‘Predatory’ rapist gets seven years jail

A vicious, terrifying pedophile who raped young girls in derelict buildings and storm drains throughout Sydney has been sentenced to at least seven and a half years in jail.

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Richard Crowe was around 20 years old when he carried out his predatory attacks on five girls – some as young as nine – between 1989 and 1991.

Crowe often spotted his victims while lurking in parks or outside run-down buildings and would threaten to kill them if they screamed or told anyone what he had done to them.

He was sentenced in the Sydney District Court on Thursday to a maximum 12 years in jail after earlier pleading guilty to numerous offences, including five counts of kidnapping, two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and two counts of aggravated sexual assault.

Despite the offences occurring 25 years ago, Crowe wasn’t arrested until last August after the Cold Case Justice Project (CCJP) took up the matter and linked him to the cases through DNA.

It has since been revealed how in 1989, he grabbed a nine-year-old girl as she walked alone to Sunday school from her western Sydney home.

With his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming, Crowe took her into a derelict building and raped her, the court heard.

About a year later, he stopped a 12-year-old girl as she rode a bike through a park with her brother looking for their friends.

Crowe flashed a knife with a 10-inch blade, telling the boy to leave as he dragged the girl by her wrist into bushes near a storm drain.

The victim was forced to strip and lie down.

“She told him she would do anything or give him anything if he didn’t hurt her,” Acting Judge Anthony Garling said in sentencing Crowe.

Crowe gruesomely assaulted her in a similar manner to his other victims.

The oldest victim, 17, was raped as she walked to a north Sydney train station to commute to work.

“He had one hand over her mouth and the other over her throat,” Judge Garling said, adding that the abuse was terrifying and vicious.

“It was predatory behaviour.”

Crowe, the judge said, told her: “If you don’t shut up I have a knife and I will kill you.”

During the assault Crowe hit her leg with a rock and after the forced sexual intercourse he told her to go away and ran off.

The 45-year-old has a history of similar offences and was in 1991 imprisoned on charges of abduction, indecent assault and aggravated indecency.

He also has a range of mental health issues and was diagnosed as a pedophile, Judge Garling said.

Because Crowe pleaded guilty at an early opportunity his sentence was discounted by 25 per cent.

It was backdated to begin when he was taken into custody last August.

Crowe will be eligible for parole in February 2022.

After the sentence was handed down on Thursday and Crowe was being taken back into custody, a supporter of one of his victims yelled “look over here you piece of s***.”

Crowe, who stared blankly at the judge while being sentenced, didn’t show any emotion and walked slowly away with his long hair hanging on slouched shoulders.

Spending disappoints after gloomy GDP

Weak consumer spending figures were hardly the antidote to soothe concerns about the state of the economy.

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The day after economic growth was reported slowing to its softest pace in two years, more up-to-date retail spending data recorded their first drop since May 2014.

Household spending was one of the few positives in Wednesday’s national accounts that showed the economy growing at just 0.2 per cent in the June quarter.

But July retail data on Thursday showed a 0.1 per cent drop when economists had been expecting further strength.

“It may suggest that weak household income growth and lacklustre consumer confidence is weighing even more on spending than we had previously thought,” ANZ economists said in a note to clients.

Despite the gloomy national accounts, government ministers continued to talk up the economic outlook.

However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott conceded the economy was not perfect.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann blamed the largest fall in the nation’s terms of trade in 50 years for the meagre two per cent annual growth rate.

“We are very optimistic about the outlook moving forward,” he told ABC radio, saying the government’s plan for stronger growth and jobs was on track.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen scoffed at the statements, and said the government must be living in a parallel universe if it thought everything was OK with the figures.

“The treasurer’s actually got to have a dose of reality,” he told ABC radio, adding that jobs and growth could not be delivered by merely talking about them.

Asked whether he believed Australia was heading towards a recession, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Perth: “I sincerely hope not.

“I think the Australian people are resilient but the real challenge here, and we can’t deny it, is that our real growth and our nominal growth are too low.”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however. Other figures showed the monthly international trade deficit had improved and exports rose two per cent in July.

Exports had been the biggest detraction to growth in the June quarter.

The services sector in August also recorded its strongest expansion since March 2008.

Australian Industry Group boss Innes Willox said the figures suggested the economy was gradually finding sources of growth to balance the further fall in mining-related investment.

Brothers lose Canberra brothel fire claim

Two brothers whose Canberra brothel was shut down by a fire have lost their bid to make their insurer pay, with a court finding they failed to disclose their links to the Comancheros.

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Baris and Fidel Tukel’s company Stealth Enterprises launched legal action against insurer Calliden after it would not pay out a claim against the fire at The Gentlemen’s Club in Mitchell on New Year’s Day, 2012.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with Calliden, saying the adult-industry insurer has no liability as the brothers had failed to disclose their association with the bikie gang.

The court heard the fire caused $500,000 in damage after it ripped through the brothel, which had to close down.

It came almost a year after Baris Tukel, the sole director of Stealth Enterprises, became a “Sergeant” in the bikie gang.

The brothers argued that if Calliden succeeded in not accepting liability, the effect was that “if you belong to a bikie gang, you can’t get any type of insurance”.

They also submitted that “a reasonable person” would not know that membership of a bikie gang was relevant to an insurer such as Calliden, which was prepared to cover brothels.

Calliden, the court heard, was one of the few insurers in the adult industry – a fact reflected in its premiums.

Their Business Pack Adult Industry Insurance policy was a scheme tailored for these businesses, excluding certain things from coverage, such as communicable diseases.

Justice Monika Schmidt said she was satisfied that if the brothers’ membership of the Comancheros had been disclosed, Calliden would not have insured them.

She said it was also common knowledge by 2010 that bikies had been involved in firebombing premises, drive-by shootings and bombings.

“It cannot be doubted that Stealth Enterprises knew that Fidel and Baris Tukel’s membership of the Comancheros was relevant to Calliden’s decisions, first to insure its brothel in 2010 and second to renew the policy in 2011,” Justice Schmidt said.

She ordered Stealth Enterprises pay the insurer’s costs.

Top harness trainer guilty of Vic race fix

One of Australia’s leading harness racing trainers has lost his reputation and potentially his career over a bet that won him just $820.

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Once celebrated Mildura trainer Shayne Cramp was the first Australian to train all eight winners in a single day.

But after fixing the outcome of a race with his father Greg Cramp in order to win a bet in November, he now faces a lengthy disqualification from the industry.

Both Shayne Cramp, 31, and Greg Cramp, 58, were sentenced to community service after facing the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday.

They pleaded guilty to a single charge each of engaging in conduct to corrupt a betting outcome.

The prosecutor, Inspector Richard Koo, said Shayne Cramp placed a bet on a trifecta requiring a one-two finish for himself and his father in a race in November last year in which both men were driving.

They had agreed Greg Cramp would open a space during the race at Mildura to allow Shayne to pass and take the lead, securing first and second place.

The bet won Shayne Cramp $820.

Other charges against both men were dropped, although the court was told of a second race and bet in relation to Shayne Cramp.

In October, Shayne Cramp successfully bet on another horse to win after arranging with its trainer that he would cede an advantage by not contesting for the early lead.

Shayne Cramp won $750 from that bet.

Magistrate Gerard Lethbridge said the effects of the offending had serious ramifications.

“It potentially undermines the reputation of the industry, the confidence of the public in the industry and ultimately the viability of the very industry you two claim to love,” he said.

Shayne Cramp was sentenced to 300 hours’ community work, and Greg Cramp to 200 hours.

Both men escaped conviction.

They will now have to face a disciplinary hearing with Harness Racing Victoria and potentially face decade-long disqualifications.

Trevor Wraight, QC, representing the pair, said their careers were likely over.

Disqualification would be the “nail in the coffin” for Greg Cramp’s career, he said.

Shayne Cramp might be able to rehabilitate himself, but will not perform at the same level.

“He has lost his reputation as one of the leading trainers in Australia,” Mr Wraight said.

Hayne slams ‘false’ 49ers roster report

Jarryd Hayne has described as “false and pathetic” an Australian media report that alleged he had made the San Francisco 49ers’ 53-man squad.

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The 49ers have until Saturday (Sunday AEST) to name the team, but a Rugby League Week column reported Hayne had already told family and friends he survived the final cut.

“This article is completely false and pathetic,” Hayne wrote in a Tweet addressed to family and friends.

“Disgusted that my hard work (and) dedication can lead someone to make up a story to try to grab headlines.”

The report came from Rugby League Week’s anonymous columnist The Mole and may have been given little credit, but it was picked up by a San Francisco radio station on Tuesday and 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula was asked about it.

Tomsula shot it down.

“I don’t know what the rules are in the media in Australia, but you might want to fact check,” Tomsula, adding the 53-man team is not set, said.

The report came as Hayne prepared for the 49ers’ last pre-season game to be played at the team’s 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday (midday Friday AEST).

A shaky game of dropped punts, fumbles at running back or miscommunication with the quarterback could rapidly have a black cloud over the former Parramatta Eels backline star.

But San Francisco media members covering the 49ers and former NFL greats say he is a certainty to be in the team’s red and metallic gold for the opening game of the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings on September 14.

“He seems to be fearless,” Brian Mitchell, the NFL’s all-time leader in punt and kickoff return yards, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“And when people ask the question, ‘What makes a great returner?’ well, first of all, you have to be fearless.”

Hayne has been one of the revelations of the NFL’s pre-season and after three games is ranked third in the league in punt return yards and seventh in rushing.

It is as punt and kick returner where Hayne will likely earn his spot on the team, but in his way is Bruce Ellington, the team’s incumbent who has declared he will prove to the coaches he deserves to make the cut.

Mitchell, 47, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl champion with the Washington Redskins in 1992, says NFL players could learn from watching the rookie Hayne and his rugby league skills.

He likes how Hayne instinctively makes opponents miss tackling him; how he lowers his shoulder pads when he needs to; and switches the ball from hand to hand to fend off defenders.

“Even guys in American football, they don’t do it all the time,” Mitchell said.

“He switches the ball from one hand to the other and uses the other hand to stiff-arm.

“I think that’s a lost art in football.”

First fall in retail sales in over a year

Retail spending has fallen for the first time in 14 months and there’s little sign of a recovery ahead.

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Spending dropped 0.1 per cent to $24.3 billion in July, after enjoying a 0.6 per cent rise in June.

The fall was driven by a 1.9 per cent fall in spending on household goods, which had been very strong over several months thanks to the booming housing market.

The federal budget may also have played a part, with businesses taking advantage of generous tax breaks on new purchases before the end of the financial year, St George senior economist Janu Chan said.

“Household goods retailing, which includes electrical goods, and spending on home improvements, items which tend to be claimed for tax deductions, fell,” she said.

Over the 12 months to July, retail spending rose 4.2 per cent, and household goods purchases were up 8.6 per cent, easing from the double-digit growth in 2014.

JP Morgan economist Ben Jarman said a fall from June’s strong spending was inevitable, noting that sales of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, newspapers and books had all dropped.

“It breaks the run of a couple of slightly better months,” he said.

Mr Jarman said global market volatility may impact consumer confidence and the next few months of sales.

“July is too early for recent equity market wobbles to have hit the retail spending data,” he said.

Ms Chan doubted that spending would return to the heights enjoyed earlier in 2015 while consumer confidence remains sluggish.

Westpac’s August measure of consumer sentiment rose, but at 99.7 points is below the 100 mark, meaning pessimists about the economy are outnumbering optimists.

“Concerns are lingering among households regarding the outlook, as indicated by consumer sentiment surveys,” she said.

“Additionally, weak income growth is weighing on consumers ability to increase spending.”

But Retail Council chief executive Anna McPhee was happy with the retail sector’s recent performance.

“Discretionary spending year on year is operating above its long-term average,” she said.

HOW AUSSIES SHOPPED IN JULY

* Sporting goods, toys and media down 4.1pct

* Electrical and electronic goods down 3.3pct

* Hardware, building and garden supplies down 1.4pct

* Shoes and personal accessories up 3.9pct

* Clothing up 2.3pct

* Takeaway food up 1.4pct

* Department stores up 1.3pct

* Liquor up 0.2pct

Source: ABS seasonally adjusted numbers

Vic Living office couldn’t find $3.6m

A missing $3.

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6 million and an app that was funded with a grant but never delivered are among management failures identified in a report on the former Office of Living Victoria.

Former auditor-general Des Pearson said the now-axed office, set up by previous water minister Peter Walsh, was poorly managed and it is not known what happened to money it sent out the door.

“This was a dodgy organisation, it was a dodgy process that was allowed to continue,” Water Minister Lisa Neville told reporters on Thursday.

But Mr Walsh said the money had been spent on projects that would deliver results in coming years and decades.

“This government is looking for every excuse it can to stop water-saving projects and turn on the desal plant,” Mr Walsh said.

Labor built the Wonthaggi desalination plant but it has never been used, despite costing taxpayers $1.8 million each day in guaranteed payments to its private operator.

Ms Neville said the Pearson report showed that poor record-keeping meant $3.6 million is unaccounted for, and the final outcomes for one third of all projects could not be established.

She said 19 projects were on hold while the government examined them to see if they stacked up.

One developer got a $500,000 grant from the office and two weeks later donated $15,000 to the Liberal Party.

Another got money for an app that the report found did not exist.

But Mr Walsh, now leader of the Nationals and deputy opposition leader, said the government was releasing a political-motivated report to distract from allegations of rorting among Labor’s electoral offices.

“As I understand, it’s been sitting on the minister’s desk for several weeks, if not months,” he said.

Labor shut down the Office of Living Victoria immediately after taking power in November 2014.

Ms Neville said the staff involved had “left” the government.

Aim to be Indonesia’s trusted partner: PM

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is confident there is scope for Australia to be Indonesia’s “trusted partner” despite recent bilateral niggles.

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Mr Abbott emphasised the lines of communication between him and President Joko Widodo had reopened following a strain earlier in the year ahead of the executions of Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Mr Abbott is looking forward to catching up with Mr Widodo at various leaders’ summits during the next few months.

“Occasionally there are ups and downs, but certainly under this government, there will be no gratuitous offence given, there will be no shocks,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

The prime minister is delighted the live cattle trade appears to be returning to normal levels again after Indonesia cut its quotas and then reversed the move to head off a beef shortage.

More than 2300 ready-for-slaughter Australian cattle arrived at a Jakarta port on Thursday.

Mr Abbott said he wanted Australia to be the place Indonesians naturally chose if they wanted an overseas education and Indonesia to be the place that Australians chose to holiday in the region.

However, Australians travelling to Bali will still have to fork out $50 in visa fees, despite Jakarta’s willingness to scrap the charge.

That’s because Canberra is refusing to make reciprocal arrangements for Indonesian citizens.

The Indonesian government has announced visa fees will be scrapped for tourists from Australia and 46 other countries from October.

But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has ruled out changing Australia’s no-exemptions policy for tourists from any country.

Ms Bishop discussed the issue with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi at a “warm and constructive” breakfast meeting in Sydney on Thursday.

“She explained that Indonesia would love to provide Australia with visa exemptions, but unless they got reciprocity, they wouldn’t be able to do so,” Ms Bishop said.

“Our policy is across the board – there are no exemptions.”

The pair also discussed trade, investment and counter-terrorism efforts.

Ms Bishop said she and Ms Marsudi were in constant contact via text messages, “much to the chagrin of diplomats”.

Ms Bishop will visit Indonesia in October.

Meanwhile, opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek is in Jakarta on Thursday and Friday for meetings with Indonesian ministers and other dignitaries.

Chaos continues as Europe deals with crush of migrants

It comes as the European Union scrambles to find a solution to the continuing mass migration across the continent.

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The issue has also highlighted rising tensions between EU members as they disagree on how to tackle the influx.

 

Officials in Greece say at least 12 Syrians have drowned after their boats sank in Turkish waters as they tried to get to Greece.

The coastguard says two boats sank after setting off from Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula for the Greek island of Kos.

The dead included a toddler whose lifeless image has been circulated online.

 

The child can be seen lying face down in the sand on a Turkish tourist beach as an official stands over him.

 

Meanwhile, police in Austria say they have rescued 24 Afghans locked in a van outside the capital Vienna.

 

Spokesman Thomas Keiblinger has described the conditions inside the van as awful.

 

“The police came across a terrible situation. The scene there was really awful. People were sitting or standing on top of each other and had no chance of opening the door themselves from inside. The doors were welded shut. The windows had bars over them. These people were not able to free themselves.”

 

It comes just days after 71 people were found dead in the back of an abandoned truck.

 

In neighbouring Hungary, it has been another day of tense scenes after scuffles broke out outside Budapest’s main international train station.

 

More than 2,000 migrants faced police in the Hungarian capital, with many chanting “Freedom!” and carrying banners.

 

One Syrian man has described the situation at the train station.

 

“Nobody knows what we have to do, because I stay here for three days and bought a ticket and pay all my money to buy the ticket and I have just to wait here, because I don’t have entrance to (the station). Even I asked the police, asked the journalists, nobody knows what we have to do.”

 

It was the largest stand-off in a number of tense encounters following Hungary’s decision on Tuesday to prevent migrants getting on trains to Germany.

A government spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, has defended that decision, saying no-one will be allowed to travel without valid documents.

 

“The European Union, including Hungary, should regain its ability to differentiate between refugees proper and economic migrants. Obviously, it’s in the best interests of those arriving, actually, that they have papers and we would be able to establish whether they are coming from Syria or they are coming from other war zones or they are coming there with a different intent — that is, they are economic migrants.”

 

Germany, meanwhile, has begun accepting asylum claims from Syrians regardless of where they entered the European Union.

 

That comes despite the bloc’s rules stating migrants must be sent back to the country where they entered.

 

Germany’s decision has caused confusion for its neighbours, which have alternated between letting migrants through and blocking them.

 

Germany says it expects about 800-thousand people to file for asylum this year, four times last year’s level.

 

It has called for a fair distribution of refugees across the EU.

 

But Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, says he does not think taking in more people is the solution.

 

“We have taken a number of genuine asylum seekers from Syrian refugee camps, and we keep that under review, but we think the most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world. I don’t think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees.”

 

Rights groups have criticised authorities in the Czech Republic for marking the hands of refugees there with numbers after detaining them on a train.

The measure has triggered memories of Nazi Germany’s practice of marking the arms of concentration-camp prisoners with numbers.

Czech police have used markers to write numbers on the hands of 214 refugees, mostly Syrians, detained at a south-eastern border crossing on trains from Austria and Hungary.

The country’s Interior Ministry has defended the move, saying it was introduced because of the increasing number of children among the refugees.

 

Elsewhere, Phillippe Douste-Blazy, a former French foreign minister now United Nations under-secretary general, has been visiting the Italian island of Lampedusa.

 

He has witnessed the rescue of migrants and refugees there.

 

Mr Douste-Blazy describes the harrowing scenes and the conditions in which people are arriving as a tragedy.

 

“I think that we don’t speak about that. It is a human tragedy. We have to come back to the Second World War to see these kinds of atrocities. First of all, it is human beings. This is not like immigration policy, the flow of migrants, no. It is human beings.”