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.

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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 Sanoussi was granted parole on his third attempt on September 5 but it was revoked the next day, after his brothers were charged with assault and his accommodation with them was deemed “unsuitable”.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

Crime Bytes for Friday

Remembrance Day

Police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty were remembered today. NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione joined hundreds of his colleagues at the Wall of Remembrance in The Domain for a National Police Remembrance Day service this morning. Since 1862, 252 officers in NSW have died at work.

Violent night in Parramatta

A 60-year-old man was found unconscious in Church Street Mall, Parramatta, around 9:30pm last night. Paramedics treated him at the scene; he died at Westmead Hospital. Police believe the man was assaulted and appeal for anyone with information to come forward. In a separate incident in Parramatta, a 23-year-old man was found in George Street at about 2am suffering multiple stab wounds. He is in a serious but stable condition.

“Gay chat site” arrest

Police have arrested two men in relation to the assault and robbery on September 16 of a gay man who had arranged a meeting on an online chat site. The 34-year-old victim, a Wetherill Park resident, went to an Oxford Street, Surry Hills, hotel to meet the chat site contact. Once there he was attacked by two men who took property from him before fleeing. Police arrested a 29-year-old a short time later; a second arrest, of a 26-year-old, was made in Gosford yesterday.

Eastern Sydney theft spree

A 22-year-old woman will face Waverley Local Court on October 8 over a theft spree in Sydney’s east. Police allege the woman stole jewellery, a purse and three bottles of perfume from two stores in Bondi Junction earlier this month. She was charged with two counts of shoplifting.

Listen Out under the spotlight 

Police will target alcohol-fuelled crime, drug use and anti-social behaviour at this weekend’s Listen Out Festival. Formerly known as Parklife, the over-18s event is expected to attract 10,000 revellers to Centennial Park on Saturday. There will be a large police presence, including drug-detection dogs. Police warn festival-goers that anyone who brings drugs or alcohol with them, or tries to jump the fence, ”can expect to be caught”.

Medich to stand trial

Millionaire property developer Ron Medich has been committed to stand trial over the 2009 murder of businessman Michael McGurk in Cremorne. In a passionate statement from the dock, Medich said there was “no believable motive for me to want to have Mr McGurk killed” and said he will be vindicated, no matter how long it takes. – Reports by Evan Zlatkis

If you can offer police any information to help solve crime please call CrimeStoppers
on 1800 333 000. (You can remain anonymous.)

Friday the 13th bank raid an “inside job”

"Brazen" daylight robbery. Picture: Derek Duffy

“Brazen” daylight robbery. Picture: Derek Duffy

Like a scene from a movie: two men, armed with a sledgehammer and a baseball bat, faces covered, ram-raid a city bank in broad daylight.

Witnesses were everywhere; recording what was unfolding with their phones.

The men responsible are still on the run, 12 days after the Westpac bank on Kent Street was robbed. The bank believes it was an inside job.

At about 11.15am on Friday, September 13, a stolen black Porsche Cayenne crashed into a wall of the bank, causing it to collapse.

Witnesses reported hearing a large thump and “a lot of banging noises” that sounded like gunshots.

“I thought it was a car accident,” one witness said. “But then the guy reversed and deliberately rammed into the wall a second time, so I know it’s not an accident because why would you run into the wall twice at speed?”

City worker Matt Harper said he saw “two guys jump out of the car” and begin bashing the ATM with a sledgehammer before entering the bank and taking cash from the tellers. The pair fled in a waiting stolen blue Subaru WRX.

Stunned witnesses said the ordeal was over within minutes.

“You don’t really see this every day in the CBD,” Harper said. “Everyone was pretty much shocked.”

Police refuse to comment on the investigation, saying that robbery and serious crime squad detectives are “continuing to investigate the incident”.

Westpac sources told the Telegraph the robbers could have had inside knowledge.

“They’ve rammed the wall to get past the security screen,” one said. “I don’t know how they would know to do that. You can’t see that area from where the customers would go.”

Young men not OK, research shows

IT IS an invisible pain, hurting young men every day. But you won’t hear about it on the nightly news.

A recent national survey has revealed nearly one in 10 men under 25 have contemplated suicide.

The Young and Well National Survey, conducted by the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, surveyed 1400 men from around Australia, aged between 16 and 25. One in five felt that life was hardly worth living.

Associate professor Jane Burns, the lead researcher on the study, said the results were saddening.

“We have known for a long time that men do not fare well in both health and mental health terms,” she said.

“Young men are more likely to take their own lives, die in accidents, have a drug or alcohol problem and are over-represented in the justice system. The study has really highlighted that our 16-to-25-year-olds require additional support.”

Prof Burns said there was a “simple reason” the study focused on young men: they have higher mortality rates, die younger and are reluctant to seek help.

“Our research over the last decade clearly shows that young men want to manage their problems on their own,” she said.

Eighteen-year-old Taylor*, interviewed in the study, said men are portrayed in media and fictional tales as “powerful, solitary and confident heroes”. Young men attempting to emulate those role models may not seek professional help.

When Taylor urged a close friend to speak to a doctor about depression, he responded: “Nah, I’m stronger than that. I don’t need their help; I can get through this without medication.”

Prof Burns said we have created a culture where vulnerability is frowned upon.

“We portray what it means to be a strong man [with] images of physically robust and mentally robust men,” she said. “This is a really conflicting message for men, and young men. Are they strong and the providers, or should they be new age and sensitive but also strong and supportive?”

Coping with stress and body image were reported as the biggest issues facing young men. Of those surveyed, 50 per cent reported stress as their main concern and 41 per cent said they worried every day about their physical appearance.

Those statistics scare journalist and broadcaster Paul Murray “right to the core” – and it’s a topic he, unlike the mainstream media, couldn’t overlook.

Speaking on his Sky News program PM Live, he said there are “far sexier and easier things to cover” like reforms to the Labor Party, the PNG solution and a royal baby.

“But there are people amongst us who are hurting … our mates, our kids, our nephews. Please reach out to young people who you know that are in trouble,” he urged viewers.

“As somebody who has understood the difficulties that you’ve been through … there is always someone who cares about you. The world well and truly will miss you. You are not alone.”

Murray said it was a real shame the survey “barely made a ripple in the news”.

The government has “very strict guidelines” on the reporting of suicide and getting the media excited about the positive aspects of mental health was difficult, Prof Burns said.

“Unfortunately the way that has been interpreted has meant that we don’t have tough conversations about how hard some people are doing it, what help is available and where they should go for help.

“No one really wants to read the story of the four young people who live with mental illnesses but are a successful doctor, actor, business developer and psychology student. They are stories of success.”

There are “plenty of options” for people going through a tough time, she said.

“Jump onto ReachOut.com or Headspace. Mensline Australia has a confidential free service. The main thing for anyone experiencing a hard time is to not go it alone.”

It’s the message the organisers of R U OK? Day spread last Thursday – and all year round – by encouraging all Australians to ask their families, friends and colleagues the simple question, so often overlooked: “Are you OK?”

According to the Bureau of Statistics, more than 2,300 Australians take their own life each year. Suicide is the biggest killer of Australians aged 15 to 34, and Lifeline estimates that 65,000 people attempt suicide each year.

“The first step to getting help is often the hardest,” Prof Burns said. “But help is available and no one should suffer without support.” – by Evan Zlatkis

Lifeline 13 11 14

*Name has been changed.

Students turning Japanese at St Andrew’s

St Andrew’s Cathedral School students greeting a group of Japanese exchange students.

St Andrew’s Cathedral School students greeting a group of Japanese exchange students.

JAPANESE language students at St Andrew’s Cathedral School will put theory into practice when they head to Japan later this year.

Next month, Japanese teacher Donna Desiatnik will take her year 8-10 students on a two-week tour of the country. During the trip, students will visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island and Nagasaki and “see the places that we’ve talked about”, from traditional temples and shrines to the “crazy, modern aspects of society”.

Every year, St Andrew’s partners with schools across the globe for exchange trips, sending its students overseas or hosting students from sister schools. The trips are designed to further students’ language skills and cultural understanding, and give them a chance to communicate in a foreign language.

This, Ms Desiatnik said, “has a really positive impact on motivating them in the lessons, because there’s a reason: ‘I’ve got to learn how to ask for directions because we’re going to be there and I’m going to need it’”. 

After 10 days touring, students stay with a Japanese family for five nights and attend lessons at Nagasaki Nishi High School, whose year 11 students visit St Andrew’s for six days each year.

“That’s a real highlight for them,” she said. 

Ms Desiatnik said students develop a richer intercultural understanding by staying with a family, eating their food, attending school and immersing themselves in the culture. “When you enter a Japanese house you have to take your shoes off and put slippers on,” she said. “Everything that we’ve talked about in the classroom starts to make sense.

“

The trip is a “really spiritual and exciting experience” for the students and often motivates them to continue with their Japanese studies in years 11 and 12. Ms Desiatnik said some students return from the trip “so passionate they tend to go again on their own”.

According to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), learning a foreign language strengthens students’ intellectual and analytical capabilities, and enhances creative and critical thinking.

Ms Desiatnik added that knowing a second language increases employment opportunities, and helps individuals learn more about themselves and develop a strong identity. 

Despite such benefits, languages in schools have been overlooked, Ms Desiatnik said, because under the government NAPLAN testing “so much of the curriculum is dedicated to developing literacy and numeracy”.

“Language has become one of those extracurricular options, whereas in the 1950s everyone had to study Latin and French – it was mandatory,” she said. “It’s really declined in its [perceived] value despite all the research that shows how valuable it is to the child and society.”

According to the Board of Studies, only 10 per cent of the 73,397 students who sat the HSC in NSW in 2012 were enrolled in at least one language course.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” Ms Desiatnik said. “Learning about the culture of another country makes you look at yourself and makes you deepen your understanding of who you are and things we take for granted.”

Relief as nursing home killer jailed for life

Life without parole ... Roger Dean at the scene of the Quakers Hill nursing home fire.

Life without parole … Roger Dean at the scene of the Quakers Hill nursing home fire.

A MAN who murdered 11 elderly residents of a Sydney nursing home two years ago will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Sentencing Roger Dean to life imprisonment, Justice Megan Latham told the NSW Supreme Court today the pain and terror experienced by the victims must have been horrific. The “heinous, atrocious and greatly reprehensible” crime was planned and premeditated. She said the victims, who were immobile and asleep at the time the fires were lit, were “vulnerable”, of “high dependence” and were in the “care and control of the offender”.

Dean deliberately started two fires in the Quakers Hill Nursing Home on November 18, 2011, to “create a distraction” from his theft of 238 prescription painkillers from the home. Three of the victims died immediately. Eight who suffered burns or lung damage from smoke inhalation died in hospital in the weeks following the incident.

The former registered nurse, 37, originally pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of murder and eight of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, but changed his plea the day his trial was to start. The death toll makes Dean the worst mass murderer in the state’s history, ahead of Belanglo Forest killer Ivan Milat.

Dean appeared on national television immediately after the fire, describing his efforts to help those trapped in the blaze. “I just quickly did what I can [to] get everyone out … the smoke is just overwhelming. We got a lot of people out, so that’s the main thing,” he told media crews.

The relatives of the victims cried and cheered in the packed public gallery, which included a strong police presence, as the sentence was handed down. One woman collapsed and had to be carried out of the courtroom.

One relative shouted, “You’ll get yours” as Dean was led away. Another yelled, “Rot in hell!” Dean showed no emotion during sentencing.

Outside the court, Amanda Tucker, whose grandmother, Dorothy Sterling, 80, died in the fire, said a life sentence would never take the pain away from her family. “My nanna never made it out of that nursing home … [Dean] walked straight past her and didn’t help.”

Elly Valkay, who lost her mother, Neeltje, 90, said the outcome was wonderful. “I hope he suffers as much in jail as my mother suffered the last four days of her life, which was horrendous,” she told reporters. “Our loss is still there, will always be there, but to know that justice has been done … it’s wonderful to see and it’s wonderful to feel”.

Lorraine Osland, whose mother Lola Bennett died in the blaze, said life would never be the same. “It wouldn’t matter what they gave him … it will never, ever be any different for us. He got a life sentence and so did we,” she said.

Neale Becke, the son of 96-year-old Doris Becke, said the sentence had brought him closure. “If you have a mother go home and give her a cuddle. You only have one,” he said.

Last month the state government announced that all aged-care homes in NSW will install fire sprinkler systems by March 2016. An inquiry heard last year that the deaths at Quakers Hill could have been averted had the nursing home been fitted with sprinklers.