The Sydney Hilton bombing occurred on 13 February 1978, when a bomb exploded outside the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, Australia. At the time the hotel was the site of the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting (CHOGRM), a regional off-shoot of the biennial meetings of the heads of government from across the Commonwealth of Nations.
The bomb, planted in a rubbish bin, exploded when the bin was emptied into a garbage truck outside the hotel at 1:40am. It killed two garbage men, Alec Carter and William Favell, and a police officer, Paul Birmistriw, guarding the entrance to the hotel lounge died later. It also injured eleven others. Twelve foreign leaders were staying in the hotel at the time, but none were injured. Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser immediately called out the Australian Army to guard the remainder of the CHOGRM meeting.
Mainstream articles:The Age (Feb 14, 1978) - PM calls in army The Age (Feb 14, 1978) - Day of courage and cowardice Green Left (Feb 3, 1993) - Hilton bombing victim calls for inquiry The Australian (Jun 23, 1998) - Special Branch Spied on 60,000
George Negus Tonight [ABC] (Sept 20, 2004) - Hilton Bombing
CNN (Nov 8, 2005) - Raids recall Sydney Hilton bombing
Sydney Morning Herald (Jan 1, 2009) - Hilton bombing sets off battle of tactics
Director: Daryl Dellora
Producer: Sue Maslin
Released nationally on ABC-TV True Stories 8:30pm 19 February 1995
Distributed by Film Art Doco
Written by Daryl Dellora and Ian Wansbrough
Original Music by David Bridie and John Phillips
Financed by the Australian Film Finance Corporation Limited
© 1994 Film Art Doco Pty Ltd and the Australian Film Finance Corporation Limited
Through a series of stylised re-enactments and studio interviews Conspiracy tells the gripping and dramatic story of the Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing. A huge security operation had been mounted for what was the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting and yet the bombers somehow slipped through the cordon. Was the bomb itself made in a commonwealth government laboratory? Was a bomb disposal unit waiting nearby as part of a pre-arranged plan? Why were the Army bomb sniffer dogs called off just a few days before? Was there a police observation vehicle watching the hotel and did someone from that vehicle make the bomb warning call? Why were almost all of the bomb fragments simply swept up and thrown away? And why was a rubbish bin in a high security area left unchecked and unguarded?
, the author of THE INCREDIBLE EXPLODING MAN - Evan Pederick and the trial of Tim Anderson, tells how Australia's political police killed three people and got away with it for 14 years.)
For Constable Terry Griffiths, the worst thing about the Hilton bombing was that the blast did not render him unconscious. His intelligence recorded it all: the bright orange flash; the sound of glass shattering all down George Street; the flying shrapnel; the cries of the maimed; the grimaces on their faces; the pieces of flesh. Two garbage workers at the back of the council truck were blown apart. One of them, William Favell, was hurled fifty metres through the air. Half a dozen other people were seriously wounded. One, a policeman named Paul Birmistruw, would die ten days later. Terry Griffiths himself was so horribly injured, he can remember being convinced he was going to die. After an operation that barely saved his life, he woke up to find his large bowel hanging out of his body. He stayed that way for two months. Shrapnel had torn a hole in his foot, ripped open his leg, and punctured his body.
Griffiths wasn't even supposed to have worked that night but the NSW Police Department had cancelled all police leave for the CHOGRM conference. Griffiths arrived at the Hilton Hotel sometime after 11PM on 12 February 1978. The shift seemed routine. A few VIP limousines pulled in, dignitaries got out, then disappeared up the escalators into the Hilton Hotel. The only unusual thing was the overflowing rubbish bin outside the hotel. The police joked about how odd it looked to have all this rubbish lying around on the ground outside a luxury Hotel which was hosting such an important gathering of Commonwealth leaders. It was only when he began his own investigation into the Hilton bombing that Terry Griffiths came to realise that the overflowing rubbish bin was no joke.
Two earlier shifts of garbage workers had been prevented from emptying that bin, that was why it was so full. That garbage bin was the only one in Sydney not emptied that weekend. Someone connected with the security operation for the Hilton knew there was a bomb in that bin. For fourteen dogged years, Terry Griffiths has campaigned for a royal commission into the Hilton bombing. In that time he has witnessed an endless procession of cover-up and frame-up by the police. But now Terry Griffiths is closer than he has ever been to his goal. On December 9, NSW parliament unanimously called for a royal commission into the Hilton. The resolution was moved by the shadow Attorney-General, Paul Whelan, and supported by the Attorney-General, Peter Collins, and the Independent, Mr. John Hatton. Emphasising the need for a royal commission, the three men held a joint news conference, at which John Hatton said it was reasonable to suspect that ASIO had planted the bomb. Now only the Federal Attorney-General, Michael Duffy, stands in the way of a royal commission. (2) The morning after the bombing, Superintendent Douglas, the NSW policeman in charge of the operation, was asked why the bin was not searched. He replied "I did not think it was necessary".
He said that NSW police had been sent overseas to train in anti-terrorist tactics, but had not been considered necessary to search the bins. As an ex-NSW police officer, Terry Griffiths finds these comments incredible. The bin with the bomb in it was in one of the most sensitive security areas; it stood only a few metres away from the spot where Malcolm Fraser officially welcomed every head of state. On the 18 November 1972 NSW police permanent circular number 135 was released. The subject: Instruction for the Guidance of Police Dealing with Bomb Threats and the Discovery of Explosives or Suspected Explosive Devices. This outlined official NSW police procedure for dealing with bombs. Not only does this give prominence to searching rubbish bins, but on page 3 figure two, centre left, there is a conspicuous drawing of a rubbish bin. If NSW police received overseas training in anti-terrorist tactics, it certainly wasn't from the New York Police Department. A journalist called Graham Beaton interviewed Inspector Howe of New York's bomb squad on the 14 February 1979 in the Daily Mirror. The inspector said: "Bins would be at the top of our search list. And we would send in the dogs. If they didn't have dogs in Sydney, I feel rather sorry for them. If we had twelve dignitaries staying in one Hotel in New York, we would organise a sweep. First the sniffer dogs, Alsatians trained to detect the slightest trace of dynamite, gunpowder, etc. would go through the area. Then they would go through it again. Rubbish bins would be top of our list. In would go our lookout squads. They would be posted around the building so no one without a special pass could get in. They would be posted round the hotel Q in the lift well, on top of the building, and at every door. We would also have a lookout outside perhaps looking from across the road. Then we would send in the dogs again. They're wonderful in this kind of work. We wouldn't be without them."
Inspector Howe's comments about the importance of sniffer dog teams underlines another concern about the security operation outside the Hilton Hotel. Terry Griffiths has a letter from the ex-corporal in charge of the Dog wing, Keith Burley. In that letter Keith Burley states:
"Approximately two weeks prior to the Hilton, the operational squad (that is the sniffer dog team) was placed on standby for the CHOGRM conference. We were told specifically to train the dogs on such things as letter bombs and parcel bombs. . . . We trained specifically for this task for two weeks. On the Thursday before the Hilton Bombing we received information at the kennels saying we were no longer required. This we thought was unusual to say the least. We attempted to find out why, but were unable to determine where the cancellation came from.
"Those dogs were so finely trained," says Terry Griffiths, "they could have found a 303 shell a foot under the ground. From the point of view of a victim, the fact that they were taken away is an absolute scandal. Because those dogs were the only ones in Australia we had that could have detected explosive material, and they were withdrawn.
"I say, as a victim, that those dogs being withdrawn was the reason people were killed and injured. Had those dogs been allowed to carry out the work they had been trained for, the bomb would have been found."
The bin that exploded not searched. It was the only bin in Sydney that was not emptied that weekend. The sniffer dog teams were called off. The most charitable thing that could be said about the security operation outside the Hilton for the CHOGRM conference, was that it was unbelievably incompetent. A more likely explanation is that whoever was in charge of security for the Hilton knew all about the bomb because they ordered it placed there.The Hilton Operation Begins
There has always been a strong suspicion that ASIO were involved in the Hilton Bombing. To understand the reasons for this suspicion it is necessary to understand the crucial significance of the Hilton Bombing in the development of Australia's political police Q ASIO, the State Special Branches and the military intelligence groups.
Throughout the Cold War, the political police in Australia had seen their role as being concerned with the surveillance of subversives. As opposition to the Vietnam War grew, the political police were used extensively against the growing anti-Vietnam movement. In turn, this mass movement saw the political police as a major threat to Australian democracy. The Campaign against Political Police was born out of the Vietnam Moratorium movement.
This campaign reached its climax in February 1978 when a series of extraordinary political upheavals confronted Australia's political police with the gravest crisis in their history. At this time, the Hilton Bombing provided the means whereby the Australian political police redefined their role from being anti-subversive to being anti-terrorist.
In November 1977, Don Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, asked Justice White to investigate the nature and extent of security records kept by that state's Special Branch. The release of this report would have catastrophic repercussions for security police throughout Australia. The report demonstrated the extent of political police surveillance of "subversives". More importantly, it showed that this concept of "subversive" was extraordinarily broad. Files were maintained on all ALP candidates and elected members; on all members and activities of the ACTU; on demonstrators and participants in peace movements (even prayer meetings for peace were watched and recorded); and on all members of the South Australian Council for Civil Liberties. Long before the Council was formed, the public utterances of prominent citizens who advocated any form of civil rights and liberties were recorded and indexed. In all, files had been established and built up on a staggering 40,000 people.
According to Justice White, the concept of "subversive" covered everyone with opinions to the left of an arbitrary centre point chosen by someone in Special Branch. Justice White continued: "I have no doubt that the arbitrary centre point was established by Special Branch with the assistance of ASIO."
Another aspect that disturbed Justice White was Special Branch's complete lack of skill in intelligence gathering. They collected gossip and rumours, and after a while this gossip became accepted as fact. Justice White referred to the files as "a mass of records . . . relating to matters, organisations, and persons having no connection with genuine security risks . . . material which I know to be inaccurate, and sometimes scandalously inaccurate, appears in some dossiers."
The South Australian Commissioner of Police, Harold Salisbury, strongly urged that the Government not publish Justice White's report as the effects of publication would be "volcanic", with ramifications that would extend to all state Special Branches, ASIO, and foreign intelligence sources. However, on 17 January 1978, Don Dunstan sacked Police Commissioner, Salisbury for misleading him on the extent of Special Branch files, and published the report.
This event, one month before the Hilton bombing, sent the intelligence community into convulsions. On the same day, Dunstan wrote to Prime Minister Fraser to tell him that South Australian police would no longer act as intermediaries for ASIO. All but two of South Australia's Special Branch were transferred to other units, and those two were retained to help with the destruction of all records that were not to do with genuine security risks. The ramifications of these events were exactly as the sacked Police Commissioner Harold Salisbury had predicted: they shook the secret police in Australia as no other events had. On 20 January , the West Australian opposition called for an Inquiry into its Special Branch, and the next day, the Melbourne Age echoed this concern editorially. In an editorial on 19 January 1978, the Australian commented on the South Australian affair: "It is the size of the surveillance that is disturbing . . . Clearly the latitude given to Special Branch has been immense. It is worthy of a banana republic. It is not worthy of an Australian state."
The issue had assumed such importance that in the week following Salisbury's sacking, The National Times devoted a special issue to the South Australian controversy and the role of the Special Branches in Australian politics. It was called The Political Police - The Extraordinary and Disturbing Behaviour of our Special Branch Police. Federally, ASIO was now embroiled within the burgeoning crisis; there were calls for it to destroy all files no longer relevant to security; and federal cabinet decided to appoint a committee to investigate the relationship between ASIO and the state Special Branches. Strong laws were proposed to curb ASIO's excesses.
The Special Branch controversy widened to include New South Wales, when Don Dunstan detailed an episode that revealed that ASIO files had been given to the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, Peter Coleman. A Sydney journalist claimed that ASIO files on five prominent left-wingers had been made available to him by Coleman in 1971. These files were to be used in a magazine called ' The Analysis ' which was to prepare articles on the basis of information supplied by ASIO to discredit radical individuals, in particular members of the Vietnam Moratorium Committee. One of the files had been prepared by South Australian Special Branch for purely political purposes.
This seemed to be a damming example of the political misuse of intelligence information: Secret Police files were to be used as a party political weapon. It confirmed deeply held left-wing and ALP fears that the secret police were a secret arm of the conservative parties. The Privacy Committee of the NSW parliament began examining the files of NSW's Special Branch on Jan 23. On February 9 (four days before the Hilton Bombing) Premier Neville Wran announced that a judicial inquiry would be held into the links between NSW Special Branch and ASIO, and also into the connection between them and the leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, Peter Coleman. The inquiry was to investigate the allegations that Coleman was involved with a scheme to use ASIO documents to discredit people. It threatened to become a major political scandal. The establishment of this Inquiry was due to be announced on February 14, the day after the Hilton Bombing. It was on this day that the sniffer dog squad was called off.
It seems it was at this stage that the Hilton Operation began. Someone very high up in the security forces decided that the political police could rescue their position with a publicity stunt. A bomb was going to be found in a rubbish bin outside the CHOGRM conference at the Hilton Hotel. It was to be planted Saturday morning before the heads of state arrived. It would be discovered after a warning phone call on Monday morning. The press were to be alerted too. A blaze of pro-political police publicity would follow. All that had to be done was to keep people away from the garbage bin. The Warning Phone Call
The Hilton Operation ran strictly according to plan up until 12.30AM on the Monday morning. Two garbage pick-ups were prevented by the NSW police. Whoever planted the bomb was well aware of the garbage collection times. Another garbage collection was due at 1AM Monday morning. At 12.30AM the warning phone call was made. (Terry Griffiths says another police officer told him the warning phone call was made by a Sergeant in Special Branch who had been observing the scene outside the Hilton in a red torana, a police observation car. The warning phone caller rang the police switchboard and asked to speak to Special Branch. It was 12.30AM Monday morning. Normally, Special Branch would not be there at that hour, though the phone caller seemed to believe they would be. (Indeed, the same person called back an hour later at 1.30Am and again asked to speak to Special Branch.) After the phone rang a few times, the police telephonist transferred the call to the sergeant in charge of the CIB, Cec Streetfield. The Hilton Operation had begun to unravel.
What Streetfield did on being informed of the bomb, is one of the mysteries of the Hilton. What he did not do is notorious: he did not warn the police outside the Hilton over the police radio. Streetfield testified before the Hilton Inquest in 1982. According to Terry Griffiths, he told a pack of lies. According to Streetfield, the phone caller said: "Dere is a bomb in der bin outside der Hilton Hotel." The phone caller then rang the Sydney Morning Herald and told them they might be interested in what was about to happen outside the Hilton Hotel. The Hilton Operation continued to fall apart. The garbage collection truck was running twenty minutes early that night. They arrived outside the Hilton at 12.40AM before the bomb was found. The Hilton Fallout
The blast transformed the Australian political climate in favour of Prime Minister Fraser's beliefs in strong security measures, against the softer "civil liberties" line adopted by Wran and Don Dunstan. The public debate over security matters would be now totally overshadowed by the psychology of terror and terrorist danger. The newspaper headlines, which for the past month had been taken up with the Special Branch issue, were now dominated by the Terrorist Threat. Images of sinister, hooded men in balaclavas - the "terrorists" - stared from newspaper pages. Against a background of bullet holes, they clutched their machine guns tightly. The Hilton Hotel bombing was "a political baptism", the papers declared. Terrorism (the "Cowardly killer that knows no innocents") had "come to Sydney". The Sydney Morning Herald said, "Australia this week had a new and shocking experience. It was our first full taste of Twentieth Century terrorism."
The Herald declared the Hilton Hotel Bombing an "ugly new dimension" in "reckless political violence". The day after the Bombing, the leader of the Country Party in New South Wales, Mr. Punch, called for a widening of the powers of Special Branch. "Terrorism in Australia is now a fact of life" conceded Neville Wran.
For the political police, the newspaper beat-up of the Terrorist Threat was an amazing transformation in their political fortunes. In the aftermath of the bombing both Wran and Dunstan backed away from their decisions to investigate the links between ASIO and Special Branch and retreated from their threats to abolish Special Branch. In both cases, the Bombing was a major factor. Wran announced he would not proceed with the inquiry to investigate the links between ASIO and the leader of the Opposition, Peter Coleman. The Canberra Times reported Malcolm Fraser had pressured Wran to abandon the inquiry "in the light of the bombing". Dunstan decided to maintain his state's Special Branch, claiming that tragedies like the Sydney bombing established the need for a genuine security branch. A damaging chain reaction had been aborted. The attacks on Special Branches were stopped. ASIO stocks, which were at an all time low, before the bombing, rose dramatically.
Three weeks after the bombing, a new bill was tabled that gave ASIO vastly increased powers. ASIO's new powers included the interception of mail, telegrams and telexes; the use of bugging devices; legal break-ins and searches. Disclosure of ASIO agents identities was to become a criminal offence. ASIO's illegal violation of rights were to become legal violations of rights.
In this regard, the Hilton Operation was an unqualified success. But something had gone incredibly wrong. The bomb had exploded when it had been picked up by a garbage truck. Three people had been killed. Public pressure on the police to solve the crime was enormous. The newspapers demanded that the culprits be found. Many were suggesting that the security forces themselves had organised the bombing. Someone needed to be made the patsy. Within a year of the bombing, there were two bombing conspiracy cases in NSW which were widely regarded as frame-ups: the Ananda Marga trio and the Croatian Six. (6)
"There are many questions that have been asked for thirteen and a half years," says Terry Griffiths, "and they have been officially avoided. We would like to find out who was the person who told police to wave the garbage men on. As a policeman and a victim I would like to know why permanent circular 135 of 1972 was not adhered to. Why wasn't the rubbish bin searched? Why wasn't that area Q which was top security Q constantly combed by the security forces? Why were the military Q in particular the Dog Squad Q not where they should have been? Why were they withdrawn?" "It seems that the normal routine anti-terrorist procedures were not followed."
Was the Hilton Bombing the result of a remarkable series of bungles and coincidences? Terry Griffiths believes not. He believes there is a simple explanation for why the Dog Squad were called off; why the bin was not searched; why the garbage trucks were waved away. Security forces involved with the operation knew there was a bomb in the bin. It was going to be discovered just before the garbage collection arrived. That was the purpose of the warning call. ) Terry Griffiths is particularly critical of the 1982 Hilton Inquest and the numerous attempts by the police to accuse members of Ananda Marga for the bombing.
"Det Sgt. Jackson, one of the police involved at that 1982 Hilton Inquest, stated at the recent Anderson trial that the police knew that some of Seary's evidence was false."
Special Branch agent Richard Seary claimed at the Inquest that Ananda Marga members Ross Dunn and Paul Alister had confessed to him they were the Hilton bombers. Sgt. Jackson said it was well-known by the police at the time that Alister was in Adelaide at the time of the bombing and could not have been responsible for putting the bomb in the bin. Yet no one told the coroner who concluded there was a prima facie case against Paul Alister for being the Hilton Bomber. Terry Griffiths believes the conduct of the 1982 Hilton Inquest should also be investigated at a Royal Commission. "I believe there was evidence that that Inquiry was a huge cover-up and the police were part and parcel of that cover-up."
Griffiths is also very critical of claims made this year that another Ananda Marga member was responsible for the Hilton Bombing. The Sixty Minutes programme alarmed him because it appeared to me to be an unofficial ASIO public relations exercise. Years after the Hilton Inquest; after the trial of Tim Anderson and his acquittal; notorious Special Branch informer, Richard Seary and an unnamed ASIO agent called "Ron" alleged a new unnamed Ananda Marga member was the mastermind of the Hilton Bombing. Griffiths points out it has taken these men fourteen years to come forward. "We go from 1979 to 1991 with all those avenues to have those matters aired and for the evidence to be investigated by the court and not one mention of this suspect."
On the use of Seary as a reliable witness, Griffiths was scathing. "I don't think it was correct to put Seary up as a credible witness when it is a matter of public record that he has no credit with the courts in this state. Justice Wood said his evidence was not credible. When a judge says he is not a credible witness, I think it is remiss for anyone to put him forward as a credible witness and I don't think that should be done. The way that programme was put together it seemed like it was a staged reply to the questions that Ted Mack was asking in the Federal Parliament."
"Who are the people who cancelled the dog squad? Why haven't we been able to subpoena key personal like Superintendent Douglas to give evidence at any previous court case. They are the people we should start questioning first. These things have never been brought into evidence. We have had all this stupidity about Ananda Marga, and yet we don't even know what type of explosives were used in the bombing. "
"We have always had somebody who is charged, convicted and then freed - made the patsy for it. Now we have a new patsy for the Hilton Bombing. It doesn't gel with me. In my opinion it was a media event that went wrong, and in my opinion there is more than enough evidence to suggest that members of our own security force were responsible for the bombing."
On the 13 February 1978 at 1.40 am, a bomb exploded outside Sydney's Hilton hotel, killing three men and seriously injuring several others. Commonwealth heads of government were staying at the Hilton hotel at the time of the explosion.
Many government leaders claimed the bomb was meant for them. The media went into a frenzy describing it as the first act of terrorism in Australia. The then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, called out the army and a highly publicised hunt for the bombers began. The New South Wales Special Branch was assigned the task of finding those responsible.
Soon after the bombing a drifter and drug user named Richard Seary offered to help Special Branch find the bomber. He said he thought the Hare Krishna were responsible, however he was told to infiltrate the international meditation and social service group Ananda Marga. The India Prime Minister at the Hilton hotel claimed Ananda Marga tried to kill him with the bombing.
Five months later three members of Ananda Marga, Ross Dunn, Tim Anderson and Paul Alister were in jail charged with conspiracy to blow up the leader of a Neo-Nazi group leader, Robert Cameron. In court Seary also claimed they confessed to doing the Hilton Bombing. Although never charged with the Hilton bombing, they were convicted of the Cameron charge and sentenced to 16 years without parole.
Seven years later they were freed after a special Inquiry found that a serious doubt surrounded their conviction. They were given a full governmental pardon and compensation. Four years later Even Pederick claimed he had done the bombing under the influence of Tim Anderson. Pederick received a life sentence for his guilty plea while Tim Anderson successfully defeated his conviction in the appeals courts. The judges rejected Pederick's evidence as unreliable, contradicting known facts about the case.
Years into Pederick sentence, he expressed doubt about his own guilt, however he was made to serve his sentenced until his release in late 1997 (see "Pederick or Ananda Marga" link).
Many people, included policemen and army men, believe ASIO and Special Branch were the most likely to be responsible for the bombing.No one claimed responsibility for the bombing and the only ones to benefit were the security forces.
Who Bombed the Hilton?
Terry Griffith, one of the policemen injured by the Hilton Hotel bombing, believes ASIO (Australia's national secret service organisation) and the NSW Special Branch did the bombing. The information he has gathered suggests strongly that they arranged for the bomb to be planted and then to find it in front of the Australian and world media. This tactic would have halted strong public demands to close down Special Branch and reduce ASIO's security powers. However, due to an apparent timing mishap, the garbage men arrived to empty the bin before the bomb squad, and it exploded in the garbage truck. The Security Forces then pinned the crime on Ananda Marga to cover their mistake.
At the Hilton bombing inquest Griffith alleged that the private secretary of an unnamed Australian senator told him that he had spoken to an ASIO agent who had said ASIO were involved in the bombing. He said an army bomb disposal vehicle was waiting in the city at the time of the explosion (12.40 am) 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 at the Hilton bombing Coroner's inquest.
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 police switchboard operator's notebook confirmed the fact that a call was received.
Recently I met Keith Burley, the army man in charge of the sniffer dogs during the CHOGM meeting. He felt it most likely that ASIO and Special Branch were behind the bombing. Two weeks before the meeting he was told to get his dogs ready. Then just before it started he received a phone call saying they would not be needed which he said was highly unusual. He was certain that if his dogs had have been allowed to search the area they would have detected the bomb "from 100 yards away!" ASIO would have known this and so it is believed ASIO/Special Branch stopped him in order that they could find the bomb and claim credit. He said he traced the call not to bring the dogs, back to the Prime Minister's security office, which is ASIO! (see "Army Man's Letter" link)
Keith believes the explosion was caused by a high tech plastic bomb, something only people highly trained in explosives could use or have access to. Other bomb experts confirm this. They claim that a small group like Ananda Marga would not have access to such technology or have the skills to use it. Questions unanswered include:
* Who called off the sniffer dogs and why? These dogs were specifically trained to detetect any and all kinds of explosives. There would not have been any explosion had they been allowed to have done their job as originally arranged.
* Who ordered the police on duty outside of the Hilton not to allow the rubbish bin which had the explosives to be emptied by garbage men for three days? (Unfortunately a new police shift was not told this and allowed the garbage men to empty the bin which resulting in the bomb exploding.)
This one bin was the only bin in Sydney not emptied by the garbage men. It stood outside the entrance to the Hilton Hotel for three days, over flowing with rubbish and where world leaders passed each day!
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.
As discussed on the telephone, I am and have been for some time, concerned at the ongoing enquiries into the Hilton bombing affair. More to the point, the fact that maybe not all is being told. I'm not exactly sure what format this type of letter should go, but I think if I tell you what I know to be fact and what I know was said at the time it will suffice.
At the time of the bombing I was a Corporal with the Military wing, at the School of Military Engineering, Casula N.S.W. The role of this unit was to breed and train German Sheperd dogs for sniffing out explosives. At the time we had what was called an operational team. This consisted of myself and my dog plus two other handlers and their dogs. We were on standby 24 hrs a day in case of emergencies involving explosives such as bomb scares. The dogs and handlers were very proficient at their jobs.
Approximately two weeks prior to the Hilton bombing the operational team was placed on standby for the CHOGM Conference. We were told specifically to train the dogs on such things as letter bombs and parcel bombs. This we did by making up these articles using live explosives. We trained specifically for this task for almost two weeks. On the Thursday before the Hilton bombing (Monday) we received information at the kennels saying that we were no longer required. This we thought was very usual to say the least. We attempted to find out why but were unable to determine where the cancellation came from. All I know is that it came through Victoria Barracks in Sydney.
(Note: Keith eventually located the call from the Prime Minister's security office)
Early hours Monday morning we received the news that the bomb had gone off at the Hilton and the operational team was required. I don't think there is any need to describe the sight that was before us upon our arrival in George Street. We spent all day Monday searching areas around George Street, the entrance, the garbage bins, the downstairs area around the car park, etc. We went home that night and returned on Tuesday. It was decided that we should stay on site and accomadation was arranged. We continued to search areas designated by security officers up until Friday when we finished our commitment at the Hilton. The security staff I refer to include NSW police and plain clothed persons identified to us as both police and ASIO personal.
(Note: ASIO spokesman denied on TV that they had anything to do the the Hilton security after the bombing--contrary to what Keith has just stated.)
By Wednesday it was quite clear to us that we were being used mainly for cosmetic purposes. That is to say that anytime there was a camera crew around someone called for the dogs to search a convenient location were we could be seen. It was bullshit in my opinion. We expressed that to the people in charge and they were not impressed.
There was a lot of rumour and innuendo going around at the time we were on the scene. The strongest being that ASIO had stuffed up. It was common comm