Monthly Archives: March 2019

Sydney shootings: Michael Ibrahim peace talks failed in the days before attack

 
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Relatives of a known Sydney criminal had tried to peacefully resolve an ongoing dispute he had with Michael Ibrahim in the days before the brother of Kings Cross tsar John Ibrahim was shot in Sydney’s CBD.

Michael, the youngest of the six Ibrahim siblings, had been enjoying a party lifestyle in the four months since he was released from jail having served more than six years for manslaughter.

He’d recently been enjoying Sydney’s bar scene at Cafe Del Mar at Darling Harbour and the “floating-beach club” The Island and had started a new relationship.

But sources connected to the 36-year-old say he had also been using his freedom to “catch-up” with a number of previous associates, some whom he believed owed him money from before he went to jail.

They say the relationship with one former ally, a south-western Sydney crime figure who has done significant jail time, deteriorated rapidly to the extent that his family had intervened to try and broker peace last weekend.

However a series of messages sent between Ibrahim and the other man are said to have inflamed tensions even further before Ibrahim was hit once in the shoulder by a shot fired at 10.30pm on Macquarie Street in the city last Sunday.

The attack has been the most high-profile in a spate of public shootings in Sydney in the past five weeks.

There was a shooting every three days in December but it came at the end of a year in which gun crime declined. Non-fatal shootings fell by 17 per cent and charges for unlawfully discharging a firearm fell by 24 per cent in the two years to September.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Jeff Loy said police had made a concerted effort to seize more guns in 2014, with a 29 per cent increase in firearms charges.

“Like any offence, there are peaks and troughs in the number of shooting offences throughout the year,” he said. “Anecdotally, we often find a spike in shooting offences will be linked to conflict amongst criminal groups.”

Police do not believe most of the shootings are linked and instead are isolated incidents fuelled by domestic disputes and drug deals.

However Fairfax Media understands that the crime figure in dispute with Ibrahim has also previously clashed with another victim of the recent gun violence, former Comanchero and construction industry figure Bilal Fatrouni.

Fatrouni, 38, walked himself into hospital on December 27 after allegedly being shot twice in the back by Mahmoud Dandachli outside Dandachli’s home in Greenacre.

Police do not believe it was linked to the fatal shooting of construction industry figure Bilal Taha, who was executed on the driveway of his Condell Park home the next day.

It was retaliation attack in a feud between members of two local families, police said. The rival family have a history of extortion and drug crime and had tried to shoot Mr Taha weeks earlier, Fairfax Media understands.

It was the third time the families had shot at each other following two drive-bys on homes in Condell Park in October.

A relative, Aasiya Rose, said Mr Taha was “a victim of other people’s bad choices”. In a tribute to Mr Taha online she said: “you stayed away from trouble but it found you regardless”.

More than 60 police from Operation Talon, the team of officers tasked with ending Sydney’s gun violence, saturated Fifth Avenue and Ethel Street on Thursday night as a show of force against those involved in the Taha shooting and the nearby shooting of a 34-year-old man two days later.

Police searched homes to ensure a handful of known criminals in the area with Firearm Prohibition Orders were abiding by them.

Bankstown commander Superintendent Dave Eardley said police would keep returning to the area until the Taha family’s conflict was suppressed.

“Police will keep returning in numbers, as often as is required, to ensure this conflict is suppressed and to reaffirm our commitment to the community,” he said.

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Mixed feelings for family after Jessica Small reward announced

WAITING: Ricki Small and her daughter Rebecca Small after the announcement of a reward in the Jessica Small case. Photo: PHILL MURRAY 010915pjess2THE confirmation from police that a reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of Bathurst teenager Jessica Small’s killer was a double-edged sword for her family Friday.
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Jessica’s mother, Ricki Small, said while she was pleased that a reward had finally been announced more than 17 years after her daughter went missing, the amount of $100,000 was disappointing.

Deputy state coroner Sharon Freund recommended, at the conclusion of an inquest last year into Jessica’s death, that a sum of not less than $500,000 be offered.

Speaking in Bathurst, Mrs Small said she was hopeful it would be enough to entice someone with information about the case to come forward.

“Yes, I’m disappointed that it’s not a bigger amount, but nonetheless it is a reward and I’m hoping it’s enough to flush someone out,” she said.

“After 17 years I’m grateful that it has been announced.”

Asked if she thought $100,000 was enough, she said she was praying so.

“I’m praying it will make a difference. I need help from the public [to find out what happened to Jessica],” she said.

Jessica was just 15 when she was abducted from Hereford Street after she and her friend Vanessa Conlan accepted a lift with a man they did not know.

Vanessa made it out of the car to raise the alarm, but Jessica has not been seen since.

It is now well known that the initial police investigation into her abduction was seriously flawed.

Police failed to take statements from critical witnesses, including a man who was possibly the last person to see Jessica alive.

Mrs Small said she had no option but to keep fighting for her daughter.

“It’s a fight that I’ve always wanted to win. I didn’t want to let Jess down – she has already been let down – but at this point I would just like some answers.”

Mrs Small said she also had to keep going for her other children Matt and Rebecca. She said the family just needed some closure.

“This has been going on and on. At the inquest we thought we may have been getting close [to finding out whathappened], but that went out the window.

“I’m just now hoping this reward might bring someone forward.”

Police described the reward as significant. Mrs Small disagreed.

“I don’t see it as significant; this has been going on for 17 years. Obviously I would have preferred it to be higher,” she said.

Jessica’s sister Rebecca Small agreed.

“The coroner recommended no less than $500,000. Why wasn’t that offered?” she asked.

“It’s a kick in the teeth.”

NSW Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Michael Willing, who announced the reward, said while he was not able to comment on the figure, it was in line with rewards in other similar cases.

Superintendent Willing said he supported the application from Detective Sergeant Peter Smith – who led the investigation into Jessica’s disappearance – for a $500,000 reward, but said it was the Reward Evaluation Advisory Committee which decided the amount.

He said he was well aware of the flaws in the initial investigation, but commended Detective Sergeant Smith for his work on Strike Force Carica II.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Screen grabs

Reggae’s godfather: Uprising Live! provides an insight into the enduring nature of Bob Marley’s work. Revelation: Sarah Snook in Predestination.
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The Lady from Shanghai: Traces of personal bitterness.

Charming: Fantasy Life.

Revelation: Sarah Snook in Predestination.

Reggae’s godfather: Uprising Live! provides an insight into the enduring nature of Bob Marley’s work.

Revelation: Sarah Snook in Predestination.

The Lady from Shanghai: Traces of personal bitterness.

Reggae’s godfather: Uprising Live! provides an insight into the enduring nature of Bob Marley’s work.

Revelation: Sarah Snook in Predestination.

The Lady from Shanghai: Traces of personal bitterness.

GAMES

FANTASY LIFE, 3DS

It’s been an awfully long dry spell for 3DS fans, with very few games of substance released in the past six months, and several of those (notably Pokemon and Alex Wright: Ace Attorney) are just spruced-up versions of titles from older Nintendo consoles. Fantasy Life, then, is one of the few bright spots, a role-playing game that will feel familiar if you’ve played Harvest Moon or Legend of Zelda. You start by choosing from one of 12 professions, which range from the glamorous (alchemist) to the mundane (tailor, blacksmith); then you set about fulfilling little quests (build a table, darn a cloak) to level up, earn money and unlock new goodies, along the way chatting with Fantasy Life’s many odd characters and fighting the odd monster. Outside your own career, there’s a narrative involving the royal family and the impending end of the world, which you’ll need to help with at some stage, but there’s no rush. What’s not to like? Well, there’s an awful lot of talking to get through when you meet significant characters, the mini games can get repetitive and the fighting is similarly basic. Overall, though, it’s a charming addition to the genre. AH

FREE TO AIR

THE MIRACLE HUNTER, ABC 2, MONDAY JANUARY 12, 8.30PM

British actor and comedian Simon Farnaby (perhaps best known here for his work in The Mighty Boosh and Horrible Histories) has long been fascinated with superheroes and people with “superhuman” abilities. In this new series he travels the world seeking out real-life super humans, ordinary people with seemingly extraordinary abilities. In this first episode, Superhuman Force, he sets off to meet people who can claim to control nature’s most powerful forces. For some reason Eastern Europe is a hub for people claiming magnetic powers, and tonight Farnaby travels to Georgia, Serbia and Croatia to meet a nine-year-old boy with apparent powers, a local legend whose chest can apparently hold huge metal weights and, the most compelling of all, the ‘human battery”: Serbian man Biba Struja, whose body can conduct electricity. Be genuinely freaked out as we watch him withstand a million volts and even cook sausages with his bare hands. KN

DVD

PREDESTINATION, PINNACLE (MA)

Australian filmmakers Michael and Peter Spierig (Undead, Daybreakers) reunite with their Daybreakers star Ethan Hawke in an elegant, painstaking adaptation of a Robert Heinlein time-travel story about an undercover agent who criss-crosses time seeking to avert a crime. There’s not a budget for splashy effects; instead, the Spierigs and their collaborators concentrate on ambience, imaginative production design and carefully constructed performances. The film is more about the mystery of human identity than the ramifications of science fiction; Hawke seems to relish the transformative challenges of his character; Noah Taylor, in a cameo, is quietly enigmatic; and Sarah Snook, in a role of constant twists and turns, is a revelation. PH

DOCUMENTARY

BOB MARLEY UPRISING LIVE!, SHOCK, 118min

Bob Marley’s influence on popular culture, through his music and spirit, is much greater than one may have ever expected when he was alive. Filmed on June 13, 1980, in Dortmund, Germany, this live performance for the TV show Rockpalast is one of the last to capture Marley before his death in May 1981 from cancer. The set list is a reminder of his legacy, including all his classics: I Shot The Sheriff, Is This Love, Jamming, Get Up, Stand Up, Could This Be Love, Redemption Song and No Woman, No Cry. It’s an indoor concert at night, and the groove is Marley all the way. Great for chilling out with Bob on your mind – and a fabulous insight into why the godfather of reggae’s work resonates to this day. JK

DVD

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, COLUMBIA (PG)

Orson Welles’ reign as cinema’s boy genius was ending when he shot this 1947 film noir – an astonishing wreck of a movie, mingling grotesque black comedy with delirious romantic fatalism.  Even before the climax set in a literal hall of mirrors, there’s a sense that the Hollywood dream factory has been blown to smithereens, with Welles as war correspondent wandering dazed through the wreckage.  Besides writing and directing, he plays the unlikely role of Michael O’Hara, an Irish sailor with an anti-fascist past, a poetic turn of phrase and a mile-wide streak of gullibility, drawn into a convoluted murder plot by a woman of mystery (Welles’ soon to be ex-wife Rita Hayworth) who’s either the ultimate victim or the spider at the centre of the web.  It’s the movies multiplied by themselves, liberated from the need to make rational sense.  Impossibly beautiful or vivid faces loom at us in close-up, reciting phrases like those we’ve heard a thousand times before: “I’m not what you think I am, I just try to be.”  “Keep trying, you just might make it.”  Yet the film is more than a stylistic tour de force; not far beneath the dazzlement there’s the tang of a personal bitterness, a knowledge of what it means to have gambled and lost. JW

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Sydney Festival 2015: The Famous Spiegeltent

Surprising: Festival director Lieven Bertels in The Famous Spiegeltent – where his parents met in Belgium decades ago. Photo: Dallas Kilponen Surprising: Festival director Lieven Bertels in The Famous Spiegeltent – where his parents met in Belgium decades ago. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
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Portable: The Famous Spiegeltent takes 12 hours to erect. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Surprising: Festival director Lieven Bertels in The Famous Spiegeltent – where his parents met in Belgium decades ago. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Surprising: Festival director Lieven Bertels in The Famous Spiegeltent – where his parents met in Belgium decades ago. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

For over a decade The Famous Spiegeltent has been a landmark venue for Sydney Festival, and it’s a fair bet that few who have set foot inside haven’t paused for a moment in genuine awe before the gorgeous interior of polished wood, antique stained glass and cunningly positioned mirrors.

Australian producer David Bates has owned The Famous Spiegeltent since 2000, the first year he brought it Down Under for the Adelaide Fringe. “I had been using it as a venue at the Edinburgh Fringe since 1996, but this was the first time anyone had seen it in Australia.”

Bates had first played in it as a jazz musician in 1987, and immediately fell under its spell. “I loved it as a performance space, but also the intimacy of it means that the audience falls in love with the experience.”

If you’ve not encountered Spiegeltents before, some explanation is in order.

Also known as “mirror tents” they’re a unique Belgian invention, originally designed in the late 19th century as a portable dancehall to be transported around towns that did not have their own permanent venue.

Hence they are cleverly designed such that no piece is too heavy for a single person to carry: an achievement that not even IKEA can match.

“There’s about 3000 pieces, it’s like a big jigsaw puzzle,” Bates says. “But when you’re in it, it feels like a permanent building.”

When it’s not at the Sydney Festival it travels all around the world in two 40-foot shipping containers before being erected wherever required. “It takes about 12 hours to assemble, and then it takes a day or two to put in the lights and sound and get it ready for the productions it’s going to house.”

The venues has done a lot of road miles too. The Famous Spiegeltent was constructed in 1920 and spent its formative years travelling around dances and festivals in the Flanders region of Belgium as recently as the 1960s.

In fact, if you were living in Antwerp in those pre-Tinder days, the intricate glasswork of a Spiegeltent was your best bet for unobtrusively checking out the local talent.

“They’re bevelled mirrors, so you can see angles,” Bates explains with a chuckle. “When they were used as travelling dancehalls you could check out people in the mirrors without being seen. In fact, someone recently told me that there was a Belgian expression for them as a result: a tickle or flirting-garden.”

In fact, that flirting had a direct influence on this year’s Sydney Festival. Were it not for The Famous Spiegeltent, the Sydney Festival Director may not even exist.

“My grandparents actually met in this very Spiegeltent,” Belgian-born Lieven Bertels reveals with a laugh. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for The Famous Spiegeltent!”

It sounds almost too good to be true, but he’s done his research: “This tent was from the northern part of Flanders and we know my grandparents met in a Spiegeltent, and this is the only one that toured,” he explains. “Thus it must have been this one!”

Future festival directors aside, it’s a space that’s also particularly beloved by artists. After all, how often can one stand on the same stage that has supported everyone from festival mainstays like La Clique, the Cat Empire and Amanda Palmer to global legends like Marlene Dietrich?

“There’s a sense of mystery in the tent, it asks you to go a bit further than just performing a regular gig,” says actor/performer Brendan Maclean. “And because it’s usually housing three shows a night there is always a little community of artists waiting just outside the exit door, all from different backgrounds and often different countries. Whole new projects have started from that camaraderie.”

“It can be very hot playing them in summer, but excellent because the stage is low and the audience is close and you can see everyone’s faces,” enthuses singer/songwriter Holly Throsby. “Plus wood and mirrors and painted flowers!”

With The Famous Spiegeltent approaching its first century as a working venue, there are still a few performers that Bates would love to see on that historical stage.

“Tom Waits or Nick Cave would be perfect,” he enthuses. “Of course they’re too big to be in venues like this, but their music is so intimate: they would be perfect.”

The Famous Spiegeltent is located in the Sydney Festival Village, open until January 26.

2015’s Spiegeltent must-sees:

Camille O’Sullivan: Changeling The Irish-French singer, a favourite of many local musicians, brings her passionate touch to music by Arcade Fire, Nick Cave and Radiohead. $50-$65. 8pm. Until January 18.

Black Cabaret A subversive, hilarious take on black-white relations in Australia – with song and dance. $45-$55. 8pm. January 20-25.

Jessica Pratt It’s not all circus and cabaret: this San Francisco singer-songwriter has a soulful voice that will grip you. Making her Australian premiere. $39. 5.45pm. January 10.

The Wau Wau Sisters: As Naked As the Day They Were Born This New York burlesque duo are festival favourites, and for a reason: expect nudity, energy and belly laughs. $41-$55. 10.30pm. January 20-25.

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Charlie Hebdo shootings: Paris has changed

While 12 people were being murdered in my neighbourhood, I was safely tucked away in a classroom on the other side of the Seine. Only a chance glimpse at a news website warned me that France’s worst terrorist attack in decades had unfolded just a couple of blocks from my apartment.
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Many Parisians would have been enjoying similar states of oblivion as they left their workplaces on a typically grey winter afternoon in Paris. Instead, they emerged to images of police all over the city, hunting down those responsible for the killings.

The 11th arrondissement in Paris’ east has been my home since I moved to France 18 months ago to study. It is a thriving neighbourhood, the streets lined with beautiful old buildings and dozens of boulangeries, cafes and shops.

On Wednesday morning, it became the site where 12 people were slain with chilling efficiency at the home of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Despite the gunmen not having been captured, the streets were brimming as I walked home that afternoon. My neighbourhood appeared as untainted by terror as it had when I left it that morning. Outraged at the attack on their city, thousands of Parisians gathered at Place de la  République, bereft of anger and pens raised respectfully.

Many of those chanting “Je suis Charlie” had probably never read the controversial publication. But that wasn’t the point; it was the violation of the values that the French have held dear since the 18th century storming of the Bastille – liberté, égalité, fraternité.

As France observed a day of mourning on Thursday, the traumatised capital tried to get on with la vie normale. But it was different. Friends told me their usually chaotic peak-hour metro was so serene they were able to get a seat – a minor miracle in Paris.

Not far from the shootings, the market at the Place de la Bastille – the great icon of the French Revolution – was open as usual, but unusually quiet. So, too, was the normally busy Rue de Rivoli in the adjacent 4th arrondissement.

At the Louvre, the threat of terrorism deterred neither the tourists in long queues, nor the vendors selling miniature Eiffel towers. The sobering appearance of armed police was the only sign that something was amiss.

Among the tourists walking along Rue de Rivoli headed for the Louvre were Steve and Kathy from Sydney. The couple had also been in the Sydney city centre when the terrorist attack occurred at the Lindt Café.

Unlike that situation, they said, Paris was not in full lock-down, although the police presence was palpable. While the Sydney attack seemed more random, the attack in Paris was more eerily calculating.

“It is an attack on free speech,” Steve said.

While the crowd at République delivered a strong message to terrorists – “Not Afraid” – this defiance masks a deep sadness and vulnerability. Perhaps it was perpetuated by French President Francois Hollande’s troubling revelation that several terror attacks had been foiled in recent weeks.

Could the city’s people continue to take the metro, walk the dog, go for a run late at night, in the naïve belief that faceless people weren’t plotting to inflict harm?

“Paris a changé,” says a waitress at a café a couple of blocks from the shootings. Paris has changed.

“Yesterday I was shocked. Today I am sad. Tomorrow I will be more engaged,” she says. She did not join the vigil at République; she has two small children and was afraid.

At another café, Parisian couple Nathalie and Sebastien discuss the attack on their city. “I don’t want to be afraid, because then they win,” Nathalie says. “Anywhere in Paris is dangerous. These acts are not isolated any more. Even if we find these men, it’s not going to stop these attacks. But they will not make us shut our mouths. And I encourage journalists not to shut their mouths.”

Carol Nader is a former Age journalist completing a Master of Public Health in Paris. 

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