Why now? Police told to explain riot raid

By Leonie Lamont, Ben Cubby, Andrew Clennell and Geesche Jacobsen | The Sydney Morning Herald | January 25, 2006

A MAGISTRATE has grilled police about why they released two men allegedly involved in a reprisal attack immediately after the Cronulla Beach riot, in which a "hapless victim" was left with a fractured eye socket after being set upon by a carload of men.

Mohammed Eid, 19, and Wael Tahan, 20, were on bail for other offences at the time of the alleged attack. They were detained by police in the early hours of December 12, but were released after having their clothes taken for forensic examination and being interviewed.

Tahan was caught after allegedly fleeing a car police had been pursuing, and Eid was discovered at 5.30am, in an oyster lease 500 metres from the abandoned car. Tahan was on a court-imposed curfew at the time.

Police in bullet-proof vests mounted simultaneous dawn raids yesterday on Eid's Regents Park home and Tahan's Riverwood address. They were brought to Sutherland Local Court for a bail application.

"Why move on January 24? You are no further advanced than on the 12th [of December]," magistrate Paul Falzon asked.

"No, we are not," agreed Detective Sergeant Steven Patton, from the State Crime Command, who was appointed to the case last week. "I can't answer for the police who did the investigation at the time … it was my view they should be put before the court rather than wait for the results of forensic examination which will take some time."

Tahan's lawyer said he had been told it would take six months before the forensic tests were conducted, and said yesterday's arrest was because "the police wanted to appear to be doing something".

Patrick Conaghan, lawyer for Eid, said his client denied being present at the attack, and said a phone seized from Eid's home during yesterday's arrest - allegedly belonging to the victim - was not the same model the victim had described. The arrest was because "this is a political hot potato and some results are expected".

Both men, along with two others still being sought by police, are accused of an attack on a Blakehurst man in Hume Road, Cronulla. A police report alleges the pair stabbed the victim and bashed him around the head with a block of concrete, before stomping on his head and body.

The magistrate refused bail, saying he was "bewildered" by the decision not to charge them at the time. He said he would have refused them bail then.

The Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, blamed lack of police resources for the failure to "take these thugs off the streets" a month ago.

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