Great-grandfather, 89, who allegedly used handgun in scrapyard dispute attempts to strike plea deal


An 89-year-old man who allegedly used a handgun to settle a junkyard dispute may have had his hopes for a plea deal scuttled by prosecutors.

Paolo Mannici faced the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today over the incident last year, which left his alleged victim in hospital.

Police are accusing the Italian octogenarian of arming himself with a Beretta handgun after he had a falling out with his alleged victim over material being dumped at Mr Mannici’s junkyard in Ravenhall.

Investigators have charged the great-grandfather, who suffers from a weak heart, back problems and vertigo and takes more than a dozen pills a day, with six offences including recklessly causing serious injury and unlawful assault.

Today, the 89-year-old’s lawyer, Nelson Brown, told the court that the case had “resolved” and that he would plead guilty to two charges – reckless conduct endangering life and possessing an unregistered handgun.

Mr Brown said his client would also ask for his case to stay in the magistrates court where the penalties are lower.

But the prosecutor, Emma Fargher, said the case had not yet been settled.

“There’s a factual dispute regarding intention,” Ms Fargher said.

In December last year, Mr Mannici is accused of approaching his alleged victim from behind with a handgun and shooting him in the arm before advancing on him.

The court previously heard that the gun allegedly went off while the pair struggled, causing the man to be shot again, before Mr Mannici was overpowered and the weapon was wrested from him.

“It’s quite a significant dispute as to what the factual basis is in terms of intention, whether the firearm was actually shots fired or whether simply discharge of the firearm,” Ms Fargher, the prosecutor, said.

“The best way to deal with this matter is a short two-week adjournment so that any further negotiations can be carried out, and it may be that this matter has to proceed on pleas of not guilty and be committed up to the county court on the next date,” she said.

Mr Mannici, who is on bail, today appeared in court by video link from his home where he waved at the camera twice.

The hearing was relayed to him through an Italian interpreter.

“Va bene, grazie [OK, thanks],” said Mr Mannici after listening to the translation.

His bail was extended and he will return to court in June.

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‘Change before we lose you’: Mildura mother’s plea



A Mildura woman could spend her 30th birthday in jail after being found with drugs with a $10,000 street value.

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Gruesome mass discovery of dead Tasmanian devils prompts plea for action


The Greens have pleaded for federal government intervention after a spate of bloody Tasmanian devil deaths on roads in the far north-west of the state.

According to locals, 10 devils were found dead in just five days at Woolnorth earlier this year, and about 30 in total since January.

Photographs obtained by the ABC show the dead devils in graphic detail. One’s head appears to have been turned 180 degrees.

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the photos had made him shocked and angry.

“This Woolnorth property is recognised as an insurance population and one of the last strongholds of healthy devils in Tasmania, and obviously these figures are shocking,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.

“We’re calling for a reinstatement of federal funding to the Save the Tasmanian Devil program and an immediate comprehensive study on what needs to be done.”

Businessman Xianfeng Lu bought Van Diemen’s Land Company in 2016.(

ABC Rural: Hugh Hogan

)

A Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment spokeswoman said the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program was “aware” of reports of devil roadkill at Woolnorth and had contacted Woolnorth Road’s owner — the Circular Head Council — to offer advice.

“Data collected by the program and other areas of state government … reveals a recurring annual spike in road-killed devils during the summer months throughout the state,” the spokeswoman said.

“This pattern is thought to occur because juvenile devils disperse from their mothers’ dens at this time of year, sometimes using roads to travel.

The stretch of road on which the devils were killed sits adjacent to Van Dairy farms.

Chinese-owned company Moon Lake Investments pledged to help protect the local Tasmanian devil population before purchasing the former Van Diemen’s Land Company in 2016.

The company — which now operates locally as Van Dairy — could not be contacted for comment on Thursday.

Three small Tasmanian devils feeding on their mother's teat
The area is believed to be home to a population of devils free of the deadly facial tumour disease.(

Supplied: David Hamilton

)

Tasmanian Conservation Trust director Peter McGlone wrote to the Foreign Investment Review Board when it was considering Moon Lake’s acquisition to recommend the company be forced to commit to protecting the local devil population.

“Woolnorth is part of the far north-west of Tasmania and at the time — and I think it’s still the case — it had wild devils that are free of the [facial tumour] disease,” Mr McGlone said this week.

Mr McGlone said the company had instead been able to express support for a devil-proof fence.

The DPIPWE spokeswoman said Van Dairy did not make any contributions to its programs, but allowed staff on-site each year for devil monitoring.

The sign at the entrance to the Van Diemen's Land Company.
The entrance to the Van Diemen’s Land Company.(

ABC Rural: Hugh Hogan

)

Company not without controversy

Van Dairy has been plagued with controversy since it was acquired by Moon Lake Investments in 2016.

Chinese businessman Xianfeng Lu paid $280 million for the Van Diemen’s Land Company after its purchase was signed off by then-treasurer Scott Morrison.

In 2018, Moon Lake’s Australian chief executive and non-executive directors walked away from the company.

At the time, former state treasurer David Crean cited concerns Mr Lu had rejected a proposal to invest in infrastructure on the farms and had pitched a company restructure that would not work.

One year later, more than 20 senior management staff wrote to Mr Lu to complain they could not “deliver safe, quality dairy products” nor “ensure nor endorse [the company’s] animal welfare policies”.

The Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority is now investigating Van Dairy over issues with effluent discharge.

The federal environment minister was contacted for comment.

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‘Missing in action’: Student bed sector’s plea for plan after Brisbane boom


By Matt Dennien

After years of being courted to the city, Brisbane’s multibillion-dollar student housing sector says thousands of rooms have been left empty under an inflexible planning scheme during the COVID-19 downturn.

Major players said most buildings that would normally be full were about 20 per cent capacity, and they feared a further halving of that figure by the end of the year until their main market, international students, were able to return.

The looming JobKeeper cliff would also lead to the loss of further skilled jobs among staff trained to cater to the needs of students not always familiar with life in Australia or away from family, they said.

Scape Australia, the largest purpose-built student accommodation provider in Australia, boasts 5000 beds across seven buildings in Brisbane.

Scape executive chairman Craig Carracher said the sector felt ignored after significant interest in the years before the pandemic.

“These are purpose-built buildings enticed by the Queensland government and Brisbane City Council and we can’t get a meeting with the mayor,” he said.

“I don’t get a reply phone call or a reply email from the Queensland [government]. They’re missing in action.”

Scape executive director Craig Carracher says student accommodation providers have been left high and dry in Brisbane.

Scape executive director Craig Carracher says student accommodation providers have been left high and dry in Brisbane.Credit:Josh Robenstone

A concerted push by both levels of government to encourage students to the city and accommodation providers to house them led to Brisbane City Council offering reduced infrastructure charges for plans approved between the 2014-15 and 2016-17 financial hears.

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Heart attack survivor makes CPR course plea after ‘miracle’ escape


There’s only one word 58-year-old heart attack survivor John Alam’s rescuers are using to describe him: lucky.

The man from Bangor in Sydney’s south was cycling through nearby Menai on February 7 when he suffered a massive heart attack.

The first bit of luck came when an off-duty firefighter saw Mr Alam’s legs sticking out of bushland and rushed to start CPR.

Cyclist and heart attack survivor John Alam (centre) meets with the emergency services personnel who helped save his life. (Fire and Rescue NSW)

The next person on the scene was another Fire and Rescue NSW officer, who helped keep the cyclist alive until they could wave down, incredibly, a passing ambulance.

Meanwhile, off-duty police officer Constable Tenille Jago arrived for good measure to lend yet another expertly qualified helping hand.

The paramedics used the defibrillator to revive Mr Alam and rushed him to Sutherland Hospital, where he made a full recovery after a quadruple bypass.

“(I) just saw him slumped over in the garden with his legs sticking out of the bushes,” said Chris Smith, one of the off-duty firefighters.

” … Everything aligned for him that day and he’s a pretty lucky guy.”

According to the paramedics, CPR and early defibrillation can make all the difference.

“Somebody saw him. The fact he was on the ground, below a barrier is just amazing,” Alex Walmsley said.

“It truly is a Sunday miracle.”

The cyclist’s wife, Mary, said she would be eternally grateful to her husband’s rescuers while Mr Alam had a very personal message for every Australian.

“We’ve just all gotta learn CPR,” he said.

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‘Exhausted’ councils sign joint plea for urgent federal help to cover disaster clean-up costs


Mayors and councillors from disaster-affected regions of New South Wales and Queensland fear the cost of cleaning up after frequent natural disasters is not financially sustainable and are seeking urgent Federal Government help.

Seventeen local council representatives signed a joint statement released today, calling on the Morrison Government to recognise the spiralling impacts of natural disasters caused by climate change and to do more to protect communities from the fallout.

The statement also calls for less reliance on fossil fuels and more investment in clean industries that create regional jobs.

Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley, one of the signatories, said her region had been hit particularly hard by fires, storms and floods.

She said while the council had covered much of the clean-up for these natural events, it had come at a cost.

“The burden on the ratepayer becomes enormous,” Cr Findley said.

“Things like roads, curbs and guttering are the things that really suffer under wet weather conditions like what we’ve seen this summer.

Lismore councillor Elly Bird said her region in north-eastern NSW was one of the most flood prone in the country.

She said the Lismore City Council needed funding to help individuals increase their preparedness for such events rather than only focussing on the clean-up.

“We need funding to help people lift their properties for example,” Cr Bird said.

The joint statement by Australian mayors and councillors shows these concerns are reflected across NSW and QLD.

The statement says in part:

The joint statement also calls on the Federal Government to address climate change, which Climate Council researcher Dr Simon Bradshaw said was influencing natural disasters.

“All types of extreme weather events including storms, coastal erosion, flooding, bushfires, heatwaves and drought, are influenced by climate change,” he said.

“And it’s going to get worse — by 2038, the price tag of climate impacts could climb to $100 billion a year.”

The statement signed by the 17 mayors and councillors says:

Deputy Mayor of MidCoast Council Claire Pontin said governments were not doing enough in relation to climate change.

“The overall issue is being downplayed and ignored by both levels of government,” Cr Pontin said.

“Every time we have to deal with a climate emergency, it just pulls money out of the standard maintenance fund.

The joint statement will be presented to the Federal Government with all seventeen signatures today.

The signatories are from the following NSW councils: Bega Valley Shire Council, Bellingen Shire Council, Byron Shire Council, Dungog Shire Council, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Kiama Municipal Council, Lismore City Council, MidCoast Council, Parkes Shire Council, Shellharbour City Council, Shoalhaven City Council, Tweed Shire Council, City of Wagga Wagga, Wingecarribee Shire Council, Wollongong City Council.

And from Douglas Shire Council and Noosa Shire Council in Queensland.

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Four Darwin hotel refugees released as remaining families plea for freedom


A family of four refugees who were medevaced to Australia in February 2020 have been released from hotel detention in Darwin.

Reza Golmohamadian and his family were released this morning from the Mercure Darwin Airport Resort, which is classified as an ‘Alternative Place of Detention’ by the Australian Border Force, where they had been detained for more than 12 months.

Mr Golmohamadian said his family from Iran had spent a total of about eight years in detention, including seven years on Nauru.

His son, 21-year-old Ali, said today was a day of mixed feelings as other refugees remained in detention in Darwin.

“I hope that all of them soon will get out,” he said.

Ali Golmohamadian said the years of detention had taken a toll on his mental health and described his time in Darwin as “very challenging”.

“We had no choice, we just had to try and stay positive,” he said.

The family has been given a seven-day humanitarian visa, and then a bridging visa, allowing them to reside in the community, work and receive Medicare.

Ali’s mother and sister both require medical treatment.

Reza Golmohamadian said his family have been accepted as refugees in Canada, but have been waiting in Australia.

They will live in Brisbane, until they finalise their treatment and resettle in Canada.

“I don’t like to think of it (the years in detention) as a waste but I’m pretty sure I could have used these years better,” Ali Golmohamadian said.

Reza Golmohamadian slept on the floor of his room inside hotel detention(

ABC News: Supplied

)

So far this week more than 20 medevac detainees have been released from Brisbane immigration detention, with dozens more around the country expected to follow this week.

The refugees detained in Darwin were brought to Australia for medical care under Australia’s medevac laws that have since been repealed.

In February, Reza Golmohamadian said he and his family were succumbing to feelings of hopelessness.

In hotel confinement, he and his wife were detained in a roughly 3×3-metre room with bunk beds.

Due to their health problems, they were unable to climb into the bunk bed, leaving Mr Golmohamadian to sleep on the floor.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement families who were released on bridging visas were expected to finalise their medical treatment before continuing on their resettlement pathway.

“A final departure bridging E visa allows individuals to temporarily reside in the Australian community while they finalise their arrangements to leave Australia,” the spokesperson said.

Abbas and handful of refugees with hands up asking to be freed from detention
Refugees left their hotel rooms during a protest against their detention in January.(

ABC News: Sowaibah Hanifie

)

Remaining families plea for freedom

Abbas Maghames, 33, and his family remain in detention and he said it had been very difficult to hear of people leaving, while they will remain.

He said he was particularly worried about his parents, who were in their 60s.

“I’m crying right now. My tears won’t stop,” he said.

“Other families are so sad and feeling stressed. [Everyone is feeling] hopeless, depressed. All our body shaking.

“It’s not fair we came together for treatment, why they [release] us separate[ly]?”

Refugee Voices spokesman Ahmad Hakim said families who remained detained in Darwin have been on the phone with him and are clearly distressed.

“They are just seeking answers why have they been left there and others are out,” he said.

“They feel it is a type of torture by [Home Affairs Minister] Peter Dutton, to break them down more.”

A number of Darwin locals protested against the detainment of refugees outside the hotel, holding signs like 8 year, no crime
Refugee advocates in Darwin have protested against the indefinite detention of the confined refugees.(

Sowaibah Hanifie, ABC News

)

A total of 69 medevac refugees from Brisbane, Sydney and Darwin are expected to be released this week, according to lawyers representing the group.

More than 40 left detention in Brisbane early this morning and yesterday.

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Family of legendary broadcaster Ray Warren plea for return of stolen Hall of Fame ring after ‘disturbing’ home invasion


Warren’s daughter Holly and her son were at home at the time of the intrusion while Ray and his wife Cher were upstairs asleep. Nobody was hurt in the incident and NSW Police are investigating.

“I also feel a sense of helplessness, that this scum, could take a treasured family piece Dad’s @nrl Hall Of Fame Ring that night, so special on so many levels to us,” Mark posted on Instagram.

The voice of rugby league Ray Warren at his Hall of Fame induction.Credit:Getty

“Very hurt and disturbed but to these cowards please know that with all our combined networks, all areas, along with the @nswpolice & @nrl the focus will come your way.

“Be assured of one certainty, that Karma comes with gravity when you knock on our family door. Mostly though, thank you my Lord our family were not harmed.”

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Warren is due to return to the commentary box for the opening round of the NRL season next week and admitted after last year’s end-of-season State of Origin series he wasn’t sure if he had called his last match.

He broadcast Queensland’s series-deciding victory from the Nine Entertainment Co studios after being unable to secure a permit to travel to Brisbane for the Suncorp Stadium showdown.

More to come

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agri laws: Police supposed to collect evidence for true picture, says court on Deep Sidhu’s plea for fair probe


Police is not supposed to collect evidence only to prove the guilt of the accused but also to bring forth a true picture, a Delhi court said on Friday while directing a probe on the plea by actor-activist Deep Sidhu who claimed he was not an “instigator” of the Red Fort violence on the Republic Day during farmers’ tractor parade against the Centre’s three new agri laws.

The court added however that appropriate action may be taken and relevant sections added to the charges if Sidhu was trying to mislead the investigation by fabricating false evidence.

“IO (investigating officer) is duty bound to conduct proper investigation in the matter in a fair and impartial manner. He is not supposed to collect the evidence only to prove the guilt of the accused, rather he has to bring the true picture before the court,” Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gajender Singh Nagar said in his order.

The court was hearing Sidhu’s plea seeking directions to the police to include all videos and other material on record which allegedly proved his innocence and conduct a fair and impartial investigation in the case.

During the hearing, advocate Abhishek Gupta, appearing for Sidhu, told the court that Sidhu was not an instigator of the incident at Red Fort, as alleged by the police.

“There is no video of him calling the people to gather at Red Fort. He did not indulge in any kind of violence taking place at Red Fort. He was only a peaceful protestor,” Gupta claimed.

He further claimed that Sidhu was staying at a hotel in Murthal from where he checked out at 12 pm on February 26 and left for Delhi only after checking out.

“The CCTV footage of the hotel, which was in working condition, checkout bill showing the time/ payment details, as online payment was made, be obtained to ascertain this… Further, the car navigation system installed in the Ford Endeavor car used by him which is in police possession would also show the route taken by him to reach from Murthal to Red Fort along with timings and time taken in the same,” he submitted.

Sidhu reached the area around Red Fort only around 2 pm, which can be proven by his phone location and by that time a huge crowd has already gathered at the spot, Gupta said.

He claimed there was CCTV footage of the Red Fort in which Sidhu can be seen helping the police by requesting the crowd to leave the rampart where they were trying to hoist the flag.

The plea also alleged that the police has chosen not to check the evidence which completely belies the case thrusted upon the applicant/accused (Sidhu).

“Further, the CCTV footage of the Red Fort is already with the investigating agency which shows that the applicant/accused did not participate in any act of violence and rather he was helping the police in pacifying the crowd.

“Applicant/accused is apprehensive that the CCTV footage and the video will also not be considered by the police (CCTV footage of Red Fort from 10.00 AM to 4.00 PM). The applicant/accused has not committed any offence as alleged in the FIR and if the said record is not called, preserved and made part of the record, then it will be difficult for the applicant/accused to prove his innocence, further the ends justice would not be met,” it claimed.

Additional Public Prosecutor Rajiv Kamboj, appearing for the police, opposed Sidhu’s plea saying the accused cannot guide the police to conduct investigation in a particular manner.

“Police is duty bound to conduct fair and impartial investigation. However, accused cannot be allowed to divert the investigation of the police from its path. By moving the present application, accused is trying to guide the investigation being done by the police,” the public prosecutor claimed.

The court had on February 23 sent Sidhu to judicial custody in the case. Police had earlier alleged he was one of the main instigators of the violent incidents at the Red Fort.

Tens of thousands of protesting farmers clashed with the police in the national capital on January 26 during a tractor parade to highlight their demands.

Many of them driving tractors reached the Red Fort and entered the monument, where a religious flag was also hoisted. Over 500 police personnel were injured and one protestor died.

In the FIR registered in connection with the Red Fort violence, police alleged two magazines with 20 live cartridges were snatched from two constables by protestors who also damaged vehicles and robbed anti-riot gear.



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Authorities make DESPERATE plea for anonymous caller in case of missing Melbourne mum Ju ‘Kelly’ Zhang


An anonymous phone call to police has prompted a desperate plea from authorities about the whereabouts of missing Melbourne woman Ju “Kelly” Zhang.

The anonymous person phoned Crime Stoppers Thursday morning, providing information on Zhang’s whereabouts.

Detectives are appealing for that caller to make contact again.

“Investigators are urging that person to call back and provide further information or to make contact with detectives,” police said in a statement.

Zhang, a 33-year-old mother, was last seen at her home in Epping on February 1 wearing a pink night gown and pink slippers.

A friend reported her missing the next day.

Her partner Joon Seong Tan has since been charged with murder.

Zhang’s boyfriend Tan, 35, was arrested on February 10 after authorities found him at Melbourne airport.

He was taken into custody at Melbourne Airport around 6.15pm.

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