news

"We keep hope." The father of missing backpacker Theo Hayez believes he could be in a cult or commune, & more in News in 5.

-With AAP.

1. “We keep hope.” The father of missing backpacker Theo Hayez believes he could be in a cult or commune.

Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez has been missing for nearly two months, but his family are holding onto hope that he could still be alive.

Theo’s father Laurent Hayez told Belgian radio he believed his 18-year-old son could be trapped in a cult or commune in northern NSW, unable to communicate with the outside world.

Theo has not been seen since May 31, when he left Byron Bay’s Cheeky Monkey’s nightclub. His phone last ‘pinged’ near Cape Byron Lighthouse on June 1.

He was reported missing on June 6 when he failed to check out of his hostel, leaving his belongings and passport still in his room.

“As long as we have not found his body, we keep hope,” he told Belgian public service radio station RTBF this month.

“He may be a prisoner somewhere where there is no electricity – it is our hope,” Laurent said in the radio interview.

Laurent believed his son may have been enlisted, drugged or kidnapped by one of the many ‘off the grid’ communities in the Byron area.

Laurent told the Echonet Daily there were many theories circulating.

“We have spoken about some of those theories before but they remain theories. We need solid evidence, so we must give investigators the opportunity to gather and verify that evidence.

“We do believe that there are witnesses that haven’t yet come forward. We believe that Theo did not spend the early hours of June 1 alone.”

Tweed Byron Police told news.com.au a number of “alternate lifestyle communities” are part of their investigation.

State Emergency Service volunteers, dogs, drones and members of the public looked unsuccessfully for Theo in a month-long search. on Tuesday returned to the area around Cape Byron Lighthouse where the last ‘ping’ from Theo’s phone was recorded on June 1.

2. Four people have been shot dead at a food festival in California.

ADVERTISEMENT


A gunman has killed at least three people at a California food festival before being shot dead by police, and police are hunting for a second person they believe was involved in the killing.

Some 15 people were wounded during the mass shooting at the three-day Gilroy Garlic Festival in northern California, some of them hurt in the crush of bystanders trying to flee, police said.

Police reached the scene within a minute of the first shots ringing out at 5.45pm on Sunday and officers shot and killed the gunman moments later, according to Scot Smithee, who heads the Gilroy Police Department.

A second person, “was involved in some way, we just don’t know in what way,” Smithee said late on Sunday.

“We have no idea of a motive,” he added.

Smithee said the gunman had cut through a fence to get into the annual Garlic Festival in Gilroy, 48km southeast of the city of San Jose.

“It’s just incredibly sad and disheartening that at an event that does so much good for the community had to suffer from a tragedy like this,” he said.

Footage uploaded to social media appeared to show festival attendees scattering in fear and confusion as loud popping sounds could be heard in the background.

“What’s going on?” a woman can be heard asking on one video. “Who’d shoot up a garlic festival?”

Evenny Reyes, 13, told the San Jose Mercury News that at first she thought the gunfire was fireworks but then saw someone with a wounded leg.

“We were just leaving and we saw a guy with a bandana wrapped around his leg because he got shot,” Reyes told the newspaper. “There was a little kid hurt on the ground. People were throwing tables and cutting fences to get out.”

Another witness, Maximo Rocha, a volunteer with the Gilroy Browns youth football team, said he saw many people on the ground, but could not be sure how many were shot.

He told NBC Bay Area that “quite a few” were injured, “because I helped a few.”

Stage hand Shawn Viaggi told the Mercury News he heard gunshots and saw bullets hitting the ground.

“I called out, ‘It’s a real gun, let’s get out of here,’ and we hid under the stage,” Viaggi told the newspaper, adding that he saw police officers trying to resuscitate one man.

ADVERTISEMENT

Founded in 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is an annual event run by volunteers and held outdoors at Christmas Hill Park.

Weapons of any kind are prohibited, according to the event’s website, which also said anyone wearing clothing or paraphernalia indicating membership in a gang, including a motorcycle club, would be refused entry.

3. Former Victorian priest has been jailed for abusing three boys.


A victim of a predator priest who was abused at a Victorian religious retreat says there is no quick fix to ease his pain.

Defrocked Catholic priest Paul Ryan, 70, was jailed on Monday after he admitted molesting three teenage boys in the 1980s and 1990s.

“There was no healing, or medication that dimmed the pain. No band-aid to cover the wound, no quick fix, no cure,” one victim said in a statement.

He was 17 when he woke to Ryan molesting him at the retreat in 1985. The victim struggled but was held down, and was told afterwards by the priest “you enjoyed it”.

“You don’t survive sexual abuse,” the victim said.

Another victim was 15 when molested while training to be an altar boy at Warrnambool. He was “petrified” during the assault and never returned to training.

The third victim played “strip poker” with the priest as a 14-year-old in Ararat where Ryan touched his genitals, showed him pornography and rubbed his body against the teenager’s.

The victim continues to feel ashamed by what happened to him, the court was told.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The facts in this case are most serious and disturbing,” County Court Judge Susan Pullen said as she jailed Ryan.

There was grooming before each of the offences and as a priest Ryan held a position of trust among his victims the court noted.

“Your offending is quite unacceptable, (it was) simply to satisfy your own sexual desires,” Judge Pullen said.

Ryan pleaded guilty to one charge of indecent assault, one of sexual penetration of a person between the ages of 16 and 18 and one charge of indecent act with a child under 16.

He was sentenced to serve two years and two months in prison and will not be eligible for parole until he has served at least 17 months behind bars.

4. Crown answers money laundering claims.


Casino giant Crown has defended itself against claims of money laundering after explosive reports that large sums of money were being processed at its Melbourne gaming venue.

In a statement issued on Monday, Crown said it takes its legal and regulatory responsibilities very seriously and that it works with the national agency overseeing questionable transactions.

“Crown has a comprehensive anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program which is subject to regulatory supervision by AUSTRAC,” the statement read.

“Crown … works closely with all of its regulatory agencies, including law enforcement, both state and federal.

“In this respect, Crown provides a range of information in a proactive manner consistent with its regulatory obligations, including reporting all transactions over $10,000 and suspect transactions of any value.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Nine news published a series of reports alleging large sums of cash were being processed at Crown’s Melbourne casino, and that special deals with government were granting foreign high-rollers easy access to the nation’s gaming rooms.

In one instance, it was alleged that a wanted criminal was able to touch down in Australia in his private plane and took off, despite being subject to an Interpol notice.

Federal parliament heard calls for a parliamentary inquiry on Monday.

“It is a very serious topic and deals with the integrity not only of our gaming industry but issues that go to law enforcement and border protection,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament.

“Our government takes allegations of illegal activity very seriously. Everyone is required to abide by the Australian law including casino operators, public official all visitors to our country.”

5. Cult leader jailed for 10 years for abuse.


Cult leader James Gino Salerno wanted to create the “ideal human environment” but treated one of his young followers like a sex slave, repeatedly abusing the teenager.

Salerno was jailed for 10 years on Monday after recently being found guilty in the South Australian District Court of eight counts of unlawful sexual intercourse.

For his victim, who can’t be identified, it was a case of justice finally being served.

“The girls can sleep easy now, the ones still left in there,” she said outside the court.

ADVERTISEMENT

“That’s all I wanted from the start, to help the other girls.”

Salerno’s trial was told he had been the leader of the cult which had about 30 members in the period it was based in the Adelaide Hills.

It later moved to Beaudesert in southeast Queensland and is now based in Kununurra in Western Australia’s northwest.

In finding him guilty in May, Judge Paul Slattery said women in the cult were at Salerno’s “beck and call all of the day and night”.

“These women gave the accused massages, manicures, pedicures, ran his bath, washed his clothes, selected, prepared, cooked and served his food, and generally attended to his every need,” he said.

The judge said Salerno came up with the concept of the “ideal human environment” which ranked individuals based on their EQ or emotional quotient.

He said all members of the group were expected to be involved in research into his goal, but no one was able to say what that research involved.

The judge said the daily routine for children in the group included exercises and chores, and punishments were handed out if they were not completed.

In sentencing on Monday, he said Salerno, who was also known among the group as Taipan, had groomed and sexually abused his victim.

Judge Slattery also ruled that the 72-year-old was a serious repeat offender despite him continuing to maintain his innocence and showing no contrition.

“You used your primacy position within the group to not only groom and sexually abuse the complainant but to ensure she was fearful in speaking out,” the judge said.

He said Salerno had “instilled in her thoughts that no one would believe her even if she did speak out”.

In his verdict, Judge Slattery said he found the evidence given by the victim to be “reliable, credible, compelling and truthful”.

In a victim impact statement to the court earlier this month, she said the crimes against her had destroyed her childhood.

“I felt like I was only ever a piece of meat for Taipan to use when and where he wanted,” she said.

“I feel ashamed, upset and hurt that I let Taipan treat me like I was nothing and that I didn’t have the courage to stand up to him sooner.”

Judge Slattery jailed Salerno for 10 years and set a non-parole period of eight years.

Salerno has begun an appeal against his conviction.

00:00 / ???