‘Screaming in terror’: Man describes attack allegedly carried out by neo-Nazis

A bushwalker who was allegedly attacked by a group that police say included two neo-Nazi leaders was terrified and panicked, while his two friends were “screaming in terror” during the incident, a court has heard.

Thomas Sewell, 28, and Jacob Hersant, 22, both leaders within Australia’s national socialist movement, are facing charges of armed robbery, affray and violent disorder over an alleged incident at the Cathedral Range State Park in central Victoria.

Police say the pair were among a group of men who attacked several bushwalkers on May 8 after one of the alleged victims took a video from inside a car.

The alleged victims saw the group members were all wearing black shorts and black T-shirts with a white symbol that resembled a Celtic cross, and believed they could be the same group from recent media reports about neo-Nazis meeting in the Grampians.

The Age revealed in January that about 40 of Mr Sewell’s group were seen in the Grampians, in western Victoria, over the Australia Day weekend and were heard chanting “white power” and “We are the Ku Klux Klan”.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Danielle Guesdon told the Melbourne Magistrates Court: “It appears [the filming of the group] may have been observed because the next thing that happened, some of the males from the group wearing black T-shirts with the white emblem began running towards the car.

“Panicking, the complainant in the back seat who had taken the video saw them coming and told the driver to, ‘Go, go, go’ and lock the door. He was able to press the central lock in time and the males began to surround the vehicle.”

Ms Guesdon said the men, some wearing black balaclavas, kicked and punched the vehicle. Police allege Mr Sewell punched the front passenger window, causing it to smash.

Blood was later located on the car near the passenger window and Ms Gueson said it was a DNA match for that of Mr Sewell. The prosecution alleges that DNA located on the dashboard of the complainant’s car belonged to Mr Hersant.

Demands were made for the trio’s phones and two of them handed their devices over. The complainants were able to drive away, and they called triple zero.

Mr Sewell and Mr Hersant were arrested several days after the alleged incident by counter-terrorism police.

Mr Sewell is alleged by police to be the leader of an organisation called the European Australian Movement, and Mr Hersant is alleged to be the leader of the National Socialist Network, Ms Guesdon told the court.

One of the alleged victims, whose identity is suppressed, told the court on Wednesday he was hiking to the Sugarloaf summit with a number of close friends when he saw men dressed in all black. He later came across a sticker on a tree that read: “Australia for the white man.”

When he got to the summit, he spoke with a friend who said he suspected they could be neo-Nazis or associated with a neo-Nazi organisation.

He walked back to the car park and got into his vehicle with two friends to drive away, but was unaware his friend in the back seat was filming on his phone. The friend then told him to quickly lock the doors, before he saw men wearing black clothing running towards his car.

He said it was a chaotic, frightening and dramatic situation, and he was so panicked it had been hard to tell exactly what was happening. He said he could not recall how many men surrounded the car or the duration of the incident.

“It all happened very quickly; the window smashed and people were surrounding the car,” he said.

“I just wanted to get out of there as soon as I could.”

“I looked around to work out what to do … Then that’s when I saw someone holding the knife.”

He said his two friends were yelling and shouting as men surrounded the car, some in balaclavas.

“[My friends] were quite hysterical,” he said. “They were just kind of screaming in terror.”

He said he had not been able to identify the men involved in the incident.

The committal hearing, which will test the evidence in the case to determine whether the pair will face trial, will continue on Thursday before magistrate Peter Reardon.

Mr Sewell is also facing allegations that he assaulted a Nine Network security guard in March.

He was refused bail in June by a magistrate who found he was an unacceptable risk of committing further offences if bailed, and endangering the safety and welfare of the public.

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