Sydney Hilton bombing

Sydney Hilton bombing

Infobox civilian attack
title=Sydney Hilton bombing

Hilton Hotel, Sydney, Australia
date=13 February, 1978
fatalities=2 garbagemen, 1 policeman

The Sydney Hilton bombing occurred on 13 February, 1978, when a bomb exploded outside the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, Australia. At the time the hotel was the site of the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting (CHOGRM), a regional off-shoot of the biennial meeting of the heads of government from all Commonwealth nations.

The bombing

The bomb, planted in a rubbish bin, exploded when the bin was emptied into a garbage truck outside the hotel at 1:40am. It killed two garbage men, Alex Carter and William Favell, and a police officer, Paul Birmistriw, guarding the entrance to the hotel lounge died later. [cite news
last = Lahey
first = John
title = Day of courage and cowardice
publisher = The Age
date = February 2, 1978
url =
] It also injured eleven others. Twelve foreign leaders were staying in the hotel at the time, but none were injured. Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser immediately called out the Australian Army to guard the remainder of the CHOGRM meeting. [cite web|url=|date=August 21, 2003|title=Anti-Terrorism Laws in Australia:The Security Legislation Amendment 2002|publisher=University of Adelaide|accessdate=2008-03-16]

Inquiries, Trials and Royal Commission

An inquest was held four years later in 1982. Stipendiary Magistrate Walsh found a prima facie case of murder against two members of Ananda Marga – Ross Dunn and Paul Alister (but not Tim Anderson) based on evidence by Richard Seary, which was later discredited.

The Hilton bombing charges against Dunn and Alister were soon dropped. But Anderson, Dunn and Alister had been convicted on different charges of conspiracy to murder Robert Cameron, Sydney leader of the Australian National Front .

It was alleged that Richard Seary, a police informant, convinced Alister and Dunn to plant a bomb at Cameron's home. Anderson was to provide a press release. Alister and Dunn stated that they only intended writing graffiti at Cameron's home, and had no knowledge of the bomb. Seary was an unreliable witness, having already given discredited evidence accusing the Dunn and Alistair at the initial Hilton bombing inquest, being a drug addict, and being a "mentally disturbed fantasizer". However, there was also some police evidence. The prosecution had strongly associated the matter with the Sydney Hilton bombing.cite court
litigants = Alister and others v. the queen
reporter = High Court of Australia
date = 1983
(Decision rejecting appeal for Cameron conspiracy.)]

A Royal Commission, headed by Justice Wood was established into the conviction of the three, and recommended their pardon, and they were released in 1985. (This case did not directly cover the Hilton Bombing.)

Anderson was then re-arrested for the Sydney Hilton bombing, but this time he was acquitted in 1991 after the evidence of the main prosecution witness, Evan Pederick, was completely rejected by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal.

Pederick had confessed to the bombing and so was convicted without detailed scrutiny of his confession. However, in the Anderson appeal Chief Justice Gleeson said Pederick's account of the bombing was "clearly unreliable". Pederick's later appeal was rejected when he produced no evidence to explain why he had falsely confessed. [cite web|title=Lies, spies and the Sydney Hilton bombing|date=February 13, 2003|url=|author=Pip Wilson|accessdate=2008-03-16]

Accusations of Conspiracy

The Indian prime minister Morarji Desai claimed that Ananda Marga had attempted to kill him due to the imprisonment of the organisation's spiritual leader, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. (There had been other alleged attacks by Ananda Marga, namely on September 15 1977 the military attache at the Indian Embassy Colonel Singh and his wife were attacked in Canberra. Just over a month later an Air India employee in Melbourne was stabbed. [cite news
title=Terror attacks remain a mystery 30 years on
location=Canberra|publisher=News Ltd|date=January 1, 2008|accessdate=2008-03-16
] ). ASIO had infiltrated the Ananda Marga and were monitoring it. [cite web
title=Inspector General of Security (IGIS) 1992/3 report

There were a number of unusual circumstances surrounding the bombing, namely:
* The driver of the truck, Bill Ebb, stated that "someone official" had prevented several earlier trucks from emptying the bin which was overflowing with rubbish.cite episode
title = Conspiracy
episodelink =
series = True Stories
author=Daryl Dellora
publisher = Australian Broadcasting Commission
serieslink =
airdate = 1995
season =
number =
* The bin had not been searched for bombs in breach of New South Wales police permanent circular 135.
* The entire truck and all bomb fragments were dumped immediately afterwards before forensic evidence could be gathered.
* Army dog handler Keith Burley said that his dogs were unexpectedly called off a few days prior.cite web
title=Burleys letter
date=November 4, 1991
Letter to Allen Barry MP]
* The officer-in-charge of police immediately after the bombing, Inspector Ian MacDonald, claimed there had been a "cover-up"cite web
title=Parliament Hansard: Hilton Hotel Bombing
publisher=Government of New South Wales
date=December 9, 1991
(First motion for an enquiry)]
* NSW attorney general Frank Walker and others had been told by a CSIRO scientist that under pressure from ASIO they had made two fake bombs in the week prior to the bombing. The bombs were designed not to explode but could explode in a garbage truck compactor.cite web
title=Parliament Hansard: Hilton Hotel Bombing Inquiry Proposal
publisher=Government of New South Wales
date=September 21, 1995
(A second motion for an enquirey)]

Many of these issues were identified by Terry Griffiths, a former policeman who was seriously injured in the bombing, who has called for an inquiry. Barry Hall QC, counsel for Griffiths, argued that ASIO may well have planted the bomb in order to justify their existence.. The 1982 Walsh inquest had been terminated prematurely due to finding of the prima facie case of murder, which was based on discredited evidence by Richard Seary. This prevented Terry Griffith from presenting his evidence.

In 1991 the NSW parliament unanimously called for a joint State-Federal inquiry into the Bombing to examine whether there had been an official conspiracy. However, the Federal government vetoed any inquiry, and none has been held.

Political effects and significance

The episode is generally regarded as the first and only domestic terrorist event in Australia.

Prior to the bombing the security forces had been under considerable pressure. In South Australia, the White enquiry into their police special branch was very critical, and ties with ASIO were cut. New South Wales was about to have a similar enquiry. After the bombing, the NSW enquiry was never held, and the Commonwealth increased support for the anti-terrorism activities of the intelligence services.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was common to see the graffito "Anderson Is Innocent" in parts of Sydney.

30-year anniversary of Sydney Hilton commemoration ceremony

A new plaque was unveiled in Sydney's George Street on 13th February 2008, at the site of the bomb blast outside the Hilton Hotel 30 years ago that marked Australia's entry into the age of terrorism.

Former New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma commended Sydney City Council for restoring the memorial plaque to its original home, and says he hopes there will never be a need for any more. [cite news|url=|publisher=Sydney Morning Herald|date=February 13, 2008|title=Sydney Hilton Hotel blast commemorated|accessdate=2008-03-16]

ee also

* List of disasters in Australia by death toll
* Terrorism in Australia


Further reading

* Conspiracy: Australian Broadcasting Commission documentary, Daryl Dellora, 1995 (shown on True Stories series). Reviews most of the evidence. Easily available articles reviewing the documentary include:-
** [ You Tube copy of film]
** [ ABC George Negus] discussion with Dellora.
** [ filmartdoco] review, includes enumeration of the key issues. Documentary can be purchased from this site for $50.
** [ shootersnews] Good review of the main points made by Griffiths.
** Sydney Morning Herald, "The Hilton bombing", Jane Freeman, February 6 1995. Provides a review and summary.
* cite news
title = How ASIO was caught on the hop
last = Humphries
first = David
publisher = Sydney Morning Herald
date = January 1, 2008
url =
Questions why ASIO could not stop Ananda Marga.
* cite web
last = Hills | first = Ben
title = Scams and Scoundrels, the Hilton Fiasco
url =
Also questions why ASIO could not stop Ananda Marga.
* cite news
last = Malloy | first = Sean
title = Hilton bombing victim calls for inquiry
publisher = Green Left
date = February 3, 1993 | accessdate=2008-03-17
url =
Long quote of Terry Griffiths.
* cite news
last=Hills | first=Ben
publisher=Sydney Morning Herald
title =The path of bliss...
date=October 25, 1990 | accessdate=2008-03-17
Discusses pardon of the Ananda Marga three, and the relationship to the Hilton bombing.
* cite web
title = 30 years since Sydney’s Hilton Hotel bombing—the unanswered questions
date = February 14, 2008 | accessdate=2008-03-17
url =
Added detail on the inquest and Anderson trials.
* Molomby Tom, SPIES BOMBS AND THE PATH OF BLISS - Ananda Marga and the Hilton bombing
* cite web
title=NSW Hansard
date=September 19, 1995 | accessdate=2008-03-17
Questions from Ms Kirkby and replies from the minister of police. (Search for "Hilton").
* cite book
title=Take Two: the criminal justice system revisited
date=1992|author=Tim Anderson|isbn=1863590552|publisher=Bantam

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