How fed­eral cops missed their mo­ment to stop Cur­tis Cheng’s mur­der

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - OPINION | OURS & YOURS - PAUL TOOHEY

FOR any­one who thinks the ju­di­ciary too sym­pa­thetic to of­fend­ers, take com­fort in the re­marks of NSW Supreme Court Jus­tice Peter John­son, who on Thurs­day put Ra­ban Alou away for 33 years for sup­ply­ing the gun that killed po­lice worker Cur­tis Cheng.

Yet hang­ing in the periphery of the judge’s un­com­pro­mis­ing sen­tence are the phan­toms of the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice, who had Alou un­der blan­ket sur­veil­lance in the lead-up to Cheng’s 2015 ex­e­cu­tion. The AFP’s de­ci­sion to stand back, even though they were mon­i­tor­ing real-time con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Alou and oth­ers, and used drones to ob­serve a meet­ing in which Alou re­ceived the gun, ap­pears a tragic — if un­der­stand­able — mis­judg­ment.

At the time, the AFP knew al­most noth­ing about Farhad and his sis­ter, Shadi Mo­ham­mad, 21, who is blamed for her brother’s rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion. She flew out to Turkey the day be­fore the killing, fully aware of what was to hap­pen. She was not stopped from leav­ing be­cause she wasn’t in their sights.

But they knew plenty about Alou, hav­ing fit­ted a lis­ten­ing de­vice in his ve­hi­cle.

The AFP was mon­i­tor­ing Alou on a me­nac­ing pro-ISIS What­sapp fo­rum, and they knew he’d been try­ing (un­suc­cess­fully) to get some­one to make him an IS flag, no doubt to dis­play in an at­tack.

They were also aware Alou was try­ing to get a gun. He and oth­ers — in­clud­ing Talal Alamed­dine, 25, who had been sub­ject to a firearms pro­hi­bi­tion or­der — were in reg­u­lar dis­cus­sion. It was clear an event was im­mi­nent.

On Oc­to­ber 1, the day be-

fore the mur­der, Alou was ex­chang­ing rad­i­cal mes­sages and push­ing hard to get a gun.

On the morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 2, Alou was heard telling his wife Sharna Perger (they had mar­ried re­cently in an Is­lamic cer­e­mony but did not live to­gether): “It’s got to be done”; and “what­ever I do [Al­lah] will ac­cept it”. At 1.36pm, of­fi­cers heard Alamed­dine — who has pleaded guilty to sup­ply­ing the gun and is cur­rently fac­ing sen­tence — telling Alou: “I brang the 30 cal bro”.

Alou and Alamed­dine met, en­gaged in con­ver­sa­tions and were seen in a num­ber of switches, per­haps to throw off sur­veil­lance, but which the judge said “in­volved the sup­ply of the Smith & Wes­son .38”.

Alou was also heard at this time talk­ing to another (un­named) per­son on the phone: “You know I told you when he’s go­ing to ‘thing’, did I tell you where [in­dis­tinct]. But it will af­fect, the brother, Parra, af­fect the masjid [mosque], mine, it will af­fect me…” Still, author­i­ties held back. At 3.05pm, Alou met Farhad and oth­ers at the Par­ra­matta Mosque. At 3.48pm, Alou went to his car, got the gun and handed it to Farhad in the fe­male prayer room.

It is un­der­stood from some­one close to the case that the han­dover of the gun by was not seen live by the AFP, but gleaned af­ter­wards from CCTV. Farhad then walked to po­lice HQ and killed Cheng.

The sur­veil­lance of­fi­cers knew Alou was in pos­ses­sion of a weapon but, given his ac­tiv­i­ties, it is pos­si­ble to spec­u­late what hap­pened: they thought Alou him­self was to con­duct an at­tack, and were ready to jump on him.

What they didn’t know was that Alou — along with Farhad’s sis­ter Shadi, later killed in a drone strike in Syria — had been in­doc­tri­nat­ing Farhad to kill a po­lice of­fi­cer.

On the morn­ing of the mur­der, Alou spent two hours in the mosque talk­ing in Farhad’s ear, pre­par­ing him to kill and be killed. The judge said Alou was “pre­pared to ex­ploit a young per­son as the per­pe­tra­tor of a ter­ror­ist act in the knowl­edge that it was planned to kill a per­son or per­sons in the street, and that there was ev­ery prospect that Farhad Mo­ham­mad him­self would die, as in­deed hap­pened.”

And he had words for Alou’s ac­com­plice, the dead Shadi, say­ing de­cent peo­ple would strug­gle “to un­der­stand the twisted and evil minds at work where a 21-year-old woman is pre­pared to have her 15-year-old brother com­mit a homi­ci­dal atroc­ity in the likely knowl­edge that he would be cap­tured or die in the process.

“Acts and thoughts of this type are the an­tithe­sis of civilised re­li­gious be­liefs in a mod­ern demo­cratic so­ci­ety such as Aus­tralia.”

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