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Convicted serial killer Ivan Milat claims his innocence in new letter from prison, & more in News in 5.

– With AAP.

1. Convicted serial killer Ivan Milat claims his innocence in new letter from prison.

Australia’s most notorious serial killer Ivan Milat has written to the media from Long Bay jail hospital, claiming he is innocent of the murder of seven backpackers.

In a three-page handwritten letter dated July 11 and sent to The Sun-Herald, the 74-year-old says his life since being arrested and convicted “has been devoted wholly to prove my innocence…(and) the court judiciary who conspired to obscure the miscarriages of justice”.

Milat was found guilty in 1996 of murdering seven backpackers whose bodies were found in makeshift graves in Belanglo State Forest in the 1990s.

He was transferred back to Long Bay jail hospital last weekend after spending more than a week at Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick.

ivan milat
Ivan Milat was sentenced to life in prison in 1996.

He spent another two weeks at the hospital in May when he was diagnosed with oesophagus and stomach cancer.  Due to the terminal illness, Milat will not return to New South Wale’s highest security prison Goulburn Correctional Centre.

"I am sure that you are aware of how cancer is, it's a grim finding and less than fifty per cent survive it and, I feel that the unpredictability of the effect of the treatment would overtake any commentary by me of it," Milat writes in the letter published by the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday.

"It is in the hands of my carers (doctors etc) and of course, Our Lord in Heaven."

Milat has always insisted his innocence despite his murder convictions. True Crime author Amanda Howard has been receiving letters from Milat for the past 20 years, and recently spoke to Mamamia saying: "He will die with his last breath saying he didn’t do this".

"It was a lot about ‘this evidence’, ‘that evidence’, ‘they said this in court’ and ‘they said that in court’, and he would put up his own legal fight against those points," the true crime writer said.

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"His correspondence is very disjointed and often alludes to things. It takes you a while to understand what he’s saying."

2. George Pell is yet to decide if he will appeal his sex abuse convictions to the High Court.

No decision has yet been made on whether Cardinal George Pell will appeal his sex abuse convictions to the High Court despite reports he plans to do so, a spokeswoman for the cleric says.

It's Pell's last chance at an appeal after Victoria's Court of Appeal last week upheld his December conviction for the rape of a 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.

Victorian Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and President Chris Maxwell on Wednesday ruled 2-1 to overrule Justice Mark Weinberg's judgement for his acquittal.

george pell appeal unsuccessful
Victoria's Court of Appeal last week upheld his December conviction for the rape of a 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another more than 20 years ago. Image: AAP.

Pell, 78, reportedly received unanimous advice from his legal team that the dissenting opinion of Justice Weinberg provided reasonable grounds to have his convictions overturned, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Sunday.

Despite the media reports, a spokeswoman for Pell told AAP on Sunday that no decision had been made yet.

Pell's lawyers have 28 days to file the appeal application, if they determine there are grounds to push ahead. That application needs to be granted before the High Court can hear any appeal.

A single judge would hear the application, considering factors including whether the case is a matter of public importance, whether the decision relates to a matter of law, or if it's in the interests of the administration of justice.

3. William Tyrrell inquest to hear from person of interest Bill Spedding.

Bill Spedding is due to give his side of the story at the inquest into William Tyrrell's disappearance after years of intense police and media scrutiny.

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The washing machine repairman's opportunity to speak at NSW Coroners Court comes after a witness backtracked on a statement linking Mr Spedding to the case.

Bonny Hills man Dean Pollard told police in January 2015 he "definitely" saw Mr Spedding's work van coming out of a bush track hours after William went missing.

william tyrrell photo
The last photo taken of William.

The three-year-old vanished from his foster grandmother's home in Kendall on the NSW mid-north coast about 10.15am on September 12, 2014.

But at the inquest on Friday, Mr Pollard backtracked, saying he told police the van he saw about 20 kilometres north of Kendall only "looked like" the van driven by his neighbour, Mr Spedding.

After further questioning and seeing a picture of Mr Spedding's van, Mr Pollard admitted what he saw couldn't have been repairman's van.

About the same time as Mr Pollard's original police statement, detectives searched Mr Spedding's home and business, tested several items and drained his septic tank.

No forensic evidence linking him to the boy's disappearance was ever found.

Mr Spedding has always vehemently publicly denied any involvement and has never been charged.

He has launched defamation action against multiple media outlets over their reporting of him in relation to William's suspected abduction.

4. Hong Kong police draw guns against civilians in latest protest violence.

Police in Hong Kong have drawn their guns after a small group of protesters attacked officers with sticks and rods; they also brought out water cannon trucks for the first time.

The confrontations were the latest violence in a summer of protests that have shaken the city's government and residents.

The main showdown on Sunday evening took place in the outlying Tsuen Wan district following a protest march that ended in a nearby park.

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While a large crowd rallied in the park, a group of hardline protesters took over a main street, strewing bamboo poles on the pavement, and lining up orange and white traffic barriers and cones to obstruct police.

After hoisting warning flags, police used tear gas to try to disperse the crowd.

Protesters responded by throwing bricks and petrol bombs towards the police and eventually decided to abandon their position.

Two water cannon trucks and a large group of police vehicles with flashing lights joined riot police on foot as they advanced up the street and met little resistance.

Television footage showed a water cannon being fired once, but perhaps more as a test, as it did not appear to reach the retreating protesters.

Some protesters said they were resorting to violence because the government had not responded to their peaceful demonstrations.

"The escalation you're seeing now is just a product of our government's indifference toward the people of Hong Kong," Rory Wong, who was at the clash after the march, said.

One resident, Dong Wong, complained about the tear gas.

"I live on the 15th floor and I can even smell it at home," he said.

"I have four dogs, sneezing, sneezing all day. ... The protesters didn't do anything, they just blocked the road to protect themselves."

Officers pulled their guns after protesters chased them down a street with sticks and rods, calling them "gangsters".

Public broadcaster RTHK said one of its reporters saw a uniformed officer fire a shot into the sky.

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Earlier on Sunday, tens of thousands of umbrella-carrying protesters had marched in the rain.

Many filled Tsuen Wan Park, the endpoint of the rally, chanting, "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong", the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

Protesters have taken to the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's streets for more than two months.

Their demands include democratic elections and an investigation into police use of force to quell the protests.

A large group clashed with police on Saturday after a march in the Kowloon Bay neighbourhood, building barricades and setting fires in the streets. Police said they arrested 29 people for various offences, including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons and assaulting police officers.

The clashes, while not as prolonged or violent as some earlier ones, ended a brief lull in the violence.

The protests, which began in early June, had become largely peaceful the previous weekend after weeks of escalating violence.

5. Lindt Cafe lawsuit settled after sniper was prevented from 'doing his job'.

NSW Police have settled a lawsuit brought by a sniper over the failures of command during the Lindt Cafe siege, The Daily Telegraph reports.


In the lawsuit, the chief sniper alleged he and fellow officers were prevented from doing their jobs and the lives of cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson could have been saved.

The civil action filed in April was set for a public hearing next year but has now been settled "confidentially", the newspaper reports.

The officer, who can only be identified as Sierra 3-1, alleged in a 30-page affidavit he had suffered psychological trauma as a result of the decisions taken by his superiors during the siege on December 15, 2014 in which 17 people were taken hostage.

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