What hostages were told in ‘terror’ incident
A man who stormed a dive shop armed with a rifle and a fake bomb told his hostages “I’m a terrorist”, a court has heard.
Simon Fleming, 41, is standing trial in the NSW Supreme Court accused of carrying out a terrorist act after he sprayed a hail of bullets into the air and took two hostages during a terrifying incident in a sleepy Wollongong suburb in November 2021.
The Crown prosecution has alleged he was motivated by right-wing extremist ideology after he was found in possession of a manifesto, titled The Fuse, in which he railed against immigration, Muslims, feminism, “political correctness” and the “demise of Anglo Saxon men”.
However, he has pleaded not guilty to one count of committing a terrorist act on mental health grounds.
His defence has argued he did not have an understanding of the events of the morning of November 28, 2021 when he dressed from head to toe in black, armed himself with a rifle and replica AK-47, as well as a silver case which was made to look like a bomb.
The court has heard that after walking out the front door of his home, which he shared with his mother, father and aunt, he walked along the main street of Windang firing into the air as well as a bullet into the grill of a car, leaving witnesses fearing for their lives.
He then is alleged to have walked into Windang Dive and Spear and took owner Keith Woods and employee Neil Hay hostage, the court has heard.
Mr Woods on Monday told the court he heard a commotion before seeing a man come into the store carrying what looked to be two guns slung over his shoulder.
“The first thing he said to me once he looked at me was ‘I’m a terrorist’ the second thing he said to me was ‘this is a bomb’ … He pointed to the back of the counter and told me to get behind the counter,” Mr Woods told the court.
Mr Woods told the court he was instructed by Mr Fleming to call police, and that he failed to get through to triple-0 on his mobile, but Mr Hay managed to do so on the store’s landline.
He told the jury Mr Fleming told him to walk out the door.
“He told me to go out and speak to the police,” Mr Woods said.
“I slowly opened the front door to make sure no one was out there … Once I took the steps out, there was police to my left and to the right and they all had pistols pointed towards me.”
As he was moving out the door, Mr Woods told the court, Mr Fleming still had his gun trained on his back.
Police waved him into the middle of the street and told to put his hands up
“I was slowly walking forward, trying to tell them that I’m coming out of the store,” he said.
He met officers in the middle of the street and was whisked behind a police car and questioned.
Under cross examination from defence barrister Leah Rowan, Mr Fleming said he did not include in his initial statement that he was told by Mr Fleming “I’m a terrorist”.
In Mr Fleming’s interview with police, hours after he surrendered following an armed stand-off, he denied telling his hostages “I’m a terrorist”.
“I think they’re more organised than I am. I’m just some d***head who’s grabbed a gun,” Mr Fleming told police at the time.
Mr Fleming’s legal team has argued he was impaired by mental illness at the time and that affected his understanding of the events.
The court has heard that he had been prescribed antipsychotic medication but by the day of the incident he had run out and was denied a top-up by his chemist.
He later told police that he was going through withdrawals and that affected his memory of events.
Mr Fleming’s mother, Carol Fleming, on Monday told the court she had previously frequently seen him go through withdrawals, which included vomiting and shivering.
She said his mental health deteriorated during the Covid lockdown when he wasn’t allowed to attend his rifle range – which had been his keen hobby – and couldn’t go to church.
The court heard Mr Fleming had also been prescribed pain medication following a workplace back injury.
“He was just existing, he wasn’t living. He was medicating or asleep unconscious,” Ms Fleming said.
Ms Fleming told the jury that on the morning of the incident, she saw her son as he walked out the front gate, saying to him “don’t hurt anybody”.
Ms Fleming said he replied: “I never will”.
“He turned and ran and as he ran he said ‘call the cops’,” Ms Fleming told the court.
The court was played her triple-0 call during which she told the operator she feared he was attempting to self harm and had seen him walk out the yard brandishing guns.
“I think the Covid stuff just got too much for him,” Ms Fleming told the operator.
“He won’t shoot anyone, please don’t hurt him, he won’t kill anyone.”
The trial before Justice Helen Wilson continues.