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camera that missed airport killing

Saturday, 9 July 2011

CCTV might have caught an alleged murder, but it had long been out of action. Neil Mercer reports.

MOMENTS after passenger Roger Whyte witnessed the killing of Anthony Zervas, a Hells Angels associate, at Sydney Airport, he turned to a security guard and, pointing to a bollard, said: ''This is the murder weapon … it is going to have the fingerprints of the perpetrators on it.''

The guard replied: ''Well, OK, but that's not such a problem because all of this would have been caught by the security cameras anyway.''

However, as a Supreme Court jury has heard, the fatal brawl between the Hells Angels and Commanchero bikies inside Australia's busiest air terminal - it arose out of a chance meeting between the two bikie gangs - was not captured at all.

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The reason? The security camera which could have recorded it was not working. Not only that, the jury has heard evidence from an airport employee that it had been out or order for ''at least two years''.

The evidence emerged during the trial of six members of the Commanchero motorcycle club charged with the murder of Mr Zervas, 29, on March 22 in 2009.

Mahmoud Hawi, 30, Christian Adam Menzies, 28, Farres Abounader, 29, Ishmail Eken, 28, Usama Potrus, 28, and Zoran Kisacanin, 24, have pleaded not guilty. They have also been charged with riot and four have been charged with affray. David Padovan, 27, a member of the Hells Angels, has been charged with riot and affray.

Ruth Margaret Culbert, a security officer employed by Sydney Night Patrol, told the jury that on the day of the brawl she was in the control room which monitored all alarms. She was aware of the location of the CCTV cameras. Some were fixed; others she could move in different directions.

Ms Culbert said a fixed camera pointed at the check-in counters in terminal 3 was not working on the day of the brawl. She told the Crown prosecutor Natalie Adams the camera ''had been faulted on many occasions''. Asked what she meant, she replied: ''As part of our duties in the control room, any cameras that are not working we fault report, the same as any infrastructure, any equipment that's not working in the terminal, we report to what's called ACAMS, which is the Qantas monitoring centre.''

Under cross-examination by defence lawyers, Ms Culbert said she had been working in the control room for four years ''and to my knowledge in that time it had been faulty''.

Question: Are you able to say how many years? Answer: At least two years, I believe.

She said the issue of the faulty camera had arisen in the days following the brawl. She did not think she had ever been asked by police about the camera.

''I don't think I was sort of asked officially by anyone,'' she said. ''It just came up in conversation that the camera was not working.''

Her colleague, Glenyse Margaret Kenaghan, who was also on duty on March 22, told the court she knew the camera in question had not been working ''for some time'' but she was not sure how long.

Ms Kenaghan said it was now working. Asked when it was repaired, she said: ''Last year, I think last year, no I'm not sure, sorry.''

Giving evidence on Friday, Ellen Clare Konza, a civilian crime scene officer with the NSW Police, agreed she had made measurements at the airport based on a map showing the ''black spot'' which the ''broken camera 403'' would have captured. But she said she was unable to say exactly where the black spot area started.

Mr Whyte told the court he and his wife were about to catch a flight when they saw the brawl. He had seen a man smaller than the rest of those involved being chased before falling to the floor. He was attacked ''by at least two people … I have a clear recollection of one of his assailants hitting him with a silver-coloured metal bollard, one of the bollards that was used to hold up the retaining tapes to make the queues for the check-in people, and a second person was kicking him from the side.''

The one holding the bollard was ''just stamping it straight downwards and I think onto the victim's head''.

After the fight, Mr Whyte said he had picked up the bollard and realised his fingerprints, and perhaps those of the perpetrators, were on it. A security guard had reassured him that it would have been caught on CCTV.

Another witness, Ian Allen, said he was at terminal 3 to catch a flight when he saw a group of about seven or eight men running down the road. ''I thought they looked like footballers having a bit of a lark around.''

The trial, at Parramatta, has already run for 27 days. A verdict is not expected until mid-September.

 

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A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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