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Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing

Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing
Hiltonbombing wideweb 470x314,0.jpeg
The scene shortly after the bombing
Location33°52′19″S 151°12′26″E / 33.87194°S 151.20722°E / -33.87194; 151.20722
Hilton Hotel, Sydney, Australia
Date13 February 1978
Attack type
Deaths2 garbage collectors, 1 policeman
Non-fatal injuries
Side view of the Sydney Hilton Hotel

The Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing occurred on 13 February 1978, when a bomb exploded outside the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. At the time the hotel was the site of the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting (CHOGRM), a regional offshoot of the biennial meetings of the heads of government from across the Commonwealth of Nations.


The bomb was planted in a rubbish bin and exploded when the bin was emptied into a garbage truck outside the hotel at 12:40 a.m. It killed two garbage collectors, Alec Carter and William Favell. A police officer guarding the entrance to the hotel lounge, Paul Birmistriw, 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 for the remainder of the CHOGRM meeting.[1]


The Hilton case has been highly controversial due to allegations that Australian security forces, such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), may have been responsible. This led to the New South Wales parliament unanimously calling for the Commonwealth to hold an inquiry in 1991 and 1995.[2][3] The federal government refused to hold an inquiry.

In June 1978, members of the Ananda Marga organisation were implicated by a police informant, Richard John Seary, but his evidence has been discredited. A member of Ananda Marga, Evan Pederick, claimed in 1989 that he had carried out the Hilton bombing on the orders of another member, Tim Anderson. Both men were given prison sentences, but Anderson was acquitted on appeal in 1991.[4] Pederick appealed but his appeal failed and he served eight years in prison. In directing Anderson's acquittal NSW Chief Justice Murray Gleeson said:

The trial of the appellant miscarried principally because of an error which resulted in large part from the failure of the prosecuting authorities adequately to check aspects of the Jayewardene theory. This was compounded by what I regard as an inappropriate and unfair attempt by the Crown to persuade the jury to draw inferences of fact, and accept argumentative suggestions, that were not properly open on the evidence. I do not consider that in those circumstances the Crown should be given a further opportunity to patch up its case against the appellant. It has already made one attempt too many to do that, and I believe that, if that attempt had never been made, there is a strong likelihood that the appellant would have been acquitted.[5][6][7]

Accusations of conspiracy

There were a number of unusual circumstances surrounding the bombing, namely:

  • There was a continuous police presence outside the building since the previous morning. This would have prevented anyone placing a large bomb into the rubbish bin while the police were there.[8]
  • The driver of the garbage truck, Bill Ebb, stated that the bins would normally be emptied several times each day, but police had prevented three earlier trucks from emptying the bin that contained the bomb even though it was overflowing with rubbish.[9]
  • The garbage bin had not been searched for bombs. Searching bins is normally a high priority, and is specified in New South Wales police permanent circular 135.[2]
  • Army dog handler Keith Burley said that his dogs could smell very small quantities of explosives, and were expected to be used for the event. He said they were unexpectedly called off a few days prior without explanation.[2][10]
  • The entire truck and all bomb fragments were dumped immediately afterwards at an unrecorded location. This prevented forensic evidence, such as the type of explosive used, from being gathered.[2] (This was compared to the detailed evidence retrieved from the Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded at 30,000 feet.[2])
  • William Reeve-Parker provided a statutory declaration that an army officer had admitted planting the bomb by switching rubbish bins 24 hours earlier.[8] Reeve-Parker denied knowledge of who the officer was, although he "had helped his son".[8] Reeve-Parker was never called as a witness at the coronial inquest.
  • The officer-in-charge of police immediately after the bombing, Inspector Ian MacDonald, claimed there had been a "cover-up".[2]
  • Former Attorney General of New South Wales Frank Walker and Federal Government Senator Gareth Evans had been told by a CSIRO scientist that under pressure from ASIO they had made two fake bombs in the week prior to the bombing. The bombs were designed not to explode but could do so in a garbage truck compactor.[3]
  • The principal private secretary of a federal senator was told that the bomb squad was waiting nearby at this early hour of the morning.[8] That would suggest that they knew about the bomb. The government would not permit people from the bomb squad to be called as witnesses to the inquest.[9]
  • Sgt Horton stated that he saw an occurrence pad entry that showed the warning call was received at 12:32, 8 minutes before the bomb exploded.[9] It was not relayed instantly to the police out front. At the inquest four other versions of this pad were shown, each timing the call at 12:40.[8]

Many of these issues were identified by Terry Griffiths, a former policeman who was seriously injured in the bombing, who has called for an inquiry.[2] Barry Hall QC, counsel for Griffiths, argued that ASIO may well have planted the bomb in order to justify their existence.[9]

The 1982 Walsh inquest had been terminated prematurely due to the finding of a prima facie case of murder. The Indian prime minister Morarji Desai claimed that Ananda Marga had attempted to kill him due to the imprisonment of the organisation's spiritual leader, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. (There had been other alleged attacks by Ananda Marga, namely on 15 September 1977 the military attaché at the Indian Embassy, Colonel Singh and his wife, were attacked in Canberra. Just over a month later an Air India employee in Melbourne was stabbed.)[11] ASIO had infiltrated the Ananda Marga from 1976 and were monitoring it.[12]

Workers cleaning up after the bombing[13]

Trials and inquiries

A few days after the bombing, Richard Seary offered his services to the police Special Branch as an informant. He expressed the view that the Ananda Marga society might be involved with the Hilton bombing; he soon infiltrated that organization, which had its headquarters in three adjacent houses in Queen Street, Newtown.[14]

On 15 June, Seary told Special Branch that members of Ananda Marga intended to bomb the home of Robert Cameron, a member of the far-right National Front of Australia, that night at his home in the Sydney suburb of Yagoona. Two members of the society — Ross Dunn and Paul Alister — were subsequently apprehended at Yagoona in Seary's company and charged with conspiracy to murder Robert Cameron.[9]

It was alleged that Dunn and Alister had intended to plant a bomb at Cameron's home. Dunn and Alister stated that they intended only to write graffiti at Cameron's home and had no knowledge of the bomb, which they claimed had been brought by Seary. Seary was considered by some to be an unreliable witness, having already given discredited evidence accusing Dunn and Alistair at the initial Hilton bombing inquest, being a drug addict and a "mentally disturbed fantasizer".[15]

However, there was also some police evidence, and the prosecution had strongly associated the matter with the Sydney Hilton bombing.[15] The trial relating to the alleged plot to bomb Cameron's home began in February 1979, but the jury could not come to a verdict. A second trial was held in July and all three defendants were convicted.[15][16]

A coronial inquest into the bombing itself was eventually held in 1982.[9] Stipendiary Magistrate Walsh found a prima facie case of murder against two members of Ananda Marga – Ross Dunn and Paul Alister (but not Tim Anderson) – based on evidence from Richard Seary which was later discredited.[2]

Coronial inquiries are limited in their scope. No person appearing before the coroner has a right to subpoena evidence without permission from the coroner, and in this inquest Walsh rejected all applications.[17]

In 1984, the Attorney-General, Paul Landa, established an inquiry to investigate the convictions of Dunn, Alister and Anderson. The inquiry was similar to a Royal Commission, and was headed by Justice Wood. Richard Seary was in England at the time and did not take part, but after the inquiry he indicated that he was willing to take part. Justice Wood reconvened the inquiry and it ran through to February 1985. The result was that Justice Wood recommended the pardoning of the three, and they were released in 1985.[9] (The inquiry did not directly cover the Hilton Bombing.) The pardoned trio received compensation from the NSW Government. Alister ploughed his compensation money into land on Bridge Creek Road near Maleny, Queensland, which would become his home, and also the site of the Ananda Marga River School.[18]

According to Paul Alister's later account, points that emerged during the inquiry included:[19]

  • Tapes of conversations between Richard Seary and his Special Branch contact showed that Seary had originally suggested that the Hare Krishna group might have been responsible for the Hilton bombing
  • Police ignored the Hare Krishna suggestion and told Seary to spy on Ananda Marga.
  • Seary infiltrated Ananda Marga one month later than he had originally stated in court
  • Seary knew how to obtain explosives illegally, although he had said in court that he did not
  • Seary had told police about the alleged Cameron bombing plan five days earlier than he originally stated
  • Dr Emanuel Fischer, who had done a psychiatric assessment of Seary, said he was schizoid and psychopathic
  • Seary's girlfriend Wendy said that Seary had told her that he had thought they were going to Robert Cameron's house to put up posters, and he had been surprised that explosives were brought along
  • Wendy said that Seary had not volunteered to spy on Ananda Marga but had been pressured by the police
  • Seary's friend Dok said that Seary had a plan to bomb an abattoir when he had been in the Hare Krishnas

In 1989, a former member of Ananda Marga, Evan Pederick, claimed that he had planted the bomb at the Hilton Hotel on orders from Tim Anderson. Anderson was then re-arrested for the Sydney Hilton bombing, tried, convicted and sentenced to fourteen years. The crown prosecutor was Mark Tedeschi QC. However Anderson was acquitted in 1991 by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal,[2] which held that the verdicts of guilty were unsafe and unsatisfactory. Chief Justice Gleeson concluded:

... there was one important respect in which, in my view, the proceedings miscarried ... The Crown was permitted, in an unfair manner, to obscure a major difficulty concerning the reliability of the evidence of its principal witness ... by raising an hypothesis that was not reasonably open on the evidence ... a direction given by the learned trial judge to the jury relating to the "sanity" of Pederick ... constitutes an additional reason for treating the verdicts as unsafe and the process at the trial as unsatisfactory ... The trial of the appellant miscarried principally because of an error which resulted in large part from the failure of the prosecuting authorities adequately to check aspects of the Jayewardene theory. This was compounded by what I regard as an inappropriate and unfair attempt by the Crown to persuade the jury to draw inferences of fact, and accept argumentative suggestions, that were not properly open on the evidence. I do not consider that in those circumstances the Crown should be given a further opportunity to patch up its case against the appellant. It has already made one attempt too many to do that, and I believe that, if that attempt had never been made, there is a strong likelihood that the appellant would have been acquitted.

Instead of ordering a new trial, the Court entered a judgement of acquittal.[5][6][7]

Pederick had confessed to the bombing and so was convicted without detailed scrutiny of his confession. However, in the Anderson appeal, Chief Justice Gleeson said Pederick's account of the bombing was "clearly unreliable".[2] Pederick's later appeal was rejected when he produced no evidence to explain why his original confession had been false. Pederick was released after serving eight years in jail and stated: "I guess I was quite unique in the prison system in that I had to keep proving my guilt, whereas everyone else said they were innocent."[20]

Paul Alister later speculated about Richard Seary's motives, saying he was a "wild card" because he seemed to have his own agenda.[21] He stated that Seary seemed to have a mixture of motives for what he said, and seemed to dislike the police. Seary's girlfriend indicated that Seary had been pressured by the police to find evidence that incriminated the "Margiis". Alister and his colleagues speculated that perhaps Seary was being blackmailed into informing because of his former activity as a drug addict. Seary had also been present when someone had died of a drug overdose; this may have given the police leverage over him because he could be charged.[22]

The two failed prosecutions against Tim Anderson and his friends have been cited examples of Australian miscarriages of justice, for example in Kerry Carrington's 1991 book Travesty! Miscarriages of Justice and in other law texts including notes on compensation practice.[23][24][25][26][27]

Political effects and significance

Before the inquiries it was described in Parliament as the first and only domestic terrorist event in Australia.[2]

Prior to the bombing the security forces had been under considerable pressure. In South Australia, the White inquiry into their police special branch was very critical, and ties with ASIO were cut.[2] New South Wales was about to have a similar inquiry. After the bombing, the NSW inquiry was never held, and the Commonwealth increased support for the anti-terrorism activities of the intelligence services.[9]

30th anniversary commemoration ceremony

A new plaque was unveiled at the site of the explosion in George Street on 13 February 2008, the 30th anniversary of the blast.

The then New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma commended Sydney City Council for restoring the memorial plaque to its original home, and said he hoped there will never be a need for any more.[28]

Plaque for victims of the bombing

Profile of Richard Seary

Richard Seary was born in Sydney in 1952.[29] His father John was a successful racer of motor bikes, but he abandoned the family in 1956. The children's mother also left not long after. He and his siblings were farmed out to various institutions, mostly in Queensland in Seary's case, because his father was living there. He had short-lived stays with his father, but was tormented by a stepmother he described as a psychopath.[29] He absconded from a Brisbane institution in 1968 and went to Sydney.

Seary subsequently became a drug addict and was convicted for heroin possession in 1971, but succeeded in breaking the habit.[30] He was then involved with the Hare Krishna group from 1972–74.[30] In 1974, through the Hare Krishnas, he met an English woman named Sally, who had a child from a previous relationship. They went to England, where Sally gave birth to a baby girl.[31] However, Seary and Sally split up at an early stage and Seary returned to Australia in 1976.[citation needed]

By early 1977, Seary was doing volunteer work as a Crisis Centre counsellor at the Wayside Chapel in Potts Point.[32] He went to England after the trial of the Ananda Marga members, but came back to Sydney in 1985 for the inquiry headed by Justice Wood.[33]

By 1992 he was doing welfare work at a church in Sydney. In late 1992, he fled to Queensland after an attempt was made on his life. In 2012 he published a book, Smoke'n'Mirrors: How the Australian People Were Screwed. In the introduction, he described himself as a spy and secret agent. He also stated that he – a man in his 70s[dubious ] -->- was dying, without going into details.[34] He died in 2014.[35]

See also


  1. ^ "Anti-Terrorism Laws in Australia:The Security Legislation Amendment 2002" (PDF). University of Adelaide. 21 August 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Parliament Hansard: Hilton Hotel Bombing (1st motion for an inquiry)". Government of New South Wales. 9 December 1991. Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Parliament Hansard: Hilton Hotel Bombing (2nd motion for an inquiry)Inquiry Proposal". Government of New South Wales. 21 September 1995. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  4. ^ John Tognolini, 1991, Green Left Weekly, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 February 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  5. ^ a b R v Anderson (1991) 53 A Crim R 421. See also Tim Anderson's book, Take Two
  6. ^ a b Take Two, 1992, Chapter 27, [][permanent dead link]. htm
  7. ^ a b Jane Mussett and Steve Bolt 'The Tim Anderson Decision: the Chief Justice Cites the System', 16 Legal Services Bulletin 126 (1991) [] Archived 5 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ a b c d e Walsh Coronial Inquest into the Hilton Bombing, 1983
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Daryl Dellora (1995). "Conspiracy". True Stories. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Review of Conspiracy:Dixon, Norm (15 February 1995). "The Hilton bombing revisited (review of Conspiracy)". Green Left Weekly (175). Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Burley's letter to Allen Barry MP". 4 November 1991. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  11. ^ "Terror attacks remain a mystery 30 years on". Canberra: News Ltd. 1 January 2008. Archived from the original on 1 January 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  12. ^ "Scams and scoundrels" Archived 8 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine.,; accessed 10 February 2016.
  13. ^ "'Hilton bomb' sect in legal battle over $20m empire". Archived from the original on 12 October 2016.
  14. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, Tom Molomby (Potoroo Press) 1986, p.70
  15. ^ a b c Alister and others v. the Queen, High Court of Australia (1983). (Decision rejecting appeal for Cameron conspiracy.)
  16. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, Tom Molomby (Potoroo Press) 1986, p.48
  17. ^ "Doubts over Coronial powers as inquest resumes". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 September 1982.
  18. ^ "Maleny man's Hilton bombing memories". Sunshine Coast Daily. 25 May 2008. Archived from the original on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  19. ^ Bombs, Bliss and Baba, Paul Alister (Better World Books) 1997, pp.202–204
  20. ^ Ben Hills. "The Hilton Fiasco". SMH 12 February 1998, p.11 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012. (accessed 6 September 2010)
  21. ^ Bombs, Bliss and Baba, p.88
  22. ^ Bombs, Bliss and Baba, p.91
  23. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 May 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 September 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  25. ^ Russell Hogg, 'Who Bombed Tim Anderson', [][permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Justice Michael Kirby, 1993, Remedying Miscarriages in the Criminal Justice System, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  27. ^ Adrian Hoel, 2008, Compensation for wrongful conviction, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  28. ^ "Sydney Hilton Hotel blast commemorated". Sydney Morning Herald. 13 February 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  29. ^ a b Hilton bombing page Archived 14 August 2013 at
  30. ^ a b Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, p.35
  31. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, p. 343
  32. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, p. 53
  33. ^ Spies, Bombs and the Path of Bliss, pp. 288–89
  34. ^ "Smoke 'n' Mirrors – How the Australian People were screwed eBook: Richard Seary, Jennifer-Anne Seary: Kindle Store".
  35. ^ Hilton Bombing and Richard Seary Archived 3 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine.,; accessed 10 February 2016.

Further reading

External links