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Friday



MR ER, NOT SO BIG

Here's Peter Van Lierop's story. Peter is the Melbourne lawyer who was ambushed by undercover police in Geelong on Wednesday during a major bust that yielded $75 million worth of heroin.
A MAN run off the road and arrested at gunpoint by Australian Federal Police in Geelong's Mercer Street during a massive drugs operation on Wednesday was not the Mr Big police believed he was.
The man was released on Wednesday night after being questioned in Melbourne in what is an embarrassing case of mistaken identity.
Federal police believed the man, Peter Van Lierop, a retired lawyer from Melbourne who has an apartment in Drumcondra, was the money man behind the operation.
But instead of going to a drugs rendezvous, Mr Van Lierop was in fact driving fewer than two kilometres from his holiday unit to an auction of land in Brougham Street when the federal agents pounced.
Last night he talked calmly about the incident, but at 2pm Tuesday it was a different matter.
``I was absolutely terrified,'' he said. ``They apparently thought I was the Mr Big of the operation, but I am no Mr Big.
``The car in front of me jammed on its brakes and I hit it and the car behind rammed into me.
``Then the man in the ute (at the front) got out yelling: `Put your hands on the dashboard, higher, higher.'
``At that time I thought I was in the hands of someone out of control in some sort of road rage.
``I saw another man with a gun pointed at me and I thought maybe it was some sort of terrorist operation or something.
``Then I saw a third person with a gun and they had on a jacket that said police and then I calmed down a bit.
``But it was 10 seconds of sheer terror.''
Mr Van Lierop was taken from the car at gun point and handcuffed.
He said he co-operated fully, trying to reassure police he was not their man.
``By then I knew there had been a mistake.
``I just kept asking them why me? Why me?
``What has annoyed me about this is that they had nothing to identify them as police.
``They just looked like ordinary people in ordinary cars.''
Mr Van Lierop's car was searched and the police returned with him to his apartment and searched that before they took him to police headquarters in Melbourne.
From his quizzing of police, Mr Van Lierop learned the case of mistaken identity began earlier in the day when he took the family dog Tim down to the Esplanade in Drumcondra for a walk about 10.30am.
Unknown to him, he parked his wife's red BMW next to a car that was being driven by a man who was later arrested as part of the police operation.
Police were watching the man and thought Mr Van Lierop's BMW was suspicious.
``They told me they had information the money man of the operation was a white Australian called Peter who drove a red car,'' he said.
``That was enough for them.''
At 1.50pm Mr Van Lierop got in his car to attend the land auction in Brougham Street.
He was just turning into Mercer Street doing about 60km/h when the police struck.
The police were reluctant to believe his protests of innocence.
``I kept telling them they had the wrong person but one of the girls was very aggressive.
``She kept saying, `No, I know you. I know you, we have got you'.''
The agent later told Mr Van Lierop she had not slept for more than 30 hours.
He said while the agents eventually accepted he was not the Mr Big, they did not apologise.
The BMW, with extensive damage to front and rear ends, is now being repaired at the expense of the Federal police.


Thursday



AMAZING SPINSTER TOPPLES

Dang blast! We'd found just the bloke to put the right spin on Geelong's shocking performances in the AFL, when we hear he may have done the devil's jig at the end of a too-short stretch of rope.

ALLIED military chiefs were yesterday looking at reports that the Iraqi information minister dubbed ``Comical Ali'' had committed suicide.
Newspaper reports in Iran said Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, who repeatedly claimed that Iraq was winning the war, had hanged himself.
Military sources treated the reports with caution, suggesting they could have been spread by the fleeing Iraqi propagandist to throw special forces' snatch squads off his tail.
Al-Sahhaf is not on the US list of Saddam Hussein's 55 most-wanted henchmen, but he is still being sought, after becoming the mouthpiece for the Iraqi regime during the war.
Two Iranian newspapers said he killed himself in the hours before the capital was taken by US forces, and refugees coming across the Iranian border said he had committed suicide.
A military source said: ``We can't verify this but we are still looking for him and other members of the regime.
``If he's dead that's it, but if he's alive we'll be very interested to talk to him.
Al-Sahhaf acted as a one man propaganda machine during the war, launching increasingly ludicrous tirades on worldwide television.


Imagine it: Brisbane has slaughtered the Cats, 35.30 to 3.5 in the last match of the season, a year in which Geelong failed to win a game. (Looking quite plausible). The Cat army is milling in the streets and bloodshed is possible. Tears are a definite. We get Baghdad Bob out to appease the masses: The infidels from Queensland didn't win, he tells the hostile masses. ``We slaughtered them and we will continue to slaughter them. God is grilling their stomachs in hell.''
"They are trapped in the ruck. They are trapped in the backline. They are trapped on the ball. They are trapped in the players' race. They are trapped everywhere."





D'OH!!

Oops! Hold the front page:
Re our report this morning, published in the previous post:
ARMED police arrested a man at gunpoint after ramming him off the road in crowded Mercer Street yesterday.
Federal police in four unmarked cars swooped in, surrounding the man's red BMW and forced it to stop as part of yesterday's massive drug bust.

A man called our office today wanting all the photos we took of the red BMW the wallopers pulled up yesterday when they arrested a suspect in the big Geelong-Lorne drug bust.
He was the suspect, he said. He was not involved in drugs. And worst of all for senior police, and the government, he is a Melbourne LAWYER!
We didn't publish anything to identify him, so we're in the clear. But the words ''wrongful arrest'' are buzzing through police HQ.


SCOOP

We're a tad self-satisfied at the Geelong Advertiser today. We've got possibly the biggest drug bust story ever in the state and our metropolitan daily rivals missed it. It had everything: 24 hour undercover surveillance, high speed car chases, a daylight city street car-ram ambush, millions of bucks worth of heroin seized and a corpse, possibly of a drug smuggler, washed up near Victoria's most fashionable surf beach.

The paper's news links last a only day, so I'll publish in full here:

Thursday, April 17
NATALIE STAAKS and DANIEL FOGARTY

A MAN is dead and police seized more than 40 kilograms of high grade heroin in a day of drama stretching from Wye River to Geelong yesterday.
The body of the man, believed to have been murdered, was found washed up on rocks outside of Lorne shortly after one of the biggest drug busts in Victoria's history.
The heroin, with an estimated street value of between $60 million and $80 million, was the target of a massive drug bust in Lorne yesterday morning.
Startled residents and school holidaymakers woke to about 30 federal police swooping on the coastal town and arresting two men in Lorne's main street.
The two were caught and handcuffed by police at the recreation reserve known as Scotchman's Hill.
Witnesses described a large scale search of the pier area by police and customs officers, who also launched a dinghy for an ocean search.
At 10.30am, a man was found washed up on rocks 20 minutes out of Lorne with an inflatable dinghy and a tatty orange life buoy by his side.
Police said passers-by walking on the beach had found the body of the Asian man, which was covered in kelp.
Other reports suggested the federal police officers had discovered the dead man.
A little later, police radio airwaves burst into life with reports of four or five unmarked cars screaming down the Princes Freeway towards Geelong at speeds of up to 160 km/h.
They were quickly identified as unmarked police cars and 30 minutes later they raced into town.
Armed officers surrounded a car in Mercer Street and arrested a man at gunpoint in front of astonished workers and shoppers.
It was the third arrest in yesterday's massive drug sting.
Melbourne Homicide Squad detectives did not arrive at Boggaley Creek, near Wye River, until about 4.30pm.
The dead man, dressed in khaki overalls and a jacket, was still on the rocks where he had been found.
It is believed the death of the man in his late 40s is connected to the drug bust but police would not confirm this last night.
As the wind picked up and the tide rolled in, about eight police officers, including officers from Colac and Torquay, watched over the body.
A blue tarp was laid out over the corpse.
Senior Sergeant Phil Swindells, of the Homicide Squad, said the man had injuries which could have been caused by landing on the rocks.
A postmortem would determine the cause of death.
``As a result of the information and the manner that the body was located among the rocks suggests it may be suspicious,'' Sen-Sgt Swindells said.
He said he was not aware if the dead man was connected to the drug operations in the area.
Nothing had been found on the body to suggest the man was involved in the drug busts.
By 6.30pm last night, Lorne SES had brought the body up from the beach and it was taken to Melbourne.




SUSPECTED MURDER: Homicide detectives start to investigate the death of man at Wye River yesterday. Photo: PHILLIP STUBBS

There's more:

Thursday, April 17
TONY PRYTZ
ARMED police arrested a man at gunpoint after ramming him off the road in crowded Mercer Street yesterday.
Federal police in four unmarked cars swooped in, surrounding the man's red BMW and forced it to stop as part of yesterday's massive drug bust.
The front police car, a grey ute, slammed on its brakes causing the BMW to rear-end it while a dark blue Subaru rammed the BMW from behind.
Up to five other unmarked federal cars then surrounded the vehicle, which had been travelled along Mercer Street towards the city centre about 2.10pm.
Eyewitness Kylie Cuddy saw the dramatic capture unfold.
She said the driver of the grey ute got out of the car with a gun pointed at the man in the BMW.
Ms Cuddy, in her second day at work at a Mercer Street business, said the man offered no resistance and was quickly handcuffed.
``I heard the screech of brakes and a crash and then the bloke got out with a gun pointed at the bloke in the car,'' she said.
``At first I thought it was just an accident but then I saw the cars surround him and the gun and I knew it was something else.''
Fellow employee Craig Treloar said the federal police took items from the man's car.
``They were hauling a lot of stuff out of the car, clothes and some boxes,'' he said.
The police would not say what was occurring.
The incident was one of a number of dramatic events as federal agents launched raids in Lorne and Geelong.






Tuesday



A FISK FULL OF HATE

What a nasty piece of patronising, racist work is Robert Fisk. The dunny roll bandit has no doubt who is to blame for the looting of Iraq's National Archaeological Museum. It's the ignorant Iraquis, aided and abetted by the dreaded US Marines. How preposterous, Fisk appears to be saying, that these two groups could aspire to the establishment of a democratic society.

Cop his hate-speech:

The mobs who came here ­ Shia Muslims, for the most part, from the hovels of Saddam City ­ probably had no idea of the value of the pots or statues. Their destruction appears to have been the result of ignorance as much as fury. In the vast museum library, only a few books ­ mostly mid-19th-century archaeological works ­ appeared to have been stolen or destroyed. Looters set little value in books.

But this is his piece de resistance for bilespew:
Iraq's history had already been trashed by the looters whom the Americans unleashed on the city during their "liberation".

"Unleashed'', not liberated. Charming, ain't he.



PRICELESS

Looters can take what they like, I've got my collection of Saeed quotes:
Get yours at his
FAN SITE.

"They're not even [within] 100 miles [of Baghdad]. They are not in any
place. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion ... they are
trying to sell to the others an illusion."
"They are like a snake and we are going to cut it in pieces."
"They do not even have control over themselves! Do not believe them!"
"I would like to clarify a simple fact here: How can you lay siege to a whole country? Who is really under siege now? Baghdad cannot be besieged. Al-Nasiriyah cannot be besieged. Basra cannot be besieged."
"They are trapped in Umm Qasr. They are trapped near Basra. They are trapped near Nasiriyah. They are trapped near Najaf. They are trapped everywhere."
Called Americans and Brits "Tarateer"– In Iraqi slang, Tartoor means a guy full of farts (hot air).
"We made them drink poison last night and Saddam Hussein's soldiers and his great forces gave the Americans a lesson which will not be forgotten by history. Truly."

And my all-time favourite:
"We will welcome them with bullets and shoes."





THE NEWS

It comes along every few years in newspaper land and while it gets them twitchy in the corridors of power, down in pit we just speculate on what prick the morrow is likely to bring to make slavery more of a misery. It's the season of the Offer! It's usually got something to do with Rupert needing some readies to buy a TV network or a movie studio and consequently shifting some print and paper products to generate the necessary shekals. The last time was about seven or eight years ago when he hived off the Geelong Advertiser and a couple of other regional titles to Independent Newspapers of New Zealand. He already was the biggest shareholder there, so it didn't change things a great deal other than we were overseen by shaky islanders. Rupe's now gone and committed $7 bill to a US pay TV network and obviously is rattling the piggy bank. So he's accepted a $1.1 billion offer from Fairfax, publishers of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, for INL's New Zealand titles. This leaves the Geelong Addy the only newspaper left in the control of the South Sea Scots. It's hard to imagine the Kiwis happy with that state of affairs, although News Corp aren't about to let Fairfax get hold of another daily paper in Victoria. So we're turning up to the coalface as usual, getting highly amused at the way rumours are shooting down every burrow like ferrets on steroids. Nothing like the possibility of an Offer! to produce a few furrowed brows in the executive suites. And down at word pit? In Zimmerman's words: "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.''


Monday



MANSFIELD BALLOON FESTIVAL

Apologies to galloping fans who came to this page on Saturday looking for racing winners. Annie and I headed north for the weekend to Mansfield where daughter Erin was helping stage the Mansfield Balloon Festival. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't kind for hot air ballooning and we missed out on a silent glide through the high country sky. But we were well entertained in the VIP marquee and learned much about the techniques and rituals of going aloft with gas. This monster was a sight to behold.


Sunday



WORTH A READ

Those of us who've occupied the left field at some stage are perplexed at how today's lefties couldn't bring themselves to endorse the removal of a foul fascist dictator like Saddam. We're also bewildered by the last desperate ploy of wrong-on-all-counts leftwing commentators whining about disorder and anarchy on the streets of Baghdad. I mean, what sort of lefties are they if a spot of anarchy bothers 'em? Anyway, in the footsteps of Hitchins comes talented scribe JEFFREY SCOTT SHAPIRO, who explains why a liberal like himself supports Bush's war.


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