, where he is on remand.

1pm – Human remains found at Bungonia.

2pm – Investigators announce they have established a crime scene at a second property at Bungonia about 20 minutes from the first property.

3.30pm – The police commissioner, Karen Webb, says at a press conference “we believe we have located two bodies”. She says: “The families have been notified. We are very confident we have located Luke and Jesse.”

Webb says the discovery of the bodies was made with the assistance of the accused.

Explore more on these topics

  • New South Wales
  • Sydney
  • Channel Ten
  • explainers
Share

Reuse this content

NSW policeCommissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response

NSW police commissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response to alleged double murder

Karen Webb was speaking to media about Jesse Baird and Luke Davies who were allegedly murdered by police officer Beau Lamarre

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The New South Wales police commissioner, Karen Webb, is facing fresh criticism for referencing a Taylor Swift lyric in a media interview where she attempted to defend her response to the alleged murders of Sydney couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

Webb was asked on Seven’s Sunrise program on Tuesday about her delay in speaking publicly after the alleged murders and whether she should face criticism over her handling of the case.

“There will always be haters. Haters like to hate. Isn’t that what Taylor [Swift] says?” Webb told the program.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

“This, though, of course is a complex matter. All we need to do now is find Jesse and Luke so their families know where they are. That’s my priority.”

NSW police had been searching for the bodies of Baird and Davies who were allegedly murdered by a serving police officer. Police said on Tuesday that they had located two bodies at a property in Bungonia, south-west of Sydney.

Webb also told Sunrise she had the confidence of the state premier and that the ongoing investigation was about Baird and Davies’ family and friends, “and the gay community who are all wondering what has happened here … We’re all looking for the answers”.

Webb also came under fire for her choice of wording about the alleged murders, which she described as a “crime of passion” during her first press conference about the case on Monday.

“What I did say was it is a crime and of course [it is] domestic violence, stalking and murder,” she told Nine’s Today program.

“What I was intending is to say that it’s actually not a gay hate crime.”

When asked whether her Swift comment was an appropriate response, Webb told Sky News: “This is not about me. This is really about Jesse and Luke’s family … If they’re watching this program, I want them to know that the efforts of the NSW police force are focused on finding their family members.”

At a press conference on Monday, Webb responded to questions about taking three days to publicly respond to news of the alleged double murder and whether the delay was because of questions over her leadership.

“No, and that’s offensive,” she told reporters.

Webb said she was in parliamentary budget estimates on Friday, the day the couple’s alleged killer, Sen Const Beau Lamarre, handed himself into Bondi police station. She said she was then in public engagements on Saturday, and on Sunday, she spoke with Baird’s family.

Spokesperson for the Pride in Protest advocacy group, Charlie Murphy, said Webb’s choice of phrasing, quoting Swift in the context of a double murder investigation, was “disgusting, it’s appalling”.

“There have already been multiple failures on their part in relation to recent events and it appears that the police’s number one concern is their own PR,” she said.

But the premier, Chris Minns, stood by the commissioner on Tuesday, saying Webb’s job is “very difficult”.

“I think even the harshest critics would say that [Webb’s leadership is] professional, that she’s got experienced people in the most senior positions, and it has been effective right across New South Wales. And that is the primary performance indicator for any police commissioner in the state,” he said.

The key objective of the commissioner is the investigation of crime, he said. “And Karen Webb does that very well.”

Police have been asked not to march in Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade on Saturday after Lamarre was charged with the alleged murders.

A NSW police spokesperson confirmed the decision by the board of Australia’s premier LGBTQI event on Monday night.

“The NSW police force has been advised that the board of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has decided to withdraw the invitation to NSW police to participate in this year’s event,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • New South Wales
  • Australian police and policing
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Mardi GrasAFP confirms officers won’t march in Sydney after NSW police asked not to join parade

AFP confirms it won’t march in Sydney Mardi Gras after NSW police asked not to join parade

The decision comes after NSW constable Beaumont Lamarre-Condon was charged over the deaths of the gay couple last week

  • LATEST UPDATE: bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies found at Bungonia
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Organisers of Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade have asked police not to march in the event on Saturday after New South Wales constable Beaumont Lamarre was charged with murdering a gay couple in the city, the New South Wales force have said.

A NSW police spokesperson confirmed the decision by the board of Australia’s premier LGBTQI event on Monday night.

“The NSW police force has been advised that the board of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has decided to withdraw the invitation to NSW police to participate in this year’s event,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“While disappointed with this outcome, NSW police will continue to work closely with the LGBTIQA+ community and remain committed to working with organisers to provide a safe environment for all those participating in and supporting this Saturday’s parade.”

It comes as the Australian Federal Police issued a statement late Tuesday saying its officer would not march in the parade.

“The AFP had planned to march with NSW Police in this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade,” the spokesperson said. “Noting news reports that the Sydney Mardi Gras board had asked NSW Police not to march, the AFP has also made the decision not to march.”

“This decision was not taken lightly, but we acknowledge how some in the community are feeling about the blue uniform.”

The move came as an advocacy group said the debate about the police presence should be kept separate from the alleged murder.

Debate over police participation in the parade was ignited after Lamarre allegedly shot his ex-boyfriend and his new partner with his service gun.

The 28-year-old is being held without bail after being charged with murdering his former partner, ex-Ten reporter Jesse Baird, 26, and the man’s new boyfriend, Luke Davies, 29, in Sydney on 19 February.

Investigators allege Lamarre’s crimes followed a months-long campaign of “predatory behaviour”, culminating in the fatal double shooting.

The senior constable previously marched in the parade with the NSW police contingent.

But the LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation said conversations about police participation in Mardi Gras should be kept separate from the issue of the alleged murders.

“This, as has been alleged by NSW police, is a domestic and family violence crime and we must all acknowledge that this issue occurs at a disproportionately higher rate in LGBTQ+ communities,” it said.

“Greater attention and focus needs to be on awareness, recognition and responses to domestic and family violence by our community, first responders, service providers and government.”

The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, said excluding officers from the parade on Saturday would set the organisation’s relationship with the gay and lesbian community backwards.

“We have been participating in Mardi Gras for the last 20 years and haven’t missed a year … it would be a real travesty for this organisation to be excluded [this year],” she told reporters on Monday.

The state’s premier, Chris Minns, backed police marching, saying not doing so would be a step backwards.

“There are many LGBTQI members of the NSW police force who would have battled prejudice within the workforce,” he said. “I think that NSW police marching in the Mardi Gras parade is an important part of bringing the communities together.”

The independent Sydney MP, Alex Greenwich, who is gay, said there was a trust deficit between the state’s LGBTQI community and police, resulting in many crimes going unreported.

While there was a lot of work to be done to build the relationship, Greenwich did not believe officers should be excluded from the march.

“I want the NSW police force to stand with the LGBTQI community every day of the year and that includes during the Mardi Gras parade,” he told ABC Radio.

“I want to see them march and I want to see them work with us … they understand the task ahead, they understand the hurt and the pain in the community and they are wanting to take steps to address that.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian police and policing
  • Sydney
  • New South Wales
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Israel is deliberately starving Palestinians, UN rights expert says

Israel is deliberately starving Palestinians, UN rights expert says

Exclusive: UN special rapporteur on the right to food Michael Fakhri says denial of food is war crime and constitutes ‘a situation of genocide’

Israel is intentionally starving Palestinians and should be held accountable for war crimes – and genocide, according to the UN’s leading expert on the right to food.

Hunger and severe malnutrition are widespread in the Gaza Strip, where about 2.2 million Palestinians are facing severe shortages resulting from Israel destroying food supplies and severely restricting the flow of food, medicines and other humanitarian supplies. Aid trucks and Palestinians waiting for humanitarian relief have come under Israeli fire.

“There is no reason to intentionally block the passage of humanitarian aid or intentionally obliterate small-scale fishing vessels, greenhouses and orchards in Gaza – other than to deny people access to food,” said Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.

“Intentionally depriving people of food is clearly a war crime. Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian. In my view as a UN human rights expert, this is now a situation of genocide. This means the State of Israel in its entirety is culpable and should be held accountable – not just individuals or this government, or that person.”

In every famine – whether its human-made or climate-driven – children and infants, pregnant women and the elderly are the most vulnerable to malnutrition, disease and premature death.

Nutrition screenings at health centers and shelters in January found almost 16% of children under the age of two – the equivalent of one in six infants – were acutely malnourished or wasting in northern Gaza, where 300,000 people are trapped with virtually no food aid being allowed in by Israel. Of these, almost 3% are suffering from severe wasting, at high risk of medical complications or death without urgent help, according to a recent UN report. Reports have emerged of parents feeding their children animal feed in hope of keeping them alive.

In Rafah in the south, where Israel is currently focusing military attacks, 5% of children under two years were acutely malnourished. Wasting was not a major concern in Gaza before the conflict when 0.8% of children under the age of five were acutely malnourished.

The screenings took place in January, and the situation is likely to be even worse today, warned Unicef – which has been denied access the north despite daily requests since 1 January.

“The speed of malnourishment of young children is also astounding. The bombing and people being killed directly is brutal, but this starvation – and the wasting and stunting of children – is torturous and vile. It will have a long-term impact on the population physically, cognitively and morally … All things indicate that this has been intentional,” said Fakhri, a law professor at the University of Oregon.

Intentionally starving civilians by “depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies” is a war crime, according to the Rome statute of the international criminal court. Indispensable objects include food, water and shelter – which Israel is systematically denying Palestinians. Starvation is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute. It was also recognized as a war crime and general violation of international law by the UN security council in 2018.

Across Gaza, 95% of households are restricting meals and portion size, with adults going without to feed small children. Yet the little food people have lacks essential nutrients needed for humans to grow and thrive physically and cognitively.

On average, the households surveyed had less than one litre of safe water per person per day. At least 90% of children under five are affected by one or more infectious disease.

“Hunger and disease are a deadly combination,” said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies programme.

The speed of the malnutrition crisis speaks to the fact that even before this war, half of Gazans were food insecure and almost 80% relied on humanitarian aid due to the 16-year blockade.

A 2019 study on small-scale agriculture in the Palestinian Territories found that “the Israeli occupation is the most important single driver of food and nutrition insecurity.

“It was already a very fragile situation due to Israel’s chokehold on what goes in and out of Gaza. So when the war started, Israel was very easily able to make everyone go hungry because they had most people on the brink.

“We have never seen a civilian population made to go so hungry so quickly and so completely, that is the consensus among starvation experts,” said Fakhri. “Israel is not just targeting civilians, it is trying to damn the future of the Palestinian people by harming their children.”

The catastrophic situation could still get worse. In late January more than a dozen countries including the US, UK, Germany, Australia and Canada suspended funds to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Financial aid was suspended immediately after Israel made unsubstantiated allegations against 12 UNRWA employees having links to Hamas – on the same day the international court of justice (ICJ) made its interim ruling ordering Israel to take all possible measures to prevent genocidal acts, and to take immediate steps to ensure the provision of basic services and humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.

UNRWA, which has about 30,000 employees, provides emergency food, healthcare, education and other basic services for almost 6 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and East Jerusalem. On Friday, UNWRA said it could no longer function in north Gaza, where food was last delivered five weeks ago.

“Ending funding almost instantaneously based on unsubstantiated claims against a small number of people has no other purpose other than collective punishment of all Palestinians in multiple countries. The countries that withdrew this lifeline are undoubtedly complicit in the starvation of Palestinians,” Fakhri said.

On Monday, Amnesty International said Israel had failed to take “even the bare minimum steps” to comply with the ICJ ruling to ensure sufficient life-saving goods and services reaching a population at risk of genocide and on the brink of famine.

The Israeli government argues that its war is against Hamas and a justified response to the unprecedented cross-border attack on 7 October, which left more than 1,100 people dead. Since then, almost 30,000 Gazans have been killed by Israeli attacks, according to the Palestinian health ministry. A further 70,000 have been injured, and thousands more are missing and presumed dead. An estimated 134 Israelis are still being held hostage by Hamas.

Israel has for years targeted Palestinian food and water sources.

Israel has made foraging for native wild herbs like za’atar (thyme), ‘akkoub (gundelia), and miramiyyeh (sage) a criminal offense punishable by fines and up to three years’ imprisonment. Palestinians fishers have for years been shot at, arrested and sabotaged by Israeli forces – in violation of the 1995 Oslo accords permitting them fishing access up to 20 nautical miles.

And the current violence – against Palestinians and their food and water supplies – extends to the occupied West Bank.

After the 7 October attack, 24,000 acres of olives were left unharvested in the West Bank after Israel largely prevented farmers from accessing their orchards, resulting in the loss of 1,200 metric tons or $10m of olive oil – a key Palestinian export and powerful symbol for Palestinian identity.

“The destruction of olive trees isn’t just an issue of food or commerce, it’s at the core of what it means to be Palestinian and their relationship to the land, just as the sea is central to what it means to be from Gaza,” Fakhri said.

The Israeli government did not respond to requests for comment about the comments from Fakhri, the UN rights expert.

Fakhri added: “Israel will claim there are exceptions to war crimes. But there is no exception to genocide and there’s no argument as to why Israel is destroying civilian infrastructure, the food system, humanitarian workers, and allowing this degree of malnutrition and hunger … the charge of genocide holds a whole state accountable and the remedy of genocide is the issue of self-determination of the Palestinian people.

“The path forward must not just be ending the war but actually peace.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Israel-Gaza war
  • Palestinian territories
  • Israel
  • Middle East and north Africa
  • United Nations
  • Food security
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

RussiaHuman rights campaigner sentenced to jail for denouncing war

Russian human rights campaigner sentenced to jail for denouncing war

Oleg Orlov, 70, tells court he has committed no crime and regrets nothing before being sentenced to two and a half years in prison

  • Ukraine war – live updates

One of Russia’s longest-serving and most respected human rights campaigners, Oleg Orlov, has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail for denouncing the war in Ukraine.

Orlov, who is 70, has served for more than two decades as one of the leaders of the Memorial human rights organisation, which won a share of the Nobel peace prize in 2022 a year after being banned in Russia.

He was accused by the Russian prosecutors of “discrediting” the Russian army in an opinion piece in French media in which he wrote that Russian troops were committing “mass murder” in Ukraine and that his country had “slipped back into totalitarianism”.

Orlov has been an outspoken critic of the war in Ukraine and, back home, the war on dissent.

In his closing speech to the court, Orlov maintained that he had committed no crime and regretted nothing, instead castigating the “totalitarian” and “fascist” Russian state.

Speaking to the judge and the prosecutor, Orlov said: “Isn’t it scary to watch what our country, which you probably also love, is turning into? Isn’t it scary that in this absurdity, in this dystopia, maybe not only you and your children will have to live, but also, God forbid, your grandchildren?”

Russia’s supreme court ordered the closure of Memorial in 2021, in what many saw as a watershed moment in Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on independent thought.

Orlov is part of a rare and devoted cadre of anti-war activists who have stayed behind in Russia, continuing to protest, post online, fundraise and organise opposition to Putin’s war against their neighbour.

“I made a decision a long time ago that I want to live and die in Russia, it’s my country,” Orlov previously told the Guardian. “Even though it’s never been so bad.”

He now joins a small group of other prominent dissenters who have been imprisoned for speaking out against the war in Ukraine.

In his closing statement, Orlov also praised Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who died in an Arctic prison this month.

“He was an amazing person, brave and honest, who, in conditions that were made incredibly harsh specifically for him, did not lose optimism and faith in the future of our country. Whatever the specific circumstances of his death might have been, this was a murder,” Orlov said.

Explore more on these topics

  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • Alexei Navalny
  • Human rights
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Morrison says faith gives him ability to be honest on his failings – he just doesn’t have any

Morrison says faith gives him ability to be honest on his failings – he just doesn’t have any

Paul Karp

Former Australian PM says speech ‘not an opportunity to run through a bullet point list’ of achievements, before running through a bullet point list of achievements

  • Scott Morrison says Australians put ‘too much faith’ in politics in farewell speech
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Scott Morrison has been an infrequent contributor to parliamentary debates since he took up a place on the backbench.

Sitting in a corner hidden away from question time TV cameras next to his factional ally Alex Hawke, Australia’s 30th prime minister generally only rises to speak on weighty matters like the death of Queen Elizabeth II or a motion on Israel.

Morrison’s two most significant speeches have been truculent defences of his legacy: a 24-minute denunciation of the “politics of retribution” when parliament censured him for his multiple ministries; and 15 minutes for a statement on indulgence accusing Labor of a “political lynching” over the findings of the robodebt royal commission.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

But as he rose on Tuesday to give his last speech, Morrison was calmer and more gracious, “released from any bitterness”, which he said was “due to [his] faith in Jesus Christ”.

Morrison said it was “not an opportunity to run through a bullet point list” of achievements, but still managed to touch on Aukus, Australia’s triple AAA credit rating, support for Ukraine, lives saved in the pandemic and even a reduction in suicides, which he said was “nothing short of an answer to prayer”.

There was a long list of thank yous, with folksy nicknames for all: “Big Mac” McCormack, “Benny” Morton and “Scotty” Briggs. Morrison’s voice cracked as he thanked police officers “terribly injured” in a car crash in Tasmania while in the line of duty protecting him.

Morrison acknowledged one of his chief persecutors in Bill Shorten, allowing himself a moment of pride by noting “I’ve had my wins and my losses”, a reference to his “miracle” election victory over Shorten in 2019.

In office, Morrison leaned into his daggy suburban dad persona, with references to his rugby league team the Cronulla Sharks far more frequent than his faith.

Scomo was on show again on Tuesday, as Morrison fulfilled a request from his daughters Abbey and Lily to pepper his speech with Taylor Swift references.

Brandishing a Taylor Swift friendship bracelet – “by the way – has ‘Scomo’ on it” – Morrison said his opponents “have often made me see Red”.

“In response, I always thought it important to be Fearless and Speak Now. Or forever hold my silence and allow those attacks to become folklore.

“Ever since leaving university in … 1989, this has always been my approach.”

Time will tell if Morrison can make good the promise of no Bad Blood and to Shake It Off in his post-parliamentary life.

Morrison touched on the rise of “strategic competition” with China, which will stand him in good stead as he takes on new challenges in the corporate sector, mainly related to defence, and extends his stint on the international speaker circuit.

He thanked his family, without who he said he would “never have known God and my saviour Jesus Christ”, tearing up at the “emotional stuff” and reflecting that Australians are “not used to seeing that side of me”.

Morrison’s next step after he exits parliament will be spruiking his new book Plans for Your Good: a prime minister’s testimony of God’s faithfulness.

The little glimmers of evangelical Morrison in office when he invited reporters in to his church or said he had been called to do God’s work are now replaced by the high beams, blasting God’s light into the dark corners of Australia’s secular life and the lucrative US market, where they care not at all for another auspol memoir and quite a bit about God’s plan.

There were American inflections in Morrison’s speech: his standard acknowledgment of the defence force (the “providers of our freedom”), his reference to his constituents as “patriots”, and echoes of John F Kennedy in his claim his community thinks of “not what it is owed” to it but “what it can contribute”.

Morrison claimed that the “respect for individual human dignity”, representative democracy and “even market-based capitalism” were derived from Judaeo-Christian theology.

That these are “unique” Judaeo-Christian principles would be news to secular thinkers of the Enlightenment or citizens of ancient Athens, I’m sure.

“We should be careful about diminishing the influence and voice of Judaeo-Christian faith in our western society as doing risks our society drifting into a valueless voice,” he said.

“In that world, there is nothing to stand on, there is nothing to hold on to.”

Morrison addressed “those who perhaps may feel uncomfortable with my Christian references and scripture references”, telling them “I can’t apologise for that”.

He explained through scripture – deliciously, through an apparent misreferenced section – that he is “not ashamed” of his faith.

In reply, Anthony Albanese said he didn’t “doubt that everyone” in Morrison’s government “had good intentions”.

“Not everything was perfect [but] today’s not a day to dwell on that.”

It’s a good thing it wasn’t.

Aside from one passing reference by Morrison to the fact his faith gives him the ability “to both forgive but also to be honest about my own failings and shortcomings” one could easily come away from the hagiography with the conclusion that in Morrison’s view he had no shortcomings at all.

Explore more on these topics

  • Scott Morrison
  • Opinion
  • comment
Share

Reuse this content

Scott Morrison Former PM says Australians put ‘too much faith’ in politics in farewell speech

Former PM Scott Morrison says Australians put ‘too much faith’ in politics in farewell speech

Covid peak-era PM described his constituents as ‘quiet Australians’ who seek ‘the fair go for those who have a go’

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Scott Morrison believes Australians “have put too much faith” in “imperfect” politics and institutions, leading to “disillusion” in society, in a wide-ranging valedictory speech on his retirement from federal parliament.

The former prime minister stood by his government’s legacy on the Covid response, the striking of the Aukus pact and opposition to rising global authoritarianism in China, Russia and Iran, in his final address in politics. Often referencing his faith and his family, who joined him in the House of Representatives, Morrison claimed he would leave the parliament without ill feelings.

“While I left nothing of my contributions on that field, I do believe that, in that arena, will always remain any bitterness, disappointments or offences that have occurred along the way,” Morrison said.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

“I leave this place appreciative and thankful, unburdened by offences, and released from any bitterness that can so often haunt post-political lives. This is due to my faith in Jesus Christ, which gives me the faith to both forgive but also to be honest about my own failings and shortcomings.”

Morrison, the former Liberal leader, made his long-awaited retirement speech on Tuesday, after announcing his intent to leave parliament some weeks ago. Speaking to a full house on the opposition benches in the chamber, as well as a large number of Labor and cross-bench MPs, Morrison praised his home of the Sutherland shire as “God’s country” and a “community of patriots”.

He went on to invoke some of his better-known idioms as prime minister, describing his constituents as “quiet Australians” who seek “the fair go for those who have a go”.

Morrison repeated previous concerns about a “new arc of autocracy” challenging the global rules based order, noting dangers in North Korea, China, Iran and Russia. He claimed the leaders of those nations “prefer power to freedom and care little for the price their own citizens pay to achieve their ends”, and praised his government’s work especially in standing up to “bullying” from Beijing.

Numerous former staff from his prime ministerial office filled the public galleries, while his family sat on VIP benches on the floor of parliament alongside Senate colleagues including Simon Birmingham, Michaelia Cash, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Bridget McKenzie. Morrison praised those who had worked in his office over his 17 years in parliament, choking with emotion as he mentioned two federal police officers who were injured in a car accident as part of his prime ministerial motorcade in Tasmania in April 2022.

“I want to specially mention Travis Ford and Jen McRae, who were terribly injured in the line of duty protecting me in a terrible car accident in Tasmania. I will always be grateful for your sacrifice,” Morrison said, pausing and reaching for a sip of water to compose himself.

“When their colleagues rushed to them at the scene, their first words were, not knowing what had occurred, ‘is the boss OK?’ Thank you.”

Morrison went on to thank key public servants at the core of his government’s most prominent policy challenges: chief medical officers Paul Kelly and Brendan Murphy, and Lt Gen John Frewen, central to the Covid response and vaccine rollout, which he praised as “gold standard”; and the defence secretary, Greg Moriarty, and defence force chief, Angus Campbell, for the Aukus pact.

Sending good wishes to prime minister Anthony Albanese and government minister Bill Shorten, who Morrison lost and won elections against respectively, the former PM conceded: “in this place I’ve had my wins and I’ve had my losses”.

Albanese later applauded Morrison for a “generous and warm” final speech, acknowledging his work leading the Covid response and noting him someone who brought “100% of his energy and determination to the political contest”.

Morrison’s speech went on to repeatedly reference his faith and his church community, which he said he would “not apologise” for. In comments reminiscent of a sermon to Margaret Court’s Pentecostal church soon after the 2022 election loss, where he said he and his fellow worshippers “don’t trust in governments”, Morrison called politics an imperfect pursuit.

“While a noble calling, politics can only take you so far, and government can only do so much. You can say the same thing about the market. You won’t find all the answers there either,” he said in the speech.

“I suspect that much of our disillusion with politics today and our institutions is that we have put too much faith in them. At the end of the day, the state and the market are just run by imperfect people, like all of us. While politics may be an important and necessary place for service, I would also warn against it being a surrogate for finding identity, ultimate meaning and purpose in life. There are far better options than politics.”

Since losing office, Morrison has pursued opportunities on the global lecture circuit at conservative political conferences, and will release a book – titled Plans for Your Good: A Prime Minister’s Testimony of God’s Faithfulness – in May through an American publisher of Christian literature.

Morrison concluded his speech with a promise to “forgive” any disputes from his time in politics, alluding to interventions from former prime ministers after they leave office.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, praised Morrison after his speech, thanking he and his family for their service. Dutton said Morrison had been “humble” in his speech, and that he should be proud especially of the Covid response.

Explore more on these topics

  • Scott Morrison
  • Liberal party
  • Australian politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

ANU scientist wins global prize for ‘dancing his PhD’ about kangaroos

‘Joyful madness’: ANU scientist wins global prize for ‘dancing his PhD’ about kangaroos

Four-minute video features drag queens, twerking, ballerinas, a classical Indian dancer and a bunch of friends from Canberra

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The former Canberra scientist Dr Weliton Menário Costa said it “felt like winning Eurovision” when he learned he had won the global “Dance Your PhD” competition, for his quirky interpretive take on kangaroo behaviour.

His four-minute video titled Kangaroo Time features drag queens, twerking, ballerinas, a classical Indian dancer, and a bunch of friends Costa acquired from his time studying at the Australian National University.

The video collected the top prize awarded annually by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science magazine, and San Francisco-based artificial intelligence company Primer.ai.

The competition encourages scientists to explain complex research to the wider public through dance, music and humour, and attracts dozens of entries from around the world each year.

“It’s super incredible,” Costa told the Guardian on Tuesday. “To win an international science competition, it’s like Eurovision – except we all have PhDs.

“It’s actually a real challenge, communicating research results and making a clear link between science and the performing arts. In Eurovision, you can do anything you want.”

Kangaroo Time narrowly beat an entry from the University of Maine, in which a second-year ecology and environmental science PhD student used the music of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre to convey her research on the invasive browntail moth.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Costa collected more than A$4,000 (US$2,750), winning the overall prize and the social sciences prize; it was the fourth time an Australian entry had won in the competition’s 17-year history.

In 2009, a University of Sydney entry won for a dance about the use of vitamin D to protect against diabetes. Two years later, a University of Western Australia entry won for a video about why orthopaedic implants fail; and the following year, a University of Sydney entry won once again for a work explaining the “evolution of nanostructural architecture in 7000 series aluminium alloys during strengthening by age-hardening and severe plastic deformation”.

Costa based his entry on his four-year PhD study on animal behaviour, in a video Science magazine described as “joyful madness”. The judging panel of scientists, artists and dancers praised Kangaroo Time for its “sense of surprise and delight” and its accessible explanation of the science of marsupial group dynamics.

Using a remote-controlled car, the ANU graduate studied the behavioural differences and complex personalities of a group of more than 300 wild eastern grey kangaroos in Victoria.

He found that like humans, kangaroos’ personalities develop in early life and often mirror the personalities of their parents and siblings; he found they take social cues from the group dynamic, and form social circles like humans too.

His conclusion: “Difference leads to diversity. It exists within any given species, it is just natural.”

The Brazilian-born biologist, who gained a scholarship from ANU in 2017, said he drew on his South American roots and a fascination with Australia’s unique fauna to write, produce and perform in the work.

A queer immigrant from a developing country, Costa said he could relate to how the kangaroos modified their behaviour to conform to the wider group.

“I come from a very humble family, a small town where most of the people are not educated,” he said, of his conservative upbringing. “When I came to Australia I came out to my family … in Kangaroo Time I celebrate diversity in my beautiful Canberra community that [mirrors] kangaroo behaviour.”

Since completing his PhD in Canberra in 2021, Costa, who goes by the name of WELI to his friends, has abandoned his academic science career and moved his home base to Sydney, where he is seeking to establish himself as a singer-songwriter.

Later this year he plans to release his first EP called Yours Academically, Dr WELI.

Explore more on these topics

  • Science
  • Awards and prizes
  • Animals
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

ANU scientist wins global prize for ‘dancing his PhD’ about kangaroos

‘Joyful madness’: ANU scientist wins global prize for ‘dancing his PhD’ about kangaroos

Four-minute video features drag queens, twerking, ballerinas, a classical Indian dancer and a bunch of friends from Canberra

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The former Canberra scientist Dr Weliton Menário Costa said it “felt like winning Eurovision” when he learned he had won the global “Dance Your PhD” competition, for his quirky interpretive take on kangaroo behaviour.

His four-minute video titled Kangaroo Time features drag queens, twerking, ballerinas, a classical Indian dancer, and a bunch of friends Costa acquired from his time studying at the Australian National University.

The video collected the top prize awarded annually by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science magazine, and San Francisco-based artificial intelligence company Primer.ai.

The competition encourages scientists to explain complex research to the wider public through dance, music and humour, and attracts dozens of entries from around the world each year.

“It’s super incredible,” Costa told the Guardian on Tuesday. “To win an international science competition, it’s like Eurovision – except we all have PhDs.

“It’s actually a real challenge, communicating research results and making a clear link between science and the performing arts. In Eurovision, you can do anything you want.”

Kangaroo Time narrowly beat an entry from the University of Maine, in which a second-year ecology and environmental science PhD student used the music of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre to convey her research on the invasive browntail moth.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Costa collected more than A$4,000 (US$2,750), winning the overall prize and the social sciences prize; it was the fourth time an Australian entry had won in the competition’s 17-year history.

In 2009, a University of Sydney entry won for a dance about the use of vitamin D to protect against diabetes. Two years later, a University of Western Australia entry won for a video about why orthopaedic implants fail; and the following year, a University of Sydney entry won once again for a work explaining the “evolution of nanostructural architecture in 7000 series aluminium alloys during strengthening by age-hardening and severe plastic deformation”.

Costa based his entry on his four-year PhD study on animal behaviour, in a video Science magazine described as “joyful madness”. The judging panel of scientists, artists and dancers praised Kangaroo Time for its “sense of surprise and delight” and its accessible explanation of the science of marsupial group dynamics.

Using a remote-controlled car, the ANU graduate studied the behavioural differences and complex personalities of a group of more than 300 wild eastern grey kangaroos in Victoria.

He found that like humans, kangaroos’ personalities develop in early life and often mirror the personalities of their parents and siblings; he found they take social cues from the group dynamic, and form social circles like humans too.

His conclusion: “Difference leads to diversity. It exists within any given species, it is just natural.”

The Brazilian-born biologist, who gained a scholarship from ANU in 2017, said he drew on his South American roots and a fascination with Australia’s unique fauna to write, produce and perform in the work.

A queer immigrant from a developing country, Costa said he could relate to how the kangaroos modified their behaviour to conform to the wider group.

“I come from a very humble family, a small town where most of the people are not educated,” he said, of his conservative upbringing. “When I came to Australia I came out to my family … in Kangaroo Time I celebrate diversity in my beautiful Canberra community that [mirrors] kangaroo behaviour.”

Since completing his PhD in Canberra in 2021, Costa, who goes by the name of WELI to his friends, has abandoned his academic science career and moved his home base to Sydney, where he is seeking to establish himself as a singer-songwriter.

Later this year he plans to release his first EP called Yours Academically, Dr WELI.

Explore more on these topics

  • Science
  • Awards and prizes
  • Animals
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

British rower found dead on boat while attempting charity challenge

British rower found dead on boat while attempting Atlantic charity challenge

Body of Michael Holt, who had been rowing solo between Gran Canaria and Barbados, found by fishing vessel crew

A British man has died while attempting to row between Gran Canaria and Barbados on a solo Atlantic Ocean charity challenge.

The family of Michael Holt, 54, who lived in Wirral, announced his death on his Facebook page.

Holt, who had type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes, set off on his nearly 3,000-mile challenge on 27 January, expecting it to take between 40 and 110 days.

It has now emerged that Holt became ill and died on his boat. His body was found by the crew of a fishing vessel which had sailed to his aid.

Holt’s brother, David, said on Facebook: “We have been working tirelessly to get help to Michael over the past four days but have found it incredibly difficult to do so. Last night the fishing vessel Noruego accepted a tasking from Cape Verde Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and made directly for Michael’s coordinates.

“Very sadly, upon arrival, Michael was found dead inside his cabin.

“Of course this was not the ultimate conclusion we were looking for, but I am somewhat comforted knowing he died doing something he absolutely wanted to do with a passion and managed to row in excess of 700 miles in the process. An achievement in itself.

“This is a huge shock to myself, his wife Lynne & daughter Scarlett and my parents, not to mention wider family and friends. Many thanks for the kind words & wishes that you have already sent us during the past few days. They mean a great deal to all the family.”

Holt was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 28. After a severe low blood sugar event in 2015 he needed reconstructive surgery on his shoulders with, he said, “a titanium fitting in my right arm and approximately 20 titanium pins and a plate being fitted in my left side. I have no recollection of any of the event taking place.”

He billed his challenge as “1 Diabetic Rower, 2 Reconstructed Shoulders, 3 Thousand Miles of Ocean”.

Holt was raising money for Mind Cymru and Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services, which said it was sending love to his family and friends.

Holt, from Porthmadog in north Wales, had been travelling alone on his boat, named Mynadd. He had faced challenges including a 3 metre shark having “a party” with his rudder.

Before a search and rescue operation was launched he was trying to make his own way to Cape Verde after becoming ill.

Explore more on these topics

  • UK news
  • Rowing
  • Diabetes
  • Wales
  • England
  • Merseyside
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • Bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies found at Bungonia four days after serving officer charged with murder
  • Blood, a hire van and a remote property: a timeline of the search for Jesse Baird and Luke Davies
  • NSW police commissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response to alleged double murder
  • Morrison says faith gives him ability to be honest on his failings – he just doesn’t have any Paul Karp
  • The latest poll results are a wake-up call for anyone ready to declare Peter Dutton politically obsolete Peter Lewis

Doctor who incorrectly diagnosed Aboriginal man with drug-related illness said it was ‘cognitive bias’, inquest hears

Doctor who incorrectly diagnosed Aboriginal man with drug-related illness said it was ‘cognitive bias’, inquest hears

Ricky Hampson Jr was diagnosed with cannaboid hyperemesis syndrome at Dubbo base hospital, shortly before he died from perforated stomach ulcers

A doctor who incorrectly diagnosed an Aboriginal man with a condition related to illicit drug use has said it was “just pattern recognition,” an inquest has heard.

Ricky Hampson Jr, known and referred to as “Dougie” throughout the inquest, died on 16 August 2021, less than 24 hours after leaving Dubbo base hospital, after being “erroneously” diagnosed with a drug-related illness.

The treating doctor, who cannot be named, told Simeon Beckett SC, the counsel assisting deputy state coroner Erin Kennedy at an inquest at Dubbo local court on Tuesday, that his first impression of Dougie, who was “agitated and writhing in pain,” led him to assume the Kamilaroi-Dunghutti man was suffering from cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS).

“There is a lot of marijuana use in the community,” the doctor said. “It’s just pattern recognition.”

The doctor told the inquest he arrived at the diagnosis before speaking to Dougie.

“You make a decision, you make an impression, and you just hang to it,” he said. “That’s what the basis of cognitive bias [is].”

The doctor said his cognitive bias was due to the 36-year-old’s clinical symptoms, not his Aboriginality. He said he did not recall asking Dougie if he was Aboriginal, but acknowledged there were Aboriginal patients presenting to the hospital with the “tsunami of symptoms” that matched CHS.

Symptoms for CHS include significant nausea and vomiting, or hyperemesis. While Dougie did not present with those symptoms, the treating doctor concluded there had been vomiting by looking at blood results. He told the court that conclusion was wrong.

“The crucial mistake that was made here is that there was no nausea or vomiting?” Beckett asked.

“Correct,” the treating doctor said. “It is a matter of deep regret.”

An autopsy concluded Dougie’s death was caused by perforated stomach ulcers.

The inquest also heard from a junior doctor working on shift when Dougie was admitted, who said she hadn’t encountered the diagnosis of CHS before working in Dubbo.

Both doctors told the inquest no referrals to scans or imaging, which could have shown the perforated ulcers.

The junior doctor said “unless it’s for something very obvious like [a] broken arm”, requests for imaging “normally needs discussion with senior [doctors]”.

“It was not recommended to me at that stage,” she said.

The treating doctor said if he had not diagnosed Dougie with CHS, the father-of-eight would have likely been referred for further investigations.

The inquest continues and is scheduled to run for two weeks.

  • For information and support in Australia call 13YARN on 13 92 76 for a crisis support line for Indigenous Australians; or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978 and Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. International helplines can be found at befrienders.org

Explore more on these topics

  • Indigenous Australians
  • The rural network
  • New South Wales
  • Health
  • Rural Australia
Share

Reuse this content

Ben Roberts-Smith agreed to help police officer find a job outside force, Kumanjayi Walker inquest told

Ben Roberts-Smith agreed to help Zachary Rolfe find a job outside police force, Kumanjayi Walker inquest told

Inquest hears Rolfe told former soldier he wanted to leave police force to find ‘wild work’

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Ben Roberts-Smith agreed to provide overseas private security contacts to Zachary Rolfe after the then Northern Territory police officer said he wanted to leave the force to find “wild work” and “dangerous shit”, a court has heard.

Rolfe shot Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker three times while trying to arrest him on 9 November 2019 in the remote community of Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs. Walker, 19, stabbed Rolfe with a pair of scissors shortly before he was shot by the then constable three times. Rolfe was found not guilty in March 2022 of charges of murder and manslaughter relating to Walker’s death.

Rolfe is giving evidence in Alice Springs this week as part of the inquest into Walker’s death.

In a text message exchange in early 2019, Rolfe contacted Roberts-Smith for help finding work outside the force.

“Just going to try and find the most wild work around the world I guess,” Rolfe said. “I know it sounds dumb to some people but I just want some dangerous shit.”

He also told Roberts-Smith that while policing was good it wasn’t going anywhere, and he expected to be overlooked for a role with the tactical response group in favour of “girls” because of “the new diverse world”.

Roberts-Smith replied he was happy to help, and that he had contacts he could provide in Afghanistan, Syria and Africa involved in private security.

Guardian Australia has previously reported that Rolfe considered Roberts-Smith to be a mentor, and that the pair met up last year in Bali.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Rolfe was asked about the text messages as part of a series of questions about his state of mind in early 2019, only months before Walker was shot.

Rolfe agreed with Peggy Dwyer SC that he was angry that his text messages were being considered as part of the inquest. But he said he had reflected on their content, which he agreed displayed multiple instances of racism.

“I should have done better, and there are definitely words and themes that I should not have used at all, and I should have done better in some circumstances,” he said.

“I feel a sense of shame and regret.”

Rolfe also told the court he had a short fuse and was miserable in the force in the lead-up to the shooting, but said he had been good at “compartmentalising” in a way that did not impact his work.

In the year before the shooting, Rolfe had texted colleagues, friends and family, including his mother, about his concerns with the job, and was involved in several incidents with Aboriginal men and youths that had resulted in reports being made about his use of force, the inquest heard.

Rolfe also agreed he broke rules in the force regarding the use of body-worn cameras, including sharing footage taken from them improperly, the inquest heard.

In a text to his mother, Deborah Rolfe, Rolfe said he was so concerned about his “short fuse” that he had stopped going out drinking, in case someone antagonised him and he went too far.

Rolfe again expressed contrition for some of the language he used in text messages and his behaviour in sharing body-worn camera footage of him pushing over two Aboriginal men who were trying to fight each other while heavily intoxicated, the inquest heard.

Among the text messages he was asked about was an exchange he had with a fellow officer in which they discussed the fact he was known for “towelling up locals”.

Rolfe told the inquest that he was “talking shit” and venting in a professional capacity, something he considered healthy so that officers did not allow their feelings to affect their work.

He denied it exhibited the development of a bad attitude towards Aboriginal people.

The hearing was again punctuated by moments of frustration between the parties.

At one point, Rolfe exclaimed, “Whoa, let’s fucking figure this out, yeah?”, when Dwyer mentioned the name of a civilian who had exchanged texts with him.

There had been an understanding in the court that the identities of civilians who had messaged Rolfe, with some possible exceptions, would not be named.

Rolfe later apologised, explaining he had been concerned that people associated with him may be subjected to threats or violence, as he had been outside court but also since the shooting of Walker.

Lawyers for Rolfe objected on about 20 occasions to Dwyer’s questioning.

“It’s not a royal commission into Mr Rolfe, it’s an inquiry into a death,” Michael Abbott KC, for Rolfe, said.

“I have found nothing discourteous in the way he’s been treated and the manner of the examination,” the coroner, Elisabeth Armitage, responded.

Earlier on Tuesday, Abbott said police should arrest the Aboriginal people who threatened and abused his client outside court the previous day.

Abbott said it was unacceptable for Rolfe, his lawyers and supporters to be intimidated as he left court and tried to get into a taxi.

Abbott told the hearing that a group of “Aborigines” had shouted insults at Rolfe and one tried to strike him with a shoe.

He told the inquest that Northern Territory police should arrest those responsible and urged Armitage to ensure Rolfe’s security.

“He is absolutely entitled to feel safe leaving court,” Armitage said.

Dwyer said she would also help with any concerns Rolfe and his lawyers had. Dwyer told the inquest that she, her legal team and NT police cared about Rolfe’s welfare while he appeared as a witness.

Guardian Australia witnessed Monday’s incident, which occurred near the Yapa/Warlpiri camp opposite the court. Community members have gathered at the camp throughout the inquest and adorned it with signs, including some reading “Justice for Walker”.

Footage of the incident was captured by multiple media outlets, which Abbott said should be provided to police.

The hearing continues.

Explore more on these topics

  • Northern Territory
  • Australian police and policing
  • Indigenous Australians
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Ben Roberts-Smith agreed to help police officer find a job outside force, Kumanjayi Walker inquest told

Ben Roberts-Smith agreed to help Zachary Rolfe find a job outside police force, Kumanjayi Walker inquest told

Inquest hears Rolfe told former soldier he wanted to leave police force to find ‘wild work’

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Ben Roberts-Smith agreed to provide overseas private security contacts to Zachary Rolfe after the then Northern Territory police officer said he wanted to leave the force to find “wild work” and “dangerous shit”, a court has heard.

Rolfe shot Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker three times while trying to arrest him on 9 November 2019 in the remote community of Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs. Walker, 19, stabbed Rolfe with a pair of scissors shortly before he was shot by the then constable three times. Rolfe was found not guilty in March 2022 of charges of murder and manslaughter relating to Walker’s death.

Rolfe is giving evidence in Alice Springs this week as part of the inquest into Walker’s death.

In a text message exchange in early 2019, Rolfe contacted Roberts-Smith for help finding work outside the force.

“Just going to try and find the most wild work around the world I guess,” Rolfe said. “I know it sounds dumb to some people but I just want some dangerous shit.”

He also told Roberts-Smith that while policing was good it wasn’t going anywhere, and he expected to be overlooked for a role with the tactical response group in favour of “girls” because of “the new diverse world”.

Roberts-Smith replied he was happy to help, and that he had contacts he could provide in Afghanistan, Syria and Africa involved in private security.

Guardian Australia has previously reported that Rolfe considered Roberts-Smith to be a mentor, and that the pair met up last year in Bali.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Rolfe was asked about the text messages as part of a series of questions about his state of mind in early 2019, only months before Walker was shot.

Rolfe agreed with Peggy Dwyer SC that he was angry that his text messages were being considered as part of the inquest. But he said he had reflected on their content, which he agreed displayed multiple instances of racism.

“I should have done better, and there are definitely words and themes that I should not have used at all, and I should have done better in some circumstances,” he said.

“I feel a sense of shame and regret.”

Rolfe also told the court he had a short fuse and was miserable in the force in the lead-up to the shooting, but said he had been good at “compartmentalising” in a way that did not impact his work.

In the year before the shooting, Rolfe had texted colleagues, friends and family, including his mother, about his concerns with the job, and was involved in several incidents with Aboriginal men and youths that had resulted in reports being made about his use of force, the inquest heard.

Rolfe also agreed he broke rules in the force regarding the use of body-worn cameras, including sharing footage taken from them improperly, the inquest heard.

In a text to his mother, Deborah Rolfe, Rolfe said he was so concerned about his “short fuse” that he had stopped going out drinking, in case someone antagonised him and he went too far.

Rolfe again expressed contrition for some of the language he used in text messages and his behaviour in sharing body-worn camera footage of him pushing over two Aboriginal men who were trying to fight each other while heavily intoxicated, the inquest heard.

Among the text messages he was asked about was an exchange he had with a fellow officer in which they discussed the fact he was known for “towelling up locals”.

Rolfe told the inquest that he was “talking shit” and venting in a professional capacity, something he considered healthy so that officers did not allow their feelings to affect their work.

He denied it exhibited the development of a bad attitude towards Aboriginal people.

The hearing was again punctuated by moments of frustration between the parties.

At one point, Rolfe exclaimed, “Whoa, let’s fucking figure this out, yeah?”, when Dwyer mentioned the name of a civilian who had exchanged texts with him.

There had been an understanding in the court that the identities of civilians who had messaged Rolfe, with some possible exceptions, would not be named.

Rolfe later apologised, explaining he had been concerned that people associated with him may be subjected to threats or violence, as he had been outside court but also since the shooting of Walker.

Lawyers for Rolfe objected on about 20 occasions to Dwyer’s questioning.

“It’s not a royal commission into Mr Rolfe, it’s an inquiry into a death,” Michael Abbott KC, for Rolfe, said.

“I have found nothing discourteous in the way he’s been treated and the manner of the examination,” the coroner, Elisabeth Armitage, responded.

Earlier on Tuesday, Abbott said police should arrest the Aboriginal people who threatened and abused his client outside court the previous day.

Abbott said it was unacceptable for Rolfe, his lawyers and supporters to be intimidated as he left court and tried to get into a taxi.

Abbott told the hearing that a group of “Aborigines” had shouted insults at Rolfe and one tried to strike him with a shoe.

He told the inquest that Northern Territory police should arrest those responsible and urged Armitage to ensure Rolfe’s security.

“He is absolutely entitled to feel safe leaving court,” Armitage said.

Dwyer said she would also help with any concerns Rolfe and his lawyers had. Dwyer told the inquest that she, her legal team and NT police cared about Rolfe’s welfare while he appeared as a witness.

Guardian Australia witnessed Monday’s incident, which occurred near the Yapa/Warlpiri camp opposite the court. Community members have gathered at the camp throughout the inquest and adorned it with signs, including some reading “Justice for Walker”.

Footage of the incident was captured by multiple media outlets, which Abbott said should be provided to police.

The hearing continues.

Explore more on these topics

  • Northern Territory
  • Australian police and policing
  • Indigenous Australians
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Search for missing Ballarat woman postponed due to fire danger

Search for missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy postponed due to fire danger

Volunteer-led group cancels Saturday’s search as 30,000 Victorians told to evacuate amid bushfire warnings

A volunteer-led ground search for missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy has been postponed due to a catastrophic fire danger rating for a nearby region.

Emergency authorities fear Wednesday could be the state’s worst fire day in four years, with more than 30,000 Victorians urged to leave their homes overnight or by the morning.

On Saturday, hundreds of Ballarat residents and visitors joined a large-scale search for Murphy, who vanished more than three weeks ago.

In a statement, volunteer group Ground Crew – which organised Saturday’s search – said this weekend’s search would be cancelled due to the fire warnings.

“We don’t want to put more strain on the community or the current SES and CFA volunteers who are already working tirelessly,” the group said. “Safety is paramount for everyone.”

Tori Baxter, a Ground Crew organiser, told Guardian Australia the community wanted to ensure emergency resources were directed towards the fires.

“We felt it was better for everyone’s safety and wellbeing if we didn’t go ahead,” she said.

Baxter said the community felt reassured when Victoria police announced a renewed ground search on Friday.

“There was a sense of hope that police hadn’t given up,” she said.

Police on Friday revealed they suspected “one or more parties” were involved in the disappearance of Murphy, saying it was “very doubtful” she was still alive.

Det Acting Supt Mark Hatt said there was nothing to indicate that Murphy left the area of her own accord and ruled out a medical incident.

Mobile phone data provided a new lead in the search for Murphy, with detectives returning on Friday to a previously examined area in the Mount Clear area – about 7km south of her home – for a targeted hunt for clues.

The 51-year-old left her home on Eureka Street in Ballarat East on 4 February to go jogging and has not been seen since.

Victoria’s emergency management commissioner, Rick Nugent, on Tuesday said about 30,000 people living between Ballarat and Ararat, in Victoria’s west, would be notified via text message on Tuesday to leave.

He said hot and windy conditions forecast for Wednesday would probably cause an existing bushfire at Bayindeen, north-west of Ballarat, to spread, potentially affecting the towns.

Temperatures are expected to soar to the mid-40s in north-west Victoria, and to the high 30s and low 40s for the rest of the state.

Explore more on these topics

  • Victoria
  • Australian police and policing
  • Volunteering
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

More than 30,000 evacuations urged ahead of Wednesday’s bushfire risk

Victoria fires: more than 30,000 evacuations urged ahead of Wednesday’s bushfire risk

About 100 schools, early childhood facilities to close ahead of what could be worst fire day in Victoria in four years

  • Track fire warnings with Vic Emergency
  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

More than 30,000 Victorians have been urged to leave their homes ahead of what authorities fear could be the worst fire day for the state in four years, with temperatures forecast to reach the mid 40s in some areas.

Authorities on Tuesday urged people living in a potential fire impact zone between Ballarat and Ararat, in Victoria’s west, to leave their homes overnight or by Wednesday morning.

Victoria’s Emergency Management commissioner, Rick Nugent, said about 30,000 people in the area, including in the towns of Amphitheatre, Beaufort, Clunes, Elmhurst, Lexton, Glenbrae and Learmonth, would be notified via text message on Tuesday to leave.

He said hot and windy conditions forecast for Wednesday would probably cause an exisiting bushfire at Bayindeen, north-west of Ballarat, to spread, potentially affecting the towns.

“Fire, spot fires and ember attack are quite possible in these areas; these could result in loss of homes, closure of roads and isolating [of] communities,” Nugent told reporters.

“If you are located in these areas, we ask you to leave.”

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Nugent said the Bayindeen bushfire had burnt through 21,300 hectares, and destroyed six homes and 10 outbuildings since it started on Thursday.

“Its devastating for families to lose all of those possessions but they can be replaced; a life can’t,” he said. “This is all about saving lives.”

Two relief centres have been set up in Ararat and Maryborough for people planning to leave, while residents of aged care communities in the area and all prisoners from the Langi Kal Kal prison have already been evacuated.

Nugent said anyone in bushfire risk areas in the Wimmera region in the state’s west, which now has a catastrophic fire danger rating, or the five other regions where an extreme fire danger is forecast should also consider leaving.

“Essentially, half of our state is in our high fire danger rating tomorrow,” he said.

“If you are in a bushfire risk area, please leave and leave early.”

The Country Fire Authority’s chief officer, Jason Heffernan, said any fire that begins in the Wimmera on Wednesday could become “uncontrolled very quickly”.

“No homes are designed to withstand those catastrophic conditions,” he said.

The premier, Jacinta Allan, said Wednesday would be “incredibly difficult” with temperatures soaring to the mid-40s in north-west Victoria, and to the high 30s and low 40s for the rest of the state. An afternoon cool change was predicted to bring wind gusts of up to 80km/h and dry lightning.

“Tomorrow is likely to be one of the most dangerous fire days Victoria has experienced in recent years,” she said.

About 110 firefighters from New South Wales have been deployed to Ballarat and Halls Gap, alongside thousands of Victorian firefighters and more than 60 aircraft.

Allan said about 100 schools and early childhood facilities will close on Wednesday as a precaution, with the department to notify affected families.

In Melbourne, the mercury is expected to reach 38C on Wednesday, with north to north-easterly winds of up to 50km/h shifting west to south westerly in the late evening.

There is a chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon and evening but authorities do not expect to see a repeat of the destructive storms that left more than half a million homes without power in Victoria.

The energy minister, Lily D’Amrobosio, on Tuesday announced longtime consumer advocate Rosemary Sinclair would chair a review into the response by energy companies to the storm.

Gerard Brody, the former chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre, and Kevin Kehl, former electrical engineer and executive leader at Powerlink Queensland and Energy, are also on the panel, which is expected to deliver an interim report to the minister in June and final report in August 2024.

Explore more on these topics

  • Victoria
  • Wildfires
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Katy Gallagher calls on Dutton to reject Matt Canavan’s comments calling report ‘useless data’

Gender pay gap: Katy Gallagher calls on Dutton to reject Matt Canavan’s comments calling report ‘useless data’

Finance minister’s calls come after Sussan Ley says she rejects backbencher’s comments that Workplace Gender Equality Agency report is ‘annual Andrew Tate recruitment drive’

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Katy Gallagher has called on Peter Dutton to distance himself from comments made by Matt Canavan after the opposition senator called the release of a national gender pay gap report “useless data” that “breeds resentment and division”.

The government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency released the individual gender pay gaps at nearly 5,000 businesses across Australia on Tuesday for the first time.

“The gender pay report is useless data because it does not even correct for basic differences like hours worked,” Canavan posted on X on Tuesday morning.

“The gender pay report is now the annual Andrew Tate recruitment drive. It just breeds resentment and division. Andrew Tate is so popular because governments and corporates push a simplistic, divisive and clearly incorrect gender narrative. This creates a massive vacuum for the likes of Andrew Tate to fill.”

Tate is a former kickboxer and online influencer who has been banned from various social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views and hate speech. He is facing charges in Romania of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women. He claims that prosecutors have no evidence against him and that there is a political conspiracy to silence him.

Gallagher, the finance minister, said on Tuesday that she “completely” rejected Canavan’s assertions. “I would say that this is data that’s been collected for 10 years. It did pass the parliament unanimously with the support of the opposition … This is important data and I hope that [opposition leader] Peter Dutton and [deputy opposition leader] Sussan Ley will distance themselves from those comments as well.”

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Other government frontbenchers took pre-arranged “dixer” questions in question time on Tuesday to call out Canavan’s claims. The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was the first, alongside the workplace minister, Tony Burke, and the infrastructure minister, Catherine King, who represents Gallagher as minister for women in the lower house.

“If those opposite were serious about this issue, they would immediately ask Senator Canavan to withdraw his comments about this data,” King said.

“If they are serious about it, they will rebuke him for the comments that he has made about the release of this data.”

Guardian Australia reached out to Dutton for comment. When asked about Canavan’s comments at a press conference, Ley said she disagreed with his comments.

“I reject all those comments, but again, people are entitled to express their views,” she said of Canavan’s claims.

“We are working hard to demonstrate to the women who didn’t support us at the last election that we are a different party, that we have their needs and aspirations front and centre.”

Ley expressed surprise at being asked several questions about Canavan’s stance.

“I’m not sure why everyone thinks one particular backbencher’s comments need to be clarified,” she said.

“The senator is entitled to express his views.”

WGEA has been collecting gender pay gap data from companies for a decade, but has only been allowed to publicly release the data showing industry-level pay gaps, not the pay gaps at individual employers. This changed after the workplace gender equality amendment (closing the gender pay gap) bill passed last year.

The results published on Tuesday showed that more than 3,000 employers, or 61.6% of the total, had a gender pay gap that favoured men. Meanwhile, 30.1% (1,493 employers) had a neutral gender pay gap – defined as a gap of 5% or lower – and just 412 employers, or 8.3% of the total, had a pay gap that favoured women.

The pay gaps are based on the median remuneration for men and women in each business – that is, the middle value when the pay of male or female employees within a company is listed from lowest to highest – and are mostly to do with male employees being concentrated in higher-paid parts of the business. They do not indicate men being paid more than women for doing the same job.

Despite Canavan’s claims, the data published by WGEA does account for part-time and casual employment, by annualising the salaries of every employee, unlike some other methodologies used for calculating pay gaps.

“There is a substantial problem in this country when you’ve essentially got two-thirds of businesses with a gender pay gap that favours men,” said Gallagher.

“It’s not about shaming or naming, it’s not about saying men should be paid less, it’s about driving change in those organisations so women get a fair crack at opportunity. It’s complex. There’s no silver bullet but this is part of the response.”

Nationally, the gender pay gap sits at 19%; over the course of a year, the median pay for women is $18,461 less than the median pay for men.

“This is a call for action on gender equality,” the WGEA chief executive, Mary Wooldridge, said. “Behind every piece of data, every number, is an employee who is having a better experience as that gender pay gap decreases. We want to achieve a reduction in the gender pay gap, an improvement in the employee experience so everyone at work can be equally and fairly valued and rewarded.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Australian politics
  • Katy Gallagher (Australian politician)
  • Peter Dutton
  • Gender
  • Gender pay gap
  • news
Share

Reuse this content