‘Harrowing, scary’ scenes in Bondi

Picture taken from Luke Middlebrook's Twitter page

Picture taken from Luke Middlebrook’s Twitter page

There were dramatic scenes in Sydney’s east last night, as a fire broke out in a North Bondi rooftop and quickly spread to three neighbouring homes.

Firefighters were inundated with calls to the house on Hastings Parade before 11pm.

Resident Tom Braybrook, who could see the flames from his balcony, said about eight fire trucks had arrived on the scene.

Grace Howden ‏said the whole street had been blocked off, with “fire, police and ambulance [crews] everywhere.”

Kate Fitzpatrick ‏saw “tons of smoke” and said a crane had been brought in to extinguish the blaze, which had spread “extremely quickly”, Luke ‏Middlebrook said.

No one was hurt in the fire. The total cost of the damage is still unknown.

Police hunt daylight robbers

Top photo from Matthew Harper's Twitter page shows the blue Subaru involved in the first bank robbery on Kent Street.

Top photo from Matthew Harper’s Twitter page shows the blue Subaru involved in the first bank robbery on Kent Street.

A crime scene has been established following a bank robbery in Pyrmont this afternoon.

Just before 5pm two men, one armed with a sledgehammer, entered the Bendigo Bank on Harris Street, threatening staff and demanding money from the tellers.

The pair made off with a “small amount of cash” in a blue Subaru WRX, police said.

It comes a month after the Westpac bank on Kent Street was ram-raided by two men, also armed with a sledgehammer, who fled in a blue WRX. Those men are still on the run from police.

Skaf rapist released on parole

Notorious gang-rapist Mohamed Sanoussi was this afternoon released from Silverwater jail. The 29-year-old had been in prison since he was 16 for his role in the Skaf gang rapes of young girls in Sydney in 2000. Sanoussi was granted parole on his third attempt on September 5 but it was revoked the next day, after his brothers were charged with assault and his accommodation with them was deemed “unsuitable”. Sanoussi must comply with 30 strict conditions while on release, including wearing a monitoring device.

SMH asks readers to probe pollie expenses

The Sydney Morning Herald has turned to the public for help. After axing some of the country’s most experienced reporters, Fairfax Media is now asking for public assistance with its investigative journalism.

As part of its reporting on Federal MPs’ expenses, its website is calling on readers to “help aid the search” for potential misuse of funds.

It comes after revelations Prime Minister Tony Abbott used taxpayers’ money to attend the weddings of two parliamentary colleagues.

Breakdowns of MPs’ travel records and expense claims are freely available on the internet. Now Fairfax is asking its readers to peruse these and “email us what you find”.

In June, the publisher announced it would shed 1900 jobs over three years – more than 20 per cent from editorial – and close two printing plants. It also moved its Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers to a tabloid format and introduced digital subscriptions for those two mastheads.

The most recent cuts were announced earlier this month, with 45 jobs to go from the business media, news media and life media departments.

A former editor-in-chief of the SMH, Peter Fray, told media website Mumbrella that changes in the industry had put pressure on the quality of journalism as media outlets were forced to do more with fewer resources.

But the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance has encouraged the SMH’s attempt to engage with its readership.

“Crowd-sourcing has been used many times before,” a spokesman said.

The Guardian used crowd-sourcing to examine UK politicians’ expenses four years ago.”

Crime Bytes for Thursday

Double demerits this weekend

Police have warned drivers to slow down this Labour Day long weekend. Double demerit points will be in place for drink-driving, speeding, seatbelt and motorcycle-helmet offences. Operation Slow Down starts at midnight on Friday and runs until 11.59pm on Monday. There have been 246 deaths on our roads so far this year, compared with 279 last year.

Backpacker stabbing

Police have charged a 36-year-old man over the stabbing of three people in the CBD early this morning. Police were called to a backpacker hostel in Pitt Street, Haymarket, about 2.15am, where they found two German men, both aged 19, and a 24-year-old Irish woman suffering stab wounds. The man has been refused bail. 

Beach thefts

Beachgoers are being reminded not to leave valuables unattended while swimming, after a string of thefts at beaches in the eastern suburbs. Constable Ella Dundler said thefts from beaches were ”common at this time of year”.

Flocking to see the fleet

Large crowds are expected on Sydney Harbour this  weekend to mark 100 years since the arrival of the first Royal Australian Navy fleet. Prince Harry will take part in the International Fleet Review celebrations on Saturday. Police urge visitors to plan ahead and use public transport because there will be road closures, clearways and changes to traffic conditions across the CBD. “Any criminal, anti-social or dangerous behaviour will not be tolerated,” Superintendent Craig Sheridan said.

Bondi assault

A 23-year-old man will face Waverley Local Court later this month after an assault in Sydney’s east at the weekend. Police allege the man approached a group of people in Hall Street, Bondi Beach, about 1.30am on Saturday, September 28, and assaulted another male. He then waved a “large machete-style knife” in the air. He was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and wielding a knife in a public place. – Evan Zlatkis