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from Paul Alister's book, Bombs, Bliss & Baba: the autobiography behind the Hilton Bombing Frame-up.

who bombed the hilton?army man's letterspecial branch letter

16 .The Hilton.Bombing Inquest

Nearly four and a half years after the Hilton Hotel explosion, a Coroner's Inquest was finally held to investigate the deaths of the three bomb victims. The fact that it took this long to hold an inquest seemed very suspicious to us. Normally, a Coroner's Inquest into the cause of death occurs within days, or weeks at most, after the death occurred. I suspected that the inquest was held because of the efforts of Terry Griffiths, one of the policemen injured from the blast. He believed we were innocent and was trying to uncover the real perpetrators. CAADA had also campaigned for years to have an investigation into the bombing. We wanted to clear our names. Even though we weren't charged with the Hilton Bombing we were definitely linked to it through media and police speculation, innuendo and outright slander. The following article is an example.
 
"Members of a religious sect set off the Hilton Hotel bomb blast which killed three people. Sheather said yesterday the police knew who were responsible. He said he was confident those responsible would eventually be charged. 'We knew who did it from the first day after the bombing but lack of evidence to stand up in court had prevented us from making arrests,' Inspector Sheather said. 'We know three and possibly four individuals were involved."
Bill Jenkins, 'Police Know The Hilton Bombers'
The Daily Mirror. 14 February, 1979.
 
This article appeared just before the first trial. We thought cynically the well-timed police announcement was intended to prejudice the jury and I believe it did! Sheather was obviously referring to us, based on Seary's Committal evidence. He claimed to have known since the bomb went off that it was us. However, an article just before our arrest in the Sun-Herald of 11 June, 1978 contradicted him.
 
Security Chiefs believe they know the identity of the terrorists responsible for the Sydney Hilton bomb outrage. They believe the bombers are a young man and a girl, both members of the Ananda Marga religious sect.
 
But then, after all the prejudicial media coverage had done its damage, Superintendent Reg Douglas, head of Security at the Hilton Hotel at the time of the explosion, admitted on Channel Seven's national current affair programme, Willesee At Seven, in February 1980, two years after the bombing:

 

We're in the same position now as we were then. There just isn't any evidence to even question anybody...We've got no evidence to point the finger at anybody. We haven't even got any suspects.

 

These contradictions by the security men only served to confirm our belief, and that of many others, that we were being made scapegoats for the Hilton bombing. Evidence was growing that only security forces had anything to gain from the bombing. The bombing was probably an internal job by the security agencies themselves:
 
In objective analysis, the only group seemingly to have gained by that bombing has been ASIO and the Special Branches, who were under public pressure at the time. In the investigations taking place, has any attempt been made to determine whether or not the bombing was a bungled attempt by any section of the security forces to justify their existence&emdash;that it was intended to scare, but backfired due to the unfortunate involvement of the garbage disposal unit?
Bob Hogg, State Secretary of the Victorian Labour Party,
quoted in the The Australian, 14th March 1978
 

Court Politics

When we heard about the inquest we wanted to attend in order to clear our names and, hopefully, find new evidence by discrediting Seary. CAADA made a large submission for us to attend so as "to take this most appropriate opportunity to clear ourselves once and for all of this unfounded allegation. Only then can our own case be looked at with eyes unprejudiced by the Hilton crime."
 
We and CAADA felt it was essential to clear ourselves of the Hilton outrage in order to get an inquiry into the Cameron conspiracy convictions. Although we had an appeal lodged with the High Court of Australia, we didn't have a lot of hope about it. Still, we had to exhaust this avenue before the Attorney General would look at holding a special inquiry into our case.
 
At first our application to attend the Hilton Coroner's Inquest was opposed by the police on the grounds that there was nothing to link us with the Hilton bombing. The police officer assisting the Coroner, Sgt Mason, made a public statement to this effect. The Coroner, Magistrate Norman Walsh, also stated, "I have been assured that there will not be any evidence led to implicate these people."
 
Some of our supporters thought after hearing Mason and Walsh's statements that we shouldn't attend the inquest because, in effect, we had been cleared of the bombing. We still felt allegations could be made against us. Moreover, it was an opportunity to get at Seary again. By now we had better ammunition to use against him in the witness box. Loaded with this we hoped to get better and new evidence that would further destroy his credibility and strengthen our chances of an inquiry.
 
Unfortunately, it soon became apparent we were not the only ones who wanted our attendance at the Coroner's Hilton Inquiry. Roger Court, QC, replaced Sgt. Mason and in May made a statement to the Coroner:
 "Your Worship, for the record might I say that Anderson, Alister and Dunn certainly appear in my brief, and indeed there is a possibility that a prima facie case might be established against one or more or them."
This sudden about face had ominous signs for us. They were going to use the inquest to try and make a case against us.
 
Court had the same evidence as Mason, which was only Seary's year-old testimonies, which we thought were so inconsistent that they lacked any credibility to be used against us. In addition, CAADA had provided volumes of documents in our favour, including statements by people who had spent time with me in Adelaide at the time of the Hilton explosion. These alibis should have in themselves destroyed Seary's allegations that I was involved in the Hilton bombing. How could I be in two places, 1500 kilometres apart, at the same time?
 
We do not know why Court was allowed to take over from Mason. He had been a prosecutor in the Cameron conspiracy case that lead to our conviction. Later he opposed us again during our appeal. He continually supported the case built around Seary's conspiracy story. His support of Seary's evidence was so consistent it almost seemed he was Seary's lawyer. No one could understand why Court was allowed to represent the government again at the Coroner's Inquest for the Hilton Bombing, which was supposedly a separate affair. In this role, he was meant to be impartial and simply acting as an assistant to the Coroner. Some of the media were equally puzzled and suspicious of the sudden turn around.

 

Let the Show Begin!

We were not only allowed to attend the inquiry, they were requesting our presence. For the next two weeks we went through the normal stress of waking early in the morning, being shipped out in the meat wagons and 'welcomed' home in the evenings with a full strip search. For a while I found it degrading and humiliating but as I got used to it, I didn't care. What little pride and modesty I had left was ripped away.

At the beginning of the inquest, Ananda Marga, CAADA and the Prisoners Action Group staged a demonstration and street theatre called the 'Hilton Bombing Show'. People dressed as spies and clowns and acted out the ridiculous drama. They made a true circus out of a claim made by respected journalist, Evan Whitton, implying that the Coroner would have to have the police jumping through hoops to get around the inconsistencies of the inquest.

As usual there were many journalists and quite a few people from the public attending the Inquest. Michael Adams and Helen Barry represented Ross and I, while John Batten and Robyn Lansdowne appeared for Tim. The inquest began on the 17th of September, 1982 with an opening address by Roger Court inviting members of the public to come forward if they had any information related to the bombing.

Tim wrote the following to describe our first day at the Inquest:

We were taken, handcuffed, out of the van in the basement up into a sort of concrete tomb that passed for a holding cell. Police who'd taken our biros and other items, so that we couldn't use them in the van, now handed them over to police at the cell area, so we couldn't use them in the cell. I made a brief struggle and retained my glass's case, and so won some instant resentment from the cops. Some of them hated to give in on even the smallest things and they remember such insights when making little things harder for you at the next opportunity.

We paced up and down in the bare cell, a few steps long, did some push-ups, tried climbing the walls of the narrow alcove that held toilets: anything to occupy ourselves till court began. Just before 10 am we were taken through an adjoining court, through a carpeted corridor used by the magistrates, and into the packed Coroner's Court. Large cops sat on either side of each of us as we took positions behind the Bar Table and our lawyers. We were reasonably relaxed, as we were not facing any charges, but the courtroom mixture of cops, Special Branch, lawyers, journalists, and the public was tense and expectant... We had our lawyers near us and Roger Court was at the far left of the Bar table, flanked by Geoff Graham for the Police Commissioner, a barrister for one of the Hotel employees, our lawyers and others led by Barry Hall for the Police Association and ex-cop, Terry Griffiths. A jury of six was empanelled.

(Tim Anderson, from his book, Free Alister, Dunn and Anderson)

 

Except for one or two days, I attended all of the inquest. Tim and Ross attended less because of study and disdain, respectively. As far as Ross was concerned the inquest was set up to scapegoat us for the Hilton bombing. One night Ross showed me an article sent by his parents from the prestigious Age newspaper in Melbourne. In effect, the article said the inquest would find a prima facie case against us ,but we would not be charged. This would prevent any further investigation into the Hilton matter while leaving us still to take the blame. The article was written a week before the inquest began.

"The whole thing is like a Moscow show trial," lamented Ross. He couldn't believe how blatant it was that we were going to be made into the scapegoats, despite strong evidence in support of us. Ross also worried that if he went to trial for the Hilton bombing he would be convicted. He and Tim had both been in Sydney on the day of the bombing. Tim had even been inside the building delivering a protest letter from Ananda Marga to the Indian Prime Minister.

Tim did not express any particular concern, but then again he often did not express his feeling to us except when he felt very strongly about something.

The inquiry seemed more like a circus to me and I found it hard to take seriously. While I shared Ross's belief about the outcome, I wasn't concerned. My alibi was solid and there was no possibility of a police verbal at this trial. Seary's word was all there was against us. My only real concern was the worry it would cause my parents if we were committed to trial.

Going into court each day was enjoyable from the point of view that I got to see many of my friends who were sitting in the back row behind us. Occasionally we could speak to them, much to the annoyance of the court guard.

 

Inquest Witnesses

The only witness other than Seary that was significant was Terry Griffiths, one of the police injured in the bomb blast. He gave evidence of his experience of the horrific explosion and the wounds and injuries he received there. Griffiths, who had now left the police force due to his injuries, had done a lot of work personally to find out who had really done the bombing. His evidence painted an entirely new picture of the bombing. Griffiths' story confirmed the theory that was prevalent among many people that the NSW Special Branch had done the bombing themselves in order to justify its continued existence.

Prior to the Hilton bombing the New South Wales Government had been considering disbanding its Special Branch (the state security force), following the disbanding of the similar Special Branch in South Australia. New South Wales Special Branch was rife with accusations of illegal spying on government officials and leftist groups and there was a general sentiment that it had abused its powers by spying on innocent people rather than real terrorists.

Many people theorised that Special Branch had themselves planted the bomb in a rubbish bin on the sidewalk outside the Hilton and had intended to also discover and disarm it in order to prove that they were needed to protect the people from terrorism. The theory went that, due to a miscalculation by Special Branch, innocent garbage men had arrived at the scene to empty the bin earlier than expected and were blown up when the bomb exploded in the garbage compactor of their truck.

Griffith presented evidence for the first time in support of this theory. He claimed that the private secretary of an unnamed Australian senator told Griffith that he had spoken to an ASIO agent who had said an army bomb disposal vehicle was waiting in the city and Special Branch were observing the hotel from nearby as part of a prearranged action.

Griffith also gave evidence suggesting that even the then Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, may have known about the bungled attempt.

He also said that a man called William Reeve-Parker had told him that an army officer had admitted planting the bomb by switching rubbish bins 24 hours earlier. A statutory declaration by Reeve-Parker was shown to the court.

A Special Branch officer told Griffiths that his colleagues were observing the Hilton when the bomb went off and had tried to warn the police who were guarding the hotel on regular duty with a phone call. Griffiths said that he inferred the warning call had been an "attempt to save our lives," but that it also revealed security force involvement in the bombing.

A stunned courtroom, including us, listened in silence as Mr Griffiths gave this startling evidence. Even more startling was Court's reaction to this evidence. Rather than investigate his claims, as one would expect him to do, Court attacked Griffiths' evidence by bringing in Special Branch and police officers to contradict him.

Court said Reeve-Parker "was certainly not on my list" of witnesses to be called, despite Griffiths' assertion that the man could identify the person who placed the bomb. Why Court did not call Reeve-Parker is something only Court can properly answer. Court claimed to be impartial but we thought his reaction to Griffiths' evidence proved there was no genuine concern to find the Hilton bomber(s). He clearly regarded Griffiths' unexpected evidence as an annoyance. The media followed Court's lead and also barely commented on Griffiths' important testimony.

It certainly seemed that the whole inquest had indeed been set up to give credence and support to Seary's evidence that made us the scapegoats for the Hilton bombing,exactly as the Melbourne Age newspaper had predicted a week before the inquest began.

 

Enter Seary

The moment that everyone had been waiting for finally arrived when Seary stepped into the witness box. We wanted him there to extract more vital evidence to hopefully strengthen our case for an inquiry into our convictions. The public and media just wanted to see this mysterious man whom they had heard so much about, mostly in unflattering terms. However, it seemed Court (and Coroner Walsh) wanted him for the purpose of ending the inquest with a prima facie case against us. Court was probably eager to get to Seary to draw attention away from Griffiths comments and on to the three of us.

Court began by supporting Seary's assertion that he'd been involved in a 'military wing' of Ananda Marga. (ie, the Social Service group, which I had been running at the time) Our objections to the phrase 'military wing' were over-ruled by Walsh. Court then repeated the phrase several times. "As if to spite us," Tim sarcastically remarked.

Seary recited his old allegations that Ross and I had confessed to the Hilton bombing. It all seemed a bit 'ho-hum.' Seary had said all this several times before at the Committal Hearing and trials. No charges were ever brought against us then and we didn't see how charges could now be laid considering there was no new evidence.

Seary made his allegations more implausible this time by retreating from his own central allegation by now saying that it all "could have been bravado". In the trials Seary had given detailed accounts of an actual event, but now he said he had doubts about whether we were lying or telling the truth! Perhaps now he knew that I had witnesses to prove I was in Adelaide and wanted to distance himself from his earlier claims. Whatever the reason, it destroyed any little credibility his Hilton allegation may have ever had.

We started to feel even better about our chances when our lawyers did a brilliant cross examination. They showed that in Seary's first 'Hilton' record of interview, he had simply memorised a 1600-word passage from his own journal rather than telling directly what he claimed had happened only a few days earlier. Seary strongly denied this, saying that he wrote and spoke the same way. Our lawyer remarked that the real reason he had had to memorise his testimony was because; "it was not true and learning it by heart was Seary's way of making sure of it."

Magistrate Walsh was obviously displeased when it was further revealed that Seary had been secretly paid $6,000 by the New South Wales police after we were convicted. Walsh then refused further questions on Seary's financial gains. He also would not allow medical and psychiatric records that would have shown his mental disturbance and unreliability.

Seary was a cunning witness. He recited his testimony without a flicker of guilt or uncertainly, even when he told the most outrageous lies. Our lawyer, Tom Molomby, wrote: "Seary is an extraordinary witness...Through this whole episode, he is exposed not only as a liar but a liar of extraordinary daring and skill."

On Wednesday, October 13th, after Seary's cross-examination had been completed, Court recommended to Walsh that the inquest be terminated and the jury discharged. He said the Coroner (Walsh) should find a prima facie case against Ross and I and also that "the evidence possibly discloses" a conspiracy between us and Tim. While we had known that this might happen, particularly because of the media reports and the way the things were going in court, it was still a bit of a shock.

To make it worse, Walsh went totally against normal practice and reneged on an agreement with lawyers to allow submissions before ending the inquest. Rather than hearing recommendations from all the lawyers present he simply adopted Court's recommendations. This was an outrage and our lawyers were angry. Walsh knew about my Adelaide alibi yet did not allow any of this evidence to be heard though it would have directly refuted Seary's accusations. He didn't even make any reference to it. He also should have allowed submissions by our lawyers as a principle of natural justice. In effect we had been condemned by Seary's implausible allegations without the right to reply.

The public were equally shocked and disgusted by the sudden events with one calling out:

"What a farce!" and, "Bring in a lie detector!"

The gallery booed and hissed. Ross being unable to contain his anger and disbelief jumped up when Walsh said, "I terminate the inquest."

Ross said in a nervous and angry voice, "Your Worship, no wait a minute, this man (pointing to Court) has in his possession evidence that can prove that Richard Seary is a liar."

Coroner Walsh ordered, "Sit down."

But Ross ignored him and continued, "Are you telling me that…"

"Please sit down," interrupted Walsh. "You're not doing yourself any good, please sit down."

Undeterred Ross continued, "We had to fight to get into this inquest. I want to speak the truth here today..."

Walsh snapped, "Look, if you don't sit down I'll have you taken out of the room. The inquest has now been terminated."

A woman in the gallery called out, "Bring in the lie detector!"

Ross continued: "I want to speak!"

Coroner Walsh: "Please sit down!"

Ross was still standing, "... something that hasn't been stated in this court before…"

Walsh cut off Ross again and ordered, "Take the prisoner out would you please, Sergeant."

The woman from the gallery yelled out again, "Bring in a lie detector!"

Walsh ordered: "Madam, you can leave the room straight away, please."

Meanwhile Ross was being dragged out of the courtroom still shouting, "I'm prepared to do a lie detector test!"

After the inquest ended Tim and I were taken back to the corridor before we joined Ross and were then taken back to our cells. As I walked through the crowded courtroom, I passed a journalist I knew. She looked very upset by what had happened, so I told her reassuringly, "Don't worry, it will be all right."

Although it was ironic that I was trying to cheer her up, I still had an underlying optimism that in the end everything would be fine, by the grace of God. I thought this accusation would cause a delay, but it would not prevent our eventual release. Delays were an unpleasant feature of our case, which by now I'd come to tolerate.

Ross was very upset and very angry with Court and Walsh. Although it was unlikely we'd be committed to trial, he was afraid that if we were, we would be convicted and put away for a very long time. Our parents and supporters were also upset. There never seemed to be any end to the injustice and persecution we were being put through.

The prison officers showed a lot of contempt towards us after the inquest, as if it proved what they had always suspected, that we really were terrorists.

Up to the end of the inquest many of the officers had given up on the idea of us as terrorists and started to believe we were probably innocent. That all disappeared in one swoop after the inquiry. Again we had to put up with their slander, negativity and victimisation.

 

Lie Detector

Ross took a lie detector test in March 1983. The questions were about the Hilton and Cameron conspiracy charges. Ross answered no to all these allegations. A report on the test stated:

"It is the opinion of the examiner that he was telling the truth to the above listed questions."

In mid '83 the New South Wales Government passed a bill banning the use of lie detectors. This prevented us from using these results. Seary never agreed to a lie detector test. I'm not surprised.

In-Justice

Tim tried in his own way to get justice by sending a complaint against Court to the New South Wales Bar Association. He cited nine breaches of Bar rules in Court's behavior at the inquest, especially claiming that Court should never have agreed to act as Counsel assisting the Coroner when he had been the prosecutor in our previous case.

But nothing came of it except a curt reply from the Bar saying, "The Bar Council has resolved that the complaint be dismissed." No reason was given. In fact, shortly after his complaint, Roger Court was made a judge of the New South Wales District Court.

Twelve years after the inquest the New South Wales Government released to the public documents related to the Hilton bombing. These papers showed that the security forces had withheld documents that would have helped us in our case. Nothing has been done about it. Nor has a Royal Commission ever been held into the unsolved bombing, despite repeated calls from various concerned individuals, politicians and groups.

After the inquest, journalist, lawyer and supporter Tom Molomby wrote:

It is timely to ask-though the media have not done so-what is going on? How is it that an inquest can be terminated, and enormous prejudicial publicity generated against three people on the basis of evidence which the police themselves clearly regard as worthless? It is not surprising that no answer to this has been provided, but it is profoundly disturbing that the Australian media are not interested in the question.

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