news

Catfisher Lydia Abdelmalek has appealed her jail sentence for stalking offences, & more in News in 5.

-With AAP.

1. Catfisher Lydia Abdelmalek has appealed her jail sentence for stalking offences.

A Melbourne woman who impersonated an Aussie soap star to prey on unsuspecting women has been jailed for her elaborate scam, but almost immediately granted bail as she appeals the sentence.

Lydia Abdelmalek, 29, was on Thursday sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for six counts of stalking, with a minimum term of one year and nine months.

She earlier sat in Heidelberg Magistrates Court gripping pictures of Home and Away heart-throb Lincoln Lewis, who she impersonated, along with various other aliases to stalk seven people for about four years from May 2011.

A TV star was used to stalk women. Now one of them is dead. Post continues below audio.

The victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and their families cried when she was jailed.

Magistrate Stephen Ballek said the stalking was “calculated and cruel” and noted Abdelmalek refused to explain her actions and hadn’t shown remorse.

Abdelmalek appealed the sentence and was granted bail with a $10,000 surety and ordered to appear in the County Court on June 28.

As part of her bail conditions she will have to abide by social media restrictions.

Before Thursday’s sentencing, victims read statements detailing the relentless cyber bullying.

One victim took her own life last year, but penned a statement in 2016 outlining the trauma of being duped to believe the TV star was in love with her.

“I have been traumatised beyond belief, hounded with relentless abuse and nasty threats over a long period of time,” she wrote in the statement read to court by her sister.

“I felt like a person being randomly targeted and stripped of their freedom… tortured not for any crimes or wrongs committed, but for just the sick fascination, perverse pleasure and unhealthy satisfaction of the tormentor.”

In the statement, the woman said she had contemplated suicide and became close to being “just another statistic”. She died in October 2018.

Abdelmalek went as far as sending explicit images of the woman and vulgar messages to her father, mother, sister and brother-in-law.

“Do you really think your daughter’s aunty and godmother would be a dildo sucking slut?” one message to the victim’s sister read.

She also threatened to harm the woman’s niece.

The victim’s sister said justice had arrived too late.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It will never mitigate the life sentence my family and I have unjustly been served – a life without my beautiful sister,” she said in her own statement.

“I find myself without a sister to grow old with, my children will grow up without their much loved aunty and my parents now operate in a new world reality where they have had the heart-wrenching experience of burying a beautiful daughter.”

Mr Ballek said he could not sentence Abdelmalek for the woman’s suicide and praised the victims for their bravery.

Another woman, who was similarly scammed by the Lewis alias, spoke of how the “sick mind games” turned her from the life of the party to a recluse.

“In 2012, I was living an energetic, exciting life. I was funny, vivacious, outgoing and always the entertainer in the room,” she said.

“It’s now 2019 and I’m still discovering all the ways that this crime has affected me.

“I feel like I’m unworthy. I’m ashamed of myself and I blame my own stupidity,”

Seeing Lewis and his father – rugby league great Wally Lewis – in magazines or on TV triggers her post-traumatic stress disorder, she added.

Abdelmalek had her arm around her mother as the victims spoke and was holding printed photographs of Lewis.

She showed no emotion as she was led away by prison guards, but returned to court a short time later to launch an appeal.

Anyone needing support is urged to contact beyondblue (1800 22 4636) or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

2. Police have charged a man with four counts of murder in the Darwin shooting.

ADVERTISEMENT

Accused gunman Ben Hoffmann is believed to have known two of the four men he is accused of shooting and killing in a bloody rampage in Darwin this week.

One of the men he knew, 52-year-old Darwin casino security guard Rob Courtney, appears to have fought for his life and stabbed Hoffmann after he charged in.

Hoffman has undergone surgery in a Darwin hospital for knife wounds since being tasered and arrested by police on Tuesday night, which delayed detectives interviewing and charging him until Thursday.

Northern Territory Police charged 45-year-old Hoffmann with four counts of murder.

The four killings occurred in about 30 minutes with the gunman appearing to target specific locations with police believing he was affected by the drug ice, which he has a history of using.

Police have not ruled out an accomplice being involved because the ammunition used was purchased by a “well known associate” and given to the gunman, police commissioner Reece Kershaw said.

“That person has been spoken to and obviously we are looking at all avenues in relation to that individual,” he said.

When asked about the gunman’s motives, he said there was potentially disputes relating to drug debts and a woman.

“There is a bit of both there. There is drugs, I think, I am speculating here, but we are following those two lines,” Mr Kershaw said.

The violence started at 5.39pm Tuesday at the Palms Motel where Hoffmann allegedly shot and killed taxi driver Hassan Baydoun, 33, who was on a meal break.

Mr Baydoun’s cousin Abdallah Salman said his relative did not know the shooter and was accidentally caught up in the shootings as the alleged gunman went from room to room firing his gun and shouting for a person named Alex.

A 23-year-old woman at the Palms who police do not believe knew Hoffmann was shot in the legs and remains in hospital.

The shooter went on to kill Nigel Hellings, 75, in Gardens Hill Crescent less than a kilometre away, at what might have been the former home of an associate.

He then killed Michael Sisois, 57, who knew Hoffmann after previously working together, a few hundred metres away in the car park of the Buff Club.

He then drove two kilometres to Woolner where he tried to enter police headquarters, kicking the door before phoning duty superintendent Lee Morgan who negotiated with him and alerted police to his location.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mr Courtney was facing a charge of attempted sexual intercourse without consent and was due in court on Thursday.

The person named Alex who Hoffmann was looking for in the days leading up to the killings was interstate and was charged a fortnight ago in Darwin with various traffic and drug offences.

Vincent Sisois, the brother of Mr Sisois, angrily asked why Hoffmann had been released from prison on parole recently given he was known to be dangerous and violent.

“Why was he let out, they knew something would happen and they let him out. Why?” Mr Sisois said.

The NT government has asked for a report from the Parole Board on Hoffmann and to review all people on parole, however Attorney-General Natasha Fyles defended the system on Thursday.

“Internationally, evidence shows that an individual released into the community with support was a greater prospect for reintegration,” Ms Fyles said.

Hoffmann was picked up for speeding in the hours before the killings, while wearing an electronic monitoring device, and his suspicious behaviour in Humpty Doo that morning prompted calls to police.

“He was not displaying any adverse behaviour,” NT Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw told reporters on Thursday.

Hoffmann will appear in court via video link on Friday morning charged with murder, recklessly endangering serious harm and criminal damage.

3. George Pell returns to prison as judges weigh up his appeal.

Disgraced Cardinal George Pell has returned to his prison cell as senior judges consider if convictions for molesting choirboys should be overturned.

ADVERTISEMENT

Victoria’s Court of Appeal has been urged to believe the “moving” testimony from one of Pell’s victims that resulted in the cardinal being convicted for sexually abusing two choirboys after mass in Melbourne in the 1990s.

With his 78th birthday on Saturday, Pell faces an unknown wait for the court’s decision.

Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell and fellow judges, Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Justice Mark Weinberg, gave little indication of the outcome as they reserved their decision on Thursday.

“I’ve said it before that I think juries almost always get it right,” Justice Weinberg said.

“The word is ‘almost’.”

Prosecutor Chris Boyce QC told the court on Thursday the victim stood up to “one of the great old-style cross-examinations” with a calm, reliable and credible testimony in last year’s trial.

“He was a witness of truth,” Mr Boyce said.

But Pell’s appeal barrister Bret Walker SC has argued the jury’s verdicts were “unsafe and unsatisfactory”.

Mr Walker said evidence from prosecution witnesses showed Pell would greet parishioners after mass at the western door of St Patrick’s Cathedral at the time the offending was said to have occurred in the sacristy.

Pell has maintained his innocence and on Thursday his lawyers finished a two-day fight to overturn the convictions and secure his release from prison.

Justice Maxwell described the task faced by him and his fellow judges.

“It’s different to ‘would I have made that decision myself?’,” he said.

“It’s ‘was it within the range of conclusions reasonably open on that evidence?'”

Mr Boyce defended the victim, now in his 30s, against claims by Pell’s trial barrister Robert Richter QC, who accused him of being a calculated liar or deluded fantasist.

After hearing the man’s responses to those allegations, “one puts down one’s pen and stares blankly at the screen and is moved,” Mr Boyce said.

“And at that point any doubt that one might have had about the account … is relieved.”

The judges quizzed Mr Boyce throughout his response to Pell’s three appeal grounds, including why the two boys hadn’t later discussed the abuse they suffered.

“It’s so incredibly embarrassing – do you really want to talk to your friend about it?” Mr Boyce told them, after initially struggling to explain it.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mr Walker argued it was impossible for him to have committed the “atrocious” crimes.

“If (Pell) was at the western door, then the law of physics tells us this is literally, logically impossible for the offending to have occurred according to the complainant’s account, and there is no other account,” Mr Walker said.

There was also discussion about Pell’s robes, and whether it would have been possible for him to have exposed his penis as he was said to have done, while wearing his Archbishop ornamental robes.

Mr Walker maintained it was not possible for the heavy robes to have been pulled aside, while Mr Boyce suggested the alb, an ankle length tunic, could have been pulled up as far as the cincture, a rope, around Pell’s waist.

It was even suggested the judges try on the robes to see for themselves.

Pell is serving a minimum three years and eight months in prison.

4. R. Kelly facing 11 new sex assault charges.

Image: Getty.

Singer R. Kelly is expected to plead not guilty to 11 new sex-related charges when he appears in court in Chicago.

Thursday's hearing in Cook County comes a week after prosecutors announced the new counts, including four of aggravated criminal sexual assault. Each carries a maximum prison term of 30 years.

Kelly pleaded not guilty in February to 10 related counts of aggravated sexual abuse involving three girls and one woman over a period of about 10 years starting in the late 1990s.

ADVERTISEMENT

The judge could revoke his bail bond and order him to be jailed pending trial.

However, legal experts say that is highly unlikely.

Kelly's lawyer, Steve Greenberg, has said the accuser in the new charges is one of the four accusers in the February charges.

Even with more charges, he has said Kelly still expects to prevail at trial.

5. Ash Barty reaches French Open semi final.

Ash Barty could still become Australia's first French Open singles champion since Margaret Court in 1973 after she defeated Madison Keys 6-3, 7-5 in their quarter final.

The 23-year-old from Queensland said the whole match was close, but she was happy with her win.

"I took my opportunity in the first set. It's been amazing. I felt like I played great tennis and I'm really happy to go through," she said after the match.

An upset in the day's other quarter final, where American teen Amanda Anisimova defeated defending champion Simona Halep, meant World No.8 Barty was the highest ranking player left in the women's singles tournament.

Due to rain that stopped all play on Wednesday, Barty must now play three matches in as many days to become the first Australian to reach the final in Paris since Samantha Stosur in 2010.

Barty's win avenged her defeat to World No.16 Keys at Roland Garros in the opening round two years ago.

Tags: australian-news , catfishing , current-affairs , international-news , lincoln-lewis , news-3 , news-stories
00:00 / ???