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Byron Shire
April 19, 2024

Knife-wielding criminal on the loose in Byron Bay

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Byron Shire Councillor Alan Hunter is in a Council team with candidate Rhett Holt. Photo David Hancock

S Haslam and A Shand

A terrifying media release is still on the loose in Byron Bay after escaping from the computers of Council candidates Rhett Holt and Cr Alan Hunter.  ‘It is a frightful to wake up at three in the morning to a man blood dripping with a backpack full of knives using your shower,’ the [sic] release said. Not content with savagely trampling cherished grammatical norms, it then threatened to ‘put a secure barb wire fence around [a] whole block’ in central Byron, before launching a series of frenzied attacks at property values in the Butler St area.

The author/s of the press release appear to have inside knowledge of the state’s penitentiaries and drug culture.

It initially taunted police and locals by saying, ‘For years, the Byron Bay reserves in Butler Street have been known in prison as “safe places” to hide once on parole. The few local residents left in Butler street know it as the “shooting gallery” owing to the thousands of discarded syringes left in the scrub.’

As horrified Butler Street vendors and local real estate agents rushed to cover the eyes and ears of impressionable interstate buyers, the release continued remorselessly: ‘A supposed nature reserve and conservation area, avoided by Council and State Government alike, is
better described as a hub of prostitution, shooting up, a place for kids to drink and a great
halfway house for criminals near the beach.’

In a final sickening twist of the blade, the implacable release finished, ‘Now it is also an escape path for knife-wielding criminals.’

Many crimes have a distressing back story, and Hunter’s release led Echo journalists to an October 2020 YouTube flash mob video, promoting Rhett Holt, Candidate for Mermaid Beach for the Watchdog party of Queensland.

A statement on Holt’s LinkedIn profile reads ‘Politics is like a clock, not a line: far left and far right become the same thing by different paths’.

But the trigger for the recent hyperbole spree seems to have been the admittedly disturbing crimes of property theft, and failure to properly maintain fences, committed right in the heart of Byron itself.

It revolves around the break and enter committed at the camping shop in Byron Bay in the early hours of yesterday morning (Thursday, 29 July). The release explains that the ‘hooded gloved man… escaped through the notorious Transport Sydney Trains owned land, the famous “Butler Street Reserve”’ owing to the failure of the government to maintain the fences.’

The crime provoked a hysterical reaction in the release, with headlines including ‘Criminal with hunting knives on the loose in Byron Bay’, and ‘Byron Bay local wakes to a blood-soaked man in his shower’.

According to local Rhett Holt (who is also listed as Alan Hunter’s team’s media contact in the release) ‘It is a frightful to wake up at three in the morning to a man blood dripping with a backpack full of knives using your shower.’ He further states that ‘My neighbours have little kids. The bloke only had to go one house left and this could have ended a lot worse.’

Councillor Hunter’s team’s media release then goes on to highlight the ‘thousands’ council has spent on unwinnable court cases and ‘unfundable train rebuilds’.

Mr Holt and Mr Hunter’s release does have a lucid period, during which it raises some valid points including the impact of Short Term Holiday Lets (STHL) leaving the neighbourhoods mostly empty, before going on to conclude that this makes this ‘a perfect place for bad people to hide. That would change if Short-Term Accommodation Rentals (STARs) were required to have caretakers,’ it says.

Finally, the release singles out a single woman from Council, seemingly changes tack and criticises Councillor Cate Coorey (Independent) for her upcoming Notice of Motion (NoM) at the next Byron Shire Council meeting that would put a ban on barbed wire.

‘Cr Coorey is quoted [in the council papers] as stating “Australian Wildlife Hospital (AWH) treated over 80 different species found caught on barbed-wire fences in the last three years. Out of over 800 individual animals, half were euthanased immediately, and over half were flying foxes, around 80 per cent of which died,’ says the media release.

‘Mr Holt would like to put a secure barb wire fence around the whole block,’ the release points out (referring seemingly to the snail habitat protection zone next to the new bypass), before continuing, ‘When asked about it, Mr Holt responded. “The danger to wildlife is unfortunate. It is horrible. But I have a 6-foot fence around my house. This criminal scaled three to get in and out, barbed wire is cheap and effective, how else are we supposed to protect against this?”

Detective Inspector Matt Kehoe outside the Brunswick police station. Photo Aslan Shand.

Police respond

Following the receipt of this terrifying media release The Echo contacted the local Byron Bay Police to confirm the details of the theft and criminal escapade.

‘I can advise that Police did respond to a break and enter in Jonson Street, Byron Bay about 3am this morning (Thursday, 29 July). Property was stolen from this location including some camping gear and cash. This did include knives and other items,’ said Detective Chief Inspector, Matt Kehoe.

‘Police also attended a property in Butler Street shortly after and spoke with a resident who reported a suspicious male in the front yard of his property.

‘Police have retained a number of items for forensic examination and it is believed the offender may have cut his leg.

‘The offender is described as 20 – 25 years old wearing black khaki chino style pants, a grey hoodie and a large back pack. The Police investigation is ongoing and we are asking for anyone with information to contact Byron Bay Police or Crime Stoppers,’ he said

‘In regards to the other issues raised in the “media release”, Police do not support any of these assertions,’ he told The Echo.

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  1. We saw a young Bloke with camo pants and a black backpack hanging in the wreck dunes with a girl a few days ago .
    They came thru the Bush from a tent
    Straight thru from around 5 Cavvanbah st .
    Please investigate .
    There are also barking and howling dogs in this dog illegal camp precinct .
    I’m tired of trying to phone police and council about what goes on in the dunes .

  2. Dearest Asland Shand and Simon Haslam,

    Thankyou so much for a balanced and well investigated piece. I don’t remember hearing from you, but you did seem to spend a lot of time on google “investigating”. As the person who woke up at 3:00AM to find a blood soaked man with a bag full of knives (many sticking out) in his shower, I will say trying to get the media to issue an alert for people in the area had me scratching my head. Not being blessed with editors, or having a media team and with being dyslexic, I wanted the alert might get immediate radio and news attention. And it did. Two radio stations, news papers and TV news understood what was actually going on because they had the courage to reach out in person and ask a question. To assist you more: police have rocks from my yard, a shoe covered in blood and dropped knives in their possession to investigate forensically. Only one shoe tho, kind of a perverse Cinderella situation.

    Apologies for throwing in as many hyperbole as possible to get attention. I will try for subtle and understated messages in future to create an alert. In that state at 4:00AM
    searching for ways to get an alert out, I was completely within my facilities and fine. Thankfully I could reach out to a friend and a kind person like Alan who could use his connections to distribute a message. He didn’t try to sensor me, he didn’t even edit, he just let me use his letter head and put out the message. Yep, I used politics, key issues and facts to invigorate the issue. All tools that I poses to achieve something to push for people to find and help this man, but know the danger.

    I feel for this bloke that was in my yard, what he must be going through to rob a camping store and desperately run for his life from security and police, then use a shower. It is all very odd and deeply sad. And, if it takes my lack of grammar skills being on public display and the shame associated, that’s fine. I’m a big boy, who woke up with a bloody man with knives in his shower. Haven’t been sleeping well since, but I hope you can. Brilliant mock reporting!

    Reach out at any time, my phone number is on the bottom of the release. You seem like swell people.

    Kind thanks Rhett Holt

  3. Please don’t resort to barbed wire byronites, just for the odd odd-ball thats squirming back to safety from some petty crime, its an over-reaction. Im a security guard in byron, lived here for 6yrs and been coming here for quite a bit before then, dealt with lots of idiots including our transient and sometimes static homeless population (some who are addicted to hard drugs), but when i started reading this i suspected it was a journalist spicing up the story like click bait, just someones front shower, they hadn’t broken in-in.. police report confirmed this and that the blood was most likely his own from a cut leg or something. This headline was just too jucy for even Byron journalists to miss, but this is the kind of thing which puts people on edge and has them create fear, fear in themselves and in their local neighborhood. Things like barbed wire are the red flag of fear.. meanwhile the premise of byron that i moved here for was of the complete opposite to that, love. That being said, I’ve spent enough time in the sec industry to know that love isn’t always the rational answer to an issue, some of these trouble makers and homeless need either strong intervention or moving on. Problem is, most of them are protected by ‘mental illness’, a savy excuse which allows them to get out of urinating in public view on the street and much worse. But really, they’re fine, meaning they’re perfectly capable of pulling their s$^t together and making a respectable living, but they get a real easy ride living off Centrelink here in Byron getting where police turn the other way and security can’t do much either. I caught a real aggressive one once masturbating looking into Aquarius hostel late at night, he was in perfect darkness on the other side of the fence and he’s still like a foreign diplomat around town, totally protected because of his chosen mental illness (chosen because they choose not to get better), doesn’t matter that he threatens to kill people or anything. Anyway the town is a mess in this regard and the bottom line is that the police and security feel like their hands are tied behind their back with what they can and can’t do. This is what needs changing in order to prevent further problems of this nature taking refuge here. Policy reform. But also whilst i speak about balancing out the love and fear spectrum, just get some low key surveillance and strong locks which you’re diligent in locking every night, fly screens are best as metal, if not put a wooden bar in window track and if you see some local homeless person.. avoid. Don’t feed or anything, they’re perfectly capable of correcting their situation, but not with people enabling it.

  4. I don’t understand where Haslam and Shand are going with this. It’s some bizarre abstract dismissal of criminal behaviour more concerned with Mr Holt savagely trampling on cherished grammatical norms. I hope the reporters don’t have to deal with a cretin on their property. I for one would be more interested in their statement to police to make sure there were no spelling errors or incorrect grammar.

  5. Rhett…

    I have responded in the past to one of your fanciful letters about what goes on in Byron as a security guard. For several weeks we observed the area. Your story didn’t gel with the reality that the team of security witnessed. Not sure why you do this but it is entertaining 🙃

  6. My questions is who is Jac and what is this this seeming agenda to minimise the clear crime in Byron? So many security guards in Byron Bay too. There are two on this one thread. Why are you all needed if Byron is safe?

  7. Hi Jac, Are you one of the security guards that came around for a few weeks at the start of the COVID lockdown when everyone was gone to inspect activity?

  8. Alan Hunter should be honest and say that his so called Independents are really National Party members in disguise. Some of them appear to belong to the looney right wing.


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