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?”
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.