Oct 20, 2018

Partner of deceased 'cult leader' suing state of NSW over police investigation that ended in suicide

Georgina Mitchell
Sydney Morning Herald
October 21, 2018

Police who investigated a "cult leader" charged with sexually assaulting children have been accused of maliciously sending him a letter that caused him psychological harm and led to him taking his own life.

Ken Dyers was the leader and founder of Kenja, a Sydney-based group that describes itself as a personal development organisation exploring "spiritual understanding" using concepts such as "energy conversion meditation".

His widow Janice Rita Hamilton, 69, who co-founded Kenja, is suing the state of NSW in the Supreme Court, alleging two police officers who investigated Mr Dyers were motivated by malice, did not carry out the investigation impartially, and are guilty of misfeasance in public office.

She is seeking aggravated damages and costs for psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing Mr Dyers' suicide.

In opening remarks at a hearing this week, Ms Hamilton's barrister Peter Brereton, SC, said investigators saw Mr Dyers as a paedophile and an "enemy".

He said two complainants came forward to say they had been sexually assaulted by Mr Dyers during counselling sessions at Kenja while they were underage, however the investigation was suspended in early 2005 and no charges were laid.

In February 2005, a "blaze of media attention" focused on Kenja, Mr Brereton said, where the group was referred to in "sensational" terms as a "cult" and "sordid sect" and Mr Dyers a "guru".

Later that year, police reviewed the earlier investigation and set up Strike Force Caroola to pursue the allegations against Mr Dyers. In October 2005 he was arrested and charged with 22 offences, all of which he denied, and was committed to stand trial. In 2007, he was found unfit to stand trial.

A third complainant, who initially denied she was assaulted, came forward in April 2007 and made allegations she was sexually abused, including at Mr Dyers' house in 2006.

In a letter on July 24, 2007, an investigating officer wrote to Mr Dyers' lawyer and offered the opportunity for Mr Dyers to be interviewed over the new allegations, ranging from 1999 to 2006.

The court heard that the next day, when the letter was conveyed to Mr Dyers in a phone call, he became distressed and said of the police: "They want to revoke bail and kill me. If I go to jail I'll be murdered." He then took his own life.

Mr Brereton said the 2006 assault claim was of "critical significance" because it was alleged to have unfolded while Mr Dyers was on bail. If he was charged over the incident, his bail would likely be revoked.

"If it was the desire and intention of police to have somebody they thought was a paedophile taken off the streets and put into jail, then having a complaint from 2006 would be a perfect vehicle to achieve that," Mr Brereton said.

"We do submit that this letter was sent with the intention of causing Mr Dyers in particular, and also Ms Hamilton, psychological harm.

"So far as the police were concerned, Mr Dyers and others in Kenja were perceived as the enemy."

Peter Neil, SC, for the State of NSW, said the allegations were serious ones to make against the two officers, who remain serving in the police force. He labelled some of the claims "utterly preposterous".

Mr Neil said evidence is unable to support the assertion that police believed Mr Dyers to be "a dangerous paedophile who had to be got off the streets" or that "they were going to get him off the streets by illegal means".

"Investigating police, particularly in this most delicate area of child sexual assaults, get information from many sources; often inconsistent, often conflicting, often presenting an unclear picture," Mr Neil said.
"It does not fall to the investigating officers to simply dismiss allegations."

Mr Brereton said there was "continuing malice in the minds" of investigators in the four months to Mr Dyers' death, and they were aware the 85-year-old was "extremely frail and weak" due to suffering physical and mental health conditions.

A classified police document from February 2008, eight months after Mr Dyers' death, said the investigation was considered a "success".

In the document, police said Kenja meets all the criteria of a cult and Mr Dyers was a sex offender.

"To consider the investigation a success ... is a rather macabre and grim conclusion," Mr Brereton said. "[Mr Dyers] committed suicide just after receiving a letter by the police."
The hearing continues before Justice Michael Walton.


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