A group of terrified hikers were allegedly attacked in their car in regional Victoria by 15 to 20 neo-Nazis kicking, punching, and stabbing knives through the driver’s side window before the hikers managed to escape, a court has heard.
White supremacist figure Thomas Sewell was on bail for allegedly punching a Channel 9 security guard six times in the head in March when he was allegedly involved in the horrifying attack at Sugarloaf Saddle Car Park on May 8.
He sought bail again and was refused in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday, while facing 15 charges including committing an offence while on bail, armed robbery, and affray.
The court heard Sewell’s fingerprints and blood were found on the victims’ car after the horrifying experience.
The unemployed 28-year-old, who was formerly in the army but now relies on Centrelink, called himself a “political soldier for the white race, and Adolf Hitler is my leader”, in a podcast interview described to the court.
He is the leader of neo-Nazi group European Australian Movement and is affiliated with group National Socialist Movement, the court heard.
Sewell was recorded making sickening comments including that white people were “100 per cent better in every single way, shape, and form” than other races and said, “I believe in white power — I want white people to have power over themselves”, Detective Senior Constable Michael Taylor said.
Detective Senior Constable Taylor, who specialises in right-wing activities within the Victoria Police counter-terrorism command, said the alleged attack happened on a neo-Nazi camping trip to the Cathedral Ranges last month.
He said photos placed Sewell in the area at the time.
On the day of the attack Sewell was one of about 25 white supremacist men on the trip, police allege.
Some of them went for a walk and were spotted by a group of six hikers who had read news reports of a previous neo-Nazi camping trip in Grampians National Park in March, with reported Nazi salutes in the streets and chants of “Australia for the white man” and “Ku Klux Klan”.
The hikers saw between 15 and 20 white men all wearing the same black T-shirt with a white supremacist symbol on it and suspected they were neo-Nazis, the court heard.
About 3.40pm one of the hikers took a video of the men as they were getting back to their car to leave and then heard a shout of ‘Antifa!’, police allege.
“There is no intelligence that (the hikers) are part of any left-wing or Antifa organisation,” Detective Senior Constable Taylor said.
The neo-Nazis rushed the car, with two trying to get in through the door handles while between 10 and 15 others wearing balaclavas kicked and punched the car, police allege.
Two windows were smashed and the hikers saw the men thrusting knives into the driver’s side window after they punched through the glass, police allege.
The driver accelerated through the affray and crashed into a boulder, Detective Senior Constable Taylor said.
The hikers “pleaded” with the attackers, saying “What do you want?” and offering them their phones before managing to drive away and call police, he said.
The hikers were in “complete and utter fear” of the group and were reticent to provide statements, he said.
Sewell had been recorded making phone calls from prison to his followers asking them to “investigate the victims”, the court heard.
Detective Senior Constable Taylor said Sewell’s social media following had increased since the highly-publicised alleged attack on the Channel 9 security guard on March 1, which followed production of a report on Australian neo-Nazi’s by Channel 9’s A Current Affair program.
“This type of ideology and belief is extremely concerning to police,” he said.
“He is willing to use violence against anyone he perceives to be his enemy.
“I believe (he) will more often see enemies where there are none.
“A lot of (his) influence is online.”
He said Sewell had a “remarkable grandiosity of himself and the white race” and used social media to espouse conspiracy theories.
A police search turned up knuckle dusters in Sewell’s car and hunting knives and an axe in his bedroom, the court heard.
His father attended the virtual court hearing on Wednesday, offering for Sewell to stay with him if he got bail and telling the court Sewell’s racial views were a “source of acrimony” so they just didn’t talk about it.
Sewell’s lawyer said he would fight the charges and the matter would likely go to trial.