Alleged terrorist called by ‘God’: court
A Wollongong man accused of committing a terrorist act when he took two hostages during a terrifying armed stand-off with police says he was “told by God” to lead the push for an Australian republic, a court has heard.
Simon Fleming is facing trial in the NSW Supreme Court where he has argued he was impaired by mental illness when he rocked the sleepy suburb of Windang on a quiet Sunday morning in November, 2021.
Mr Fleming has pleaded not guilty to one count of committing a terrorist act, with the Crown prosecution arguing he was motivated by right-wing extremist ideology after he was found in possession of a five-page manifesto during his dramatic arrest by heavily-armed police.
The document, which has been read to the jury, rails against immigration, feminism and the LGBTIQ community as well as the “demise” of “Anglo Saxon men” and Christian values.
The events of the terrifying 90-minute episode are largely not in dispute and the court has heard that he is defending the charge on mental health grounds and argues he did not understand his actions at the time.
Mr Fleming told police in an interview following his arrest that he had botched his plans for the event.
He had planned on unfurling a banner which said “Australia for a Republic” and placing it alongside a fake bomb on the road, in a bid to attract the attention of the media, before surrendering.
Only he forgot to bring the sign when he left his house.
“It f***ing all went to shit,” Mr Fleming told in his recorded police interview.
“The sign, I forgot and the phone, I forgot. So I’m an idiot.
He told police he hoped his sign would “spark” interest in Australia becoming a republic.
“It was something I was told by God to do,” he said.
He told officers that he held that belief since New Year’s Eve in 2018 when he saw a face in the sky resembling the Shroud of Turin.
“Ever since that day I have thought that was my calling … To start a movement and I was shown by God to do so,” he said.
The court has been played dramatic vision of Mr Fleming walking up and down the main street of Windang, on the southern end of Wollongong, dressed in black, wearing a balaclava and carrying a rifle and replica AR15.
He also carried a silver case which was made to look like a bomb – but in fact carried a kitchen timer and red cordial.
The jury has heard evidence from witnesses who said they were left fearing for their lives as Mr Fleming fired a series of shots into the air and into a car.
He then took two hostages at a dive shop before later letting them go and surrendering to police.
He said that when he went into the shop, he said “that’s a bomb” but also assured the two men inside “I’m not here to hurt you”.
However he denied telling one of the men that he was a “terrorist”.
“I’m not a terrorist, I’m pretty sure they’re organised,” he said.
“They train for this s***. I didn’t train for s***, I didn’t do anything.”
The crown has relied on his manifesto, which was found in his possession, to prove he was motivated by far right wing ideology.
Mr Fleming described it as a “stupid f***ing rant”.
He also told police: “If you live in a country that’s Christian and you live in a country that’s British, then you should take care of your Christian, British people and their families.
“I’m not racist person.”
He also told police that he believed “political correctness” had gone too far.
“I grew up being a redhead at school and was called every name under the sun,” he said.
“I’ll tell you a couple - red-headed rat-rooter was one when I was seven, eight-years-old at school. Ginger nuts when I was at school.
“People want to talk about political correctness, give me a break.”
The court has heard he had in 2008 been prescribed antipsychotic medication, including Oxycodone and Valium.
He told officers that he took several days’ worth of medication two days prior and had run out.
But when he tried to obtain a top-up when he phoned a pharmacy on Sunday morning, he was told he would have to wait until Monday.
He told officers that one of the catalysts for the incident was that he didn’t want to go through 24 hours of withdrawals.
“I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” Mr Fleming said.
The trial before Justice Helen Wilson continues.