true crime

The 'regular' Aussie family at the heart of Sydney's vile circus child abuse case.

WARNING: The following contains details of child sexual abuse, which may be distressing to some readers. For confidential information, counselling and support on sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse, please call 1800 RESPECT.

Until today, we knew them only by their ages, by grainy photographs in which their faces were shielded behind a veil of pixels. But that veil has been lifted.

A group of people linked to a circus school, located west of Sydney, charged with repeatedly raping and abusing three young boys, can be named after a Sydney court lifted a suppression order this afternoon.

They are alleged to include four members of the same family: Therese Ann Cook, 58, her brother Paul Christopher Cook, 52, her daughter Yyani Cook-Williams, 29, and Yyani’s step-sister Clarissa Meredith, 23.

The family among seven people who are collectively facing 127 charges including kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault of a child and making child abuse material.

Magistrate Stephen Corry on Thursday decided in favour of five media organisations when deciding in Penrith Local Court to lift the suppression order that had concealed their identities.

A 17-year-old girl, an 18-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman, who were also arrested on Monday after a long investigation, still can’t be identified.

The alleged abuse of the three boys – who were not students at the school – reportedly included sadistic sex acts and “blood rituals.”


One of the boys was just three when first assaulted in 2015, court documents state.

The allegations.

Therese Cook, who worked in health and education before she formed the community-based, Blue Mountains area circus school in 2009, is facing a total of 43 charges, including abusing two of the boys – aged three and seven – in 2015 before her co-accused became involved at a later date.

Detectives say that in 2015 she had sexual intercourse with the then seven-year-old and did so again more than a year later in the company of one of her co-accused.

She is also alleged to have choked the child with the intent of sexually assaulting him.

When arrested she said she “did not know what she is accused of,” court documents state.

circus family sex abuse
Therese Cook and Yyani Cook-Williams. Images: Facebook/MySpace.

Yyani Cook-Williams - an actress, burlesque dancer and co-convener of the circus - is alleged to have incited two of the boys to have sex with each other. She is charged with eight offences.

Paul Cook is accused of filming an aggravated sexual assault on one of the victims, which police say was conducted by two of the other accused. He is facing five charges.

The denials.

The four who can now be named have all entered pleas of not guilty to their respective charges.

Their lawyer, Bryan Wrench, told the court on Tuesday the accused claimed they "did not do this" and "there is another side to this story".

Wrench indicated all seven clients had known about the allegations since September, two months after detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad set up Strike Force Baillieu to investigate reports of abuse against the three boys.

A bail hearing has been set for February 16 at Penrith Local Court.

- with AAP.