While Sydney basked in the glory of the Olympic Games in August 2000, in the western suburbs away from the more glamourous harbourside, a series of gang rapes took place. At first the crimes only appeared as isolated clusters of pins on a criminal intelligence map, but eventually a sinister pattern was discovered: the victims were females of European descent, while the perpetrators were young male Muslims of predominantly Lebanese descent.

The Incidents

August 10 2000: Two females aged 17 and 18, lured by the offer of marijuana, accepted a lift from Chatswood, but instead were taken to Greenacre. There they were forced to give oral sex to eight men.
August 12 2000 - Another female was raped under gunpoint by two males in Greenacre.
August 30 2000 - Another female was lured by an offer of marijuana. Over a period of six hours she was raped by fourteen men at three separate locations, after which she was hosed down with water.
September 4 2000 - Two 16 year old girls were lured to a house in Lakemba from Beverley Hills railway station, where they were raped by three men over four hours.

Police later reckoned that 50 similar incidents occured in the previous two years in Bankstown alone.

The Trial

Any flaccid attempt to de-link ethnicity and criminality disappeared in a puff of logic when it became apparent the gang leader 21 year old Bilal Skaf, and other members had referred to their victims as 'Aussie sluts', 'pigs' and other comments that could be expected by somebody torn between machismo, racism and a Madonna-whore complex. Fortunately, Bilal was as stupid as he was twisted, and he conveniently left a trail of incriminating SMS messages on his mobile phone, the number of which was recovered by a victim and passed onto the New South Wales police.

Bilal Skaf and several of his accomplicies were arrested and tried and sentenced to a lenient sentence. The ensuing community outrage led to Premier Bob Carr ordering a retrial, where Bilal Skaf was sentenced to 55 years, the longest ever prison sentence imposed in modern Australian legal history. In April 2004 a second retrial was ordered when it was learnt that two jurors had visited the scene of one of the crime to see for themselves if one of the victims could have identified one of the accused at night, instead of relying solely on the presented evidence to form an opinion.

The Consequences

The gang rape saga had the following ramifications, not helped by the fallout from September 11 and the Bali bombings:

  • hardening of public opinion against the predominantly Muslim asylum seekers who were being locked up in detention centres upon arrival.
  • Muslim and Arab Australians feeling that they were under siege. Statements saying that the 'Australian' outbringing of their youth led them to rape didn't go down well with the wider public.
  • the fracturing of the political left, between those supporting the cause of multiculturalism versus feminists, and between working class 'Westies' who were at greater risk of sexual assult, against their more cosmopolitan Comrades living in the safer eastern suburbs.
  • the removal of British fly-in Peter Ryan as New South Wales police Commissioner, to be replaced by seasoned veteran Ken Moroney.
  • the victory of the conservative Liberal government of John Howard in October 2001, with traditionally Labor Western Sydney electorates falling like nine pins. The threat of terrorism in Lakemba may still have needed an active imagination after September 11 to frighten a voter. Rape didn't.

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